Ruto billboard brought down in Kisumu, Rasanga heckled

Ruto billboard brought down in Kisumu

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, a group of men were hurrying to erect a billboard near Highway Primary School, Kibuye, on the Kisumu-Kakamega Road.

The timing illustrated the fear among the workers about erecting campaign signs for Kenya Kwanza presidential candidate William Ruto billboard in ODM leader Raila Odinga’s stronghold of Kisumu.

As some residents had predicted, the billboard did not survive the day. An overzealous man scaled it around 1pm and single-handedly brought down the canvas bearing the portrait of Dr Ruto, a job that is usually done by at least two people.

He did it in broad daylight as people watched in awe, while others recorded his actions on their mobile phones.

Vandalism condemned

The vandalism has been condemned as an example of political intolerance, coming as official campaigns start.

Mr John Oddenyo, a Shaurimoyo Kaloleni UDA ward rep hopeful, said the man’s conduct was barbaric and undemocratic.

The vandalised billboard is in that ward.

“It simply smacks of a political party under threat and insecure from the top. We will neither be cowed nor lured into violence; we will not buy fear or submit to intimidation of any sort,” said Mr Oddenyo.

Presidential candidates and political parties have put up billboards all over the country, he said, and there is no need to pull them down for whatever reason.

“This is an election offence and a recipe for violence which we will not give in to. We ask [the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission] and election observers to take note and act on such acts of intimidation,” said Mr Oddenyo, who is also the team leader of the Lake Front Bloc for William Ruto.

Peaceful campaigns

He pledged that UDA will campaign peacefully.

Some of these actions give Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate Raila Odinga a bad image, said Mr Fidel Anam, a resident of Kisumu.

“When we do this, we only embarrass Raila. We are giving other people a good reason to treat him the same way we are doing to his competitors. That billboard was not harmful,” said Mr Anam.

As the billboard was being brought down, Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga was having a rough time at the Ahindi Gardens, at the heart of Siaya town.

He was supposed to speak last and invite the guest of honour, Dr Oburu Oginga, to address the crowd, but he was shouted down and did not get a chance to address the gathering.

“The reason I have come here today, is because of Dr Oburu,” said Mr Rasanga. But this did not go down well with supporters of area MP Samuel Atandi, who had organised the rally and invited the governor.

The outgoing county boss was heckled and pleas for calm from leaders fell on deaf ears. He had to go back to his seat and allow Dr Oginga, a member of the East African Legislative Assembly, to address the rally.

The crowd felt Mr Rasanga was behind Mr Atandi’s nomination woes.

Mr Atandi was declared winner of nominations for the Alego Usonga parliamentary seat but has had to fight to get the ticket and be cleared by the IEBC.

His supporters felt that Mr Rasanga was backing Mr Kut Ochogo, who lost to Mr Atandi but challenged the victory in court.

Brokered truce

On Sunday, however, Dr Oginga brokered a truce between the two, who later held hands, hugged and vowed to work together.

But given a chance to speak, Mr Ochogo almost suffered the same fate as Mr Rasanga after some people started heckling him before he cut short his speech.

These and many other antics in Nyanza typify the ugly confrontations cropping up at campaign rallies in the region with two months left before the August 9 polls.

Last week cases of violence were reported in other counties in Nyanza.

In Homa Bay, security agencies are investigating an incident where supporters of two governor aspirants fought on Sunday afternoon, with at least seven people injured and property damaged.

Supporters of Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga and those of former Nairobi governor Evans Kidero clashed when they met at Wagwe in Karachuonyo constituency.

Kisii County is one of the most active political hotbeds during elections and as campaigns heat up, the situation is increasingly becoming volatile, prompting security agencies into action.

Hostile crowds

There have been bloody incidents recently in some parts of the county when some candidates faced hostile crowds and were pelted with stones, especially if they left without giving handouts after addressing the people.

Last month, Suna West MP Peter Masara was roughed up at a political event by supporters of his arch-rival and former MP Joseph Ndiege.

Mr Masara, who attended the campaign launch of Migori governor aspirant Philip Mwabe at Migori Primary School, had to leave the event midway after rowdy youths heckled and threw projectiles at him.