Azimio resumes third wave of protests over high living costs as truce calls flop

Azimio politician Eugene Wamalwa reads a statement during a press briefing at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation offices in Nairobi on July 18, 2023.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya begins its ‘Third Wave’ of anti-government protests today, with coalition leaders undertaking to brave the withdrawal of their security to lead Kenyans in countrywide mass protests to push the government to address the high cost of living.

The opposition leaders told off President William Ruto and declared they will hit the streets with or without security, a provision they said was not a favour but a constitutional right.

This came even as Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki urged people wishing to engage in today’s protests to do so within the law and without violating the rights of other Kenyans, warning that stern action will be taken against lawbreakers.

Prof Kindiki also encouraged Kenyans to go about their businesses normally as law enforcement agencies would ensure their safety and security.

“Those who doubt the government’s resolve to prevent further loss of life, injury, destruction of private and public property, and degeneration of the country into anarchy have a date with law enforcement agencies tomorrow, Thursday, Friday or any other day,” vowed Prof Kindiki.

He further confirmed that national security agencies have deployed all the available resources to ensure that scenes witnessed on Wednesday do not recur.

This includes deployment of police officers in areas mapped out as likely to experience spates of violence.

Karua announces launch of Azimio's sufuria movement

“Anyone planning to unleash violence on Kenyans is hereby warned to cease and desist. The country almost degenerated into total chaos perpetrated by criminal elements hiding under the guise of the Article 37 right to assemble, demonstrate, picket and petition public authorities.”

But while acknowledging the push for dialogue by Western nations, the Azimio coalition leadership noted that the protests will go on as planned.

“We have been invited for a meeting with the envoys and we will discuss with them all the actions against innocent Kenyans by the police and we expect them not to be partisan,” Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka said.

Former Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa questioned why the envoys took too long to speak while the issues bedevilling Kenyans have been in the public domain. “We will engage them but at our convenience,” he said.

In an effort to step up the demonstrations in Nairobi, the coalition announced three meeting points – Kamukunji, Jacaranda and Joseph Kang’ethe grounds – and launched the ‘Sufuria Movement’, urging Kenyans to come out of their homes and bang sufurias, pots and pans at midday today.

“At that hour of midday, we call on motorists to stop wherever they are on highways and roads, hoot and flash lights in support of this movement. We encourage Kenyans to continue appending their signatures against Ruto and Gachagua. We are pleased to announce that as at this morning, we have hit 6 million signatures. Those are six million citizens fed up with Ruto,” said Azimio deputy leader Martha Karua.

Addressing journalists at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation (JOOF) in Nairobi, the leaders led by Ms Karua, Mr Musyoka, Mr Wamalwa and Mr Wycliffe Oparanya, among other opposition luminaries, accused the government of employing dictatorial tactics to silence them.

“Against the background of the protests, the Kenya Kwanza administration has withdrawn all security previously attached the leadership of Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party.”

“Everyone associated with this party and the ongoing protests, including Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, Martha Karua, leaders of Minority and a host of Azimio governors and Members of Parliament have had their security withdrawn,” the coalition said in a statement read by Mr Wamalwa.

He said that the leaders had security by virtue of the positions they are holding or have held previously, noting that as former Prime Minister and former Vice President, Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka are entitled to round the clock protection by the State.

Mr Musyoka said the withdrawal of their security was a continuation of the Kenya Kwanza signature politics of “revenge, intimidation, blackmail and physical assassination that also abuses the constitution”.

“We take note that the withdrawal of security has been effected at a time Kenya Kwanza has revived and properly resourced a killer squad named Operation Support Unit and embedded it to the official Police Service for dirty work.”

He said they have proper, accurate and detailed information on the killer unit, noting that its members wear civilian clothes and travel in a group of five.

“This is the group that last week killed people in Kamukunji, Mlolongo and Jogoo road. They fired at people from unmarked green, black, grey, silver, red and white, mostly Subaru vehicles. They also fired from one grey Toyota Succeed,” the Wiper leader charged.

He disclosed that the vehicles are always parked at the Traffic Police headquarters near the Kenyatta National Hospital, at the Anti-Terror Police Unit and at the Nairobi regional police headquarters.

“We restate that only mission of the squad is to assassinate or grievously harm Azimio leaders and Kenyans protesting against harmful government policies,” said Mr Musyoka.

He also accused the Ruto administration of entering into a “public private partnership with militia to cripple freedom of assembly and protests.”

“The party further notes that the security withdrawal comes days after Mr William Ruto promised “kusafirisha” Hon Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta. Indeed, we remain eternally grateful to Mr Ruto for uttering those words. Out of the abundance of Ruto’s heart, his mouth spoke.”

The leaders also criticised last Saturday’s Kenya Kwanza Parliamentary Group (PG) meeting at State House, accusing the President of mobilising MPs to rally their supporters against hungry Kenyans who turn out to protest.

“The meeting held at State House last Saturday was clearly a planning meeting. It came up with a clear command, control, funding and mobilisation of resources and people structures for purposes of carrying out genocide,” said Ms Karua.

Its resolutions, she noted, are already being implemented in various parts of the country where some governors are mobilising people to counter protesters.

“It is also taking the shape of greater surveillance being conducted around our leaders whose homes and offices are being surveyed by people in unmarked vehicles.”

“What Ruto decreed in State House last week is part of what is going on in Kisumu/Kericho and Kisii/Kericho boundaries where an ethnic militia is being armed against local communities. ”

They questioned why all police and other security officers have been recalled from leave to deal with protesters, when the country is not at war.

“We appeal to our neighbours in the region not to join Ruto’s war against Kenyans. Our neighbours must not supply Ruto with teargas and ammunition to fight Kenyans.”

On Wednesday, Machakos Deputy Governor Francis Mwangangi, whose county was adversely affected at Mlolongo during last week’s protests, urged Azimio leaders to employ diplomacy and use the already existing avenues to mount pressure on government to act accordingly.

“What we have witnessed so far is the road to anarchy and we cannot afford to destroy a country we have built through sweat and blood,” Mr Mwangangi said.

Politician-cum-businessman Jimi Wanjigi, however, asked the government to rethink the Finance Act, repeal it and give Kenyans a better offer.

“They should go back to the negotiating table and repeal the Act because Kenyans have flatly rejected it,” Mr Wanjigi said.

The Azimio leaders also lauded the UN Human Rights Office for calling out the government over use of excessive force by police to quell protests.

Excessive force

“Indeed the use of force has been unnecessary and disproportionate and has included use of firearms. We have always appealed to protesters to remain peaceful and we continue to do so. We urge our people to obey the law and respect private and public property in the course of protests,” Ms Karua said.

She said the coalition has instructed its lawyers to prepare and institute legal proceedings against police officers who have gone against their constitutional duty of protecting life and property of Kenyans during protests.

“In this regard, we are appealing to all Kenyans who have photographic or video evidence of police brutalising citizens to share the same with us to aid the case that our legal team is working on.”

At the Coast, Azimio leaders in Mombasa vowed to lead anti-government demonstrations in the region despite claims of withdrawal of their security.

Led by Mombasa Senator Mohamed Faki, they said today’s protests would proceed peacefully as planned.

In Kilifi, Woman Representative Getrude Mbeyu said they would join the rest of Kenyans to protest the high cost of living.

Meanwhile, the government last night ordered the closure of all day primary and secondary schools in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu alleging a plot by “criminal elements to unleash violence on the public and engage in skirmishes with security agencies around certain schools” .

“The Ministry of Education shall announce the resumption of learning in the aforesaid schools upon assessment of the security situation,” said a statement signed by Prof Kindiki and his Education counterpart Ezekiel Machogu.

Additional reporting by Mary Wambui, Farhiya Mohammed and Alex Kalama