I will not be intimidated to call off protests, Raila says

Azimio la Umoja Party leader, Raila Odinga in Nakuru County.

Azimio la Umoja Party leader, Raila Odinga addresses his supporters who braved the heavy rains at Mazembe grounds in Kaptembwa, Nakuru Town West on March 16, 2023. 

Photo credit: John Njoroge | Nation Media Group

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leader Raila Odinga yesterday stormed Nakuru—part of President William Ruto’s Rift Valley stronghold—for an anti-government rally and maintained that he will not be intimidated to call off the countrywide protests slated for Monday.

Mr Odinga, who addressed a rally at the Mazembe Grounds in Nakuru City, said the planned protests would be peaceful.

While referring to his run-ins with former President Daniel Moi’s regime, Mr Odinga maintained that he will not be cowed by veiled threats from the President and other government officials.

“We cannot be intimidated by William Ruto and Rigathi Gachagua. I want to tell them that I fought for the second liberation in this country. The two cannot understand what I have gone through. I was arrested, charged in court and went to prison in 1983 but was discharged for lack of evidence. I have been fighting for democracy and was put in detention for eight years when some of them were still breastfeeding,” Mr Odinga said.

“The lion (Moi) was dreaded but we uprooted its teeth. I am ready and prepared to pay the ultimate price while fighting for the liberation of Kenya,” added Mr Odinga amid cheers from the charged crowd.

Odinga's justifications

While declaring the March 20 demonstrations the “mother of all protests” expected to bring the country to a standstill, Mr Odinga listed six reasons to justify it—refusal by President Ruto to allow the audit of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC ) servers, high cost of living after the government eliminated subsidies, nepotism in the Kenya administration, failing to consult other stakeholders in the reconstitution of IEBC, broken promises and an illegitimate government.

The rally was Mr Odinga’s first public meeting in Nakuru since losing to President Ruto in last year’s elections. 

Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka maintained that Monday’s protests will be peaceful and warned foreign countries against interfering with Kenya’s affairs.

Azimio Leader Raila Odinga leading the "People's Baraza" in Nakuru Town

Azimio Leader Raila Odinga leading the "People's Baraza" in Nakuru Town on March 17, 2023.

Photo credit: Pool

“Our march will be peaceful and will not target anyone. Whoever will bring violence is not part of us. We will demonstrate until William Ruto leaves the State House,” said Mr Musyoka.

“We know they have plans to use a few of their supporters to loot shops and blame it on Azimio, but l want to tell them that we shall be very disciplined. The constitution gives us enough freedom,” added Mr Musyoka.

Both Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka maintained that the Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition won the 2022 presidential elections.

“I was with Raila Odinga in 2013 when our votes were stolen and we accepted the court’s decision. It happened in 2017, but Uhuru put the country first and brought in Raila. But for what happened in 2022 we shall not allow it,” stated Mr Musyoka.

Political pundits say Mr Odinga used yesterday’s rally in Nakuru City, to test the waters in Ruto's turfs ahead of his grand march to State House on Monday. On Friday, Mr Odinga will hold a rally in Kiambu County as he builds momentum for the protests.

At the same time, the Kenya Kwanza and Azimio lawmakers yesterday traded accusations in Parliament over the planned protests. Led by their respective leadership in both Houses, the legislators addressed separate press conferences in a span of one hour.

While the Azimio group, led by Senate Minority Leader Stewart Madzayo and his National Assembly counterpart Opiyo Wandayi, justified their decision to go to the streets on Monday, their Kenya Kwanza counterparts said the demonstrations are only meant to serve Mr Odinga’s interests.

The Azimio lawmakers said the protests aim to restore the dignity of the people who have been treated with contempt by the government.

“Kenya Kwanza has ignored the voices and cries of the people for the last six months and now the people want to assert themselves, reclaim their space and take over their country. That begins on Monday,” Mr Madzayo said.

He accused the government of deliberately failing to address the high cost of living thereby subjecting the people to a lot of pain.

“On Monday, the people will seek to show them that they may be poor and hungry but they still wield power,” Mr Madzayo said.

KK hits back

However, the Kenya Kwanza side, led by Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wa and Majority Whip Silvanus Osoro said Mr Odinga is just trying to cover up for the previous regime’s mess. Mr Ichung’wa said issues affecting Kenyans are not canvassed in the streets but in Parliament.

On the appointment of IEBC commissioners, Mr Ichung’wa said there was no new law, Parliament only made amendments to comply with court orders to include other players.

Mr Osoro said the delegated authority is exercised either directly and challenged MPs that will be going to the streets on Monday to resign and advocate issues affecting the people directly.

Ugenya MP David Ochieng told the youth to engage in meaningful economic activities instead of participating in demonstrations.

He said no administration has ever turned around an economy within six months, adding that even if it was Mr Odinga who had won the August elections, he would not have managed to do what he is asking from the President.