I'll call off bipartisan talks if Azimio holds demos, Gachagua tells Raila

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. 

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has issued another warning to politician Raila Odinga where anti-government protests are concerned, saying he risks having talks between the opposition and the government cancelled.

Mr Gachagua said Sunday that if protests led by Mr Odinga, leader of the opposition’s Azimio coalition, resume, National Assembly majority leader Kimani Ichung'wah will, acting on his orders, call off the bipartisan talks.

"It is a clear order to Mr Ichung'wa that it is either those people are in the talks or on the roads. It's not two way traffic. And I give this promise - we will clash on those roads," he said.

"I make this commitment to all our people. Show up at your places of work well assured that we will deal with those protests. I will start engaging them as early as 5am. All you need is to do is go out and work. Get something to take back to your families.”

Mr Odinga on Sunday dared President William Ruto ahead of Tuesday’s protests, even as police outlawed the demonstrations citing possible violence.

He maintained that the anti-government protests will go on despite the police ban, noting that the Constitution gives Kenyans the right to demonstrate.

“Unless Mr Ruto wants to suspend the Constitution and rule by decree, we will exercise our right to assemble, demonstrate, picket and present petitions on Tuesday, May 2, 2023, as earlier announced, dark threats notwithstanding,” he said in a terse statement.

The DP, however, went on to say that Mr Ichung'wa, "as the political kingpin in the Mt Kenya region and the one in charge of the talks in parliament", must call off the talks if the Azimio chief leads his supporters in demonstrations on Tuesday. 

"Either we are talking in Parliament or they are on the streets. We cannot have it both ways. If they resort to the street protests, then the bipartisan talks will die," he said in Thika during musician Muigai wa Njoroge’s 25th anniversary celebration.

Singling out Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri, Mr Gachagua further ciriticised politicians from Mt Kenya for saying Mr Odinga is “too powerful to be ignored”. He dismissed them as "uninformed on Mt Kenya’s political preferences".

Mr Kiunjuri has been vocal about the need to constructively engage Mr Odinga, alongside Mwangi wa Iria (Murang'a) and Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia).

The DP further said the Azimio coalition is lucky to be dealing with a President - William Ruto - "whose level of tolerance is so high and ability to give more time unmatched”, unlike his.

Regarding government positions, Mr Gachagua said there is no space for Mr Odinga.

“There is no way he will win any form of cooperation from us. It is an old game that he has perfected but we have now come to understand that his only interest is getting into power by hook or crook,” he claimed.

He said the opposition leader has been consistent with his power plays since 1982, where there was an attempted coup.

"He was at it in 1992, 1997, 2002, 2007, 2013 … He has reached the end of his tether," he said.

Mr Odinga insists that President is an illegitimate President and that the August 2022 election was rigged. He is also pursuing, among others, a lower cost of living and an overhaul of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).