Stand-off looms over Raila’s plan to lead protests
President William Ruto yesterday issued a stern warning against any form of violence during protests called by Azimio la Umoja across the country today.
Ruto said the government would not tolerate deaths or destruction of property, adding that any form of violent protests as witnessed previously will not be condoned.
He was responding to Azimio leader Raila Odinga’s call on Kenyans yesterday to attend rallies in all Kamukunji grounds in the country to protest the high cost of living. He promised to launch a campaign to collect 15 million signatures to force the government to step down.
“There will be peace in the country tomorrow (today),” the President said in Nairobi. “I hear they want to demonstrate but I want to tell them early, they demonstrated last Friday and six Kenyans lost their lives. Do you really want another demonstration so that more can die? No, it will not happen!”
Earlier in the day, Raila claimed that Azimio will form a parallel electoral commission. It was not clear, however, how such a commission would work and how it would be funded.
A team to pick new commissioners — after the earlier ones retired or were sacked — has been holding sittings but sources indicate that the panel chaired by Nelson Makanda was not satisfied with the caliber of candidates who applied for the seven positions, including that of chair.
All political parties, which have a seat in the panel, voted for a representative to represent them in the panel through the Political Parties Liaison Committee.
“We want you to come out in large numbers and demonstrate to the world that the donkey is tired,” Raila said at Kenyatta Market in Nairobi as he urged supporters who turned up for the rallies and protests to record police officers who use excessive force to quell the planned protests.
But speaking in Ruai, Embakasi constituency in Nairobi when he presided over the issuance of title deeds, Ruto said Azimio will “no longer be allowed to sabotage employment of a million Kenyan youths because of selfish political interests”.
He said elections had passed and Azimio — which has been pushing for opening of presidential election results servers — should wait for the right time because the law has outlined an electoral schedule.
“I want to say for the avoidance of doubt, last week on Friday people lost their lives and never will I allow any other Kenyans to lose their lives so that someone can satisfy his political ambition.
That will not happen,” the President warned, setting the stage for a confrontation between Azimio supporters and the police.
The President urged all Kenyans to continue with their daily activities without fear, saying it is not right for a few people to think that they can disorganise the country, cause mayhem and bloodshed in the name of politics.
Ruto also said there was need to disassociate politics with loss of lives, terming the opposition’s actions as anarchy, which will not be allowed.
He said the government was ready to face the opposition in court but not when there is loss of lives or destruction of properties.
In the past, the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Co-ordination of the National Government Kithure Kindiki, had warned Raila against holding protests in the centre of Nairobi.
On Monday, however, Raila outwitted the police and the National Intelligence Service to address an impromptu public gathering in the Central Business District. He used the platform to drum up support for today’s nationwide rallies.
However, according to Ruto, the plan to change the country for the good of all was not sitting well with some leaders.
“They are angry with me; they have seen that I want to take our youth and employ them but they are afraid they will not have people to help them demonstrate and throw stones around,” said the President.
He added:“Kwani kuna vijana wamezaliwa Kenya hii kufanya maandamano na kutupa mawe (Are there people born in Kenyan to just protest and throw stones?) I want to tell the demonstrators, please, give Kenyans and our youth a break.”
Ruto also warned that he will not allow anyone to sabotage the government’s plan, which includes creating a million jobs in the housing, digital economy, agro-processing and manufacturing programmes.
“We know you people and your tactics and you will not succeed. Do not waste your time. All the government’s plans will continue as planned. If you will not have people to demonstrate, that is your problem,” he said.
Similarly, he wants the courts to leave the Finance Act alone to allow the government proceed with its development plans.
“We want the courts to leave the Finance Bill; we want to build aggregation and industrial parks… we want to move forward,” he said, taking a swipe at the High Court, which on Monday extended the suspension of the law allowing government to collect taxes.
The law will remain suspended until the Chief Justice sets up a three-member bench to hear a case filed by Senator Okiya Omtatah, who has challenged the constitutionality of the law.
Ruto said Kenya has over four million unemployed youths and that was why the housing project was critical.
“We should unite because the unemployed youths are our children and are all seeking employment. I will not accept the fact that we have a country where a few people are determined to block others from benefiting,” he said.
The President said some people were opposed to the Finance Bill because they import commodities like furniture and do not want the youth to benefit.
“I am with the people ‘bumper to bumper’ because you cannot disenfranchise the young people of Kenya. They deserve the jobs that we are looking for and we should create wealth in Kenya,” he told the gathering.
“Mimi nawaambia, mtakutana na mimi this time (I want to tell them, you will face me this time)… I want to tell those trying to our block plans, stop petty politics that do not help anyone.”
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua said the police will arrest anyone who breaks the law during today’s demonstrations.
Kindiki had issued a similar warning on Monday but the warnings are unlikely to dissuade Raila and his supporters from holding rallies.