Permission denied, police tell Raila's Azimio coalition on demos

Nairobi police boss Adamson Bungei

Nairobi police boss Adamson Bungei addresses the media on planned anti-government protests by opposition leader Raila Odinga's Azimio coalition, on April 30, 2023.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Opposition leader Raila Odinga's Azimio coalition has been denied permission to hold anti-government protests in Nairobi from May 2, with police boss Adamson Bungei saying the protests in March were "nothing but peaceful".

In declining to grant Azimio the permission, Mr Bungei told a press briefing on Sunday morning that, "Previous demonstrations were marred with violence as the demonstrators, who were armed with machetes, attacked innocent members of the public who were going [about] their business ..."

He noted that this resulted in "the destruction of property, attacks on members of the general public who were not demonstrating, stealing, looting and death of several Kenyans".

"The Azimio demonstrations were nothing but peaceful. As such, by this letter we are declining to allow the Azimio team the go-ahead to proceed with the demonstrations, and any such demonstration will be dispersed by law enforcement officers," the Nairobi regional police commander said at his offices. 

Mr Bungei explained that even though the constitution grants every Kenyan citizen the right to demonstrate peacefully, and to present petitions to national authorities, it also “prohibits the possession of offensive weapons at public meetings and processions”.

“Demonstrators, picketers and petition-presenters must do so "peaceably and unarmed". Assemblies, picketing and demonstrations which are not peaceful are excluded from the protection of the Article. If they consist of violence or intimidation of the public then the assembly or the demonstration ought to be stopped,” he said.

As such, the police boss said, picketers and demonstrators must not be armed with defensive or protective devices “which breed or stimulate aggression”.

About a week ago, Mr Odinga’s spokesperson, Dennis Onyango, announced that demonstrations would resume on May 2 and that they would be confined to Nairobi. 

Azimio National Executive Council chairman Wycliffe Oparanya also announced this, saying they chose May 2 to excuse workers who shall be celebrating Labour Day on May 1.

The announcement came as the bi-partisan talks to resolve the political crisis pitting the Azimio coalition against President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza government entered a critical stage.

The team co-chaired by MPs Otiende Amollo (Rarieda) and George Murugara (Tharaka) held its second meeting to deliberate on fundamental issues and strike a balance on the dimension the negotiations would take.

Mr Odinga last week vowed to ensure the resumption of the street protests after Ramadan, which ended last Friday, in a bid to compel the government to address concerns by the Opposition.

By press time on Sunday, the opposition had not yet responded to Mr Bungei’s announcement.