Azimio la Umoja One Kenya chief Raila Odinga’s call for mass action has received a setback after key parties in the coalition rejected it.
Mr Odinga yesterday repeated his calls for rallies to “resist the capture and emasculation of key institutions,” accusing President William Ruto’s government of “taking a machete to hack and mutilate the Constitution.”
The rallies are also intended to show support for four top officials of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), who are facing removal through a tribunal formed by the President.
One of the commissioners, Mr Justus Nyang’aya, resigned yesterday.
Two parties in the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition – Jubilee and Kanu – said they would not be part of the rallies called by Mr Odinga while Wiper officials were non-committal.
Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni told the Saturday Nation that the party would not take part in the rallies that are to start at Kamukunji grounds in Nairobi on Wednesday.
“Jubilee does not advocate for chaos. It is not part of our agenda,” Mr Kioni said.
He, however, added that the former ruling party is solidly in Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition.
“Jubilee is in Azimio, but that does not stop us from pushing our party’s agenda. We will support the government of the day and correct it on behalf of Kenyans,” Mr Kioni said.
Kanu Secretary General Nick Salat also told the Saturday Nation that the party feels left out on key issues in the alliance and would not be part of the mass action.
“We will not support that. We would love to but our treatment in the coalition does not allow us to do that,” Mr Salat said.
“We are looking at redefining our relationship with Azimio. When it comes to inclusivity, the coalition only considers the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and Wiper.”
Aspiration of the people
He said Kanu has organised a retreat with its elected leaders in Nakuru today where its membership in Azimio will be the theme.
“The agenda of the meeting is to answer the question, ‘which way Kanu?’, because we are not doing very well,” Mr Salat said.
The pulling out of Kanu and Jubilee from the rallies deals a blow to Azimio as cracks in the coalition continue to widen.
Leaders who attended the Tuesday Azimio Parliamentary Group meeting told the Saturday Nation that the call for mass action was proving divisive as it does not capture the aspirations of the people to join them on the streets.
“We need to go to the people with a solid reason why we are on the street. The high cost of living and issues of GMO will get the attention of the people, not the four IEBC commissioners,” said an ODM lawmaker.
Mr Odinga will also have to convince ODM lawmakers who are not enthusiastic about the rallies as they feel that the announcement was made before they were consulted.
ODM chairman John Mbadi said Azimio would use “other means” to achieve its ends and that mass action would be the last option.
“We have good numbers in the National Assembly and Senate. If well-coordinated, the numbers can help put the government in check,” Mr Mbadi said.
Wiper’s position is not clear but Makueni Senator Dan Maanzo said mass action is both a political and individual right, adding that anyone who believes in it should be allowed to participate.
“It’s not a Wiper action but mass action,” Mr Maanzo told the Saturday Nation.
Kitui Central MP Makali Mulu supported the call for demonstrations, terming the removal of the IEBC Commissioners as political.
“The right procedure was not followed. It was more of a political process than a legal one, and therefore we need to hit the streets,” Dr Mulu said yesterday.
Azimio la Umoja One Kenya governors opposed the calls for mass action in a meeting with the coalition leadership last weekend.
The county bosses also defended their decision to work with the Kenya Kwanza administration, arguing that they need funds for development.
Mr Odinga launched an attack on President Ruto’s administration yesterday, saying the Head of State is taking the country into dictatorship of the past.
Addressing journalists after a meeting with city lawmakers allied to Azimio and other grassroots leaders at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation, the ODM boss said he and his team would launch “pushback” against President Ruto’s “despotic” tendencies from Wednesday.
No sitting back
Dubbing the marches and rallies “public consultations”, Mr Odinga said he would begin talking to Kenyans on the direction the country is taking.
“We announce the launch of the pushback we talked about a few days ago. On December 7, at the historic Kamukunji grounds in Nairobi, we will launch public consultations with the people of Kenya to brainstorm on the direction the country is taking,” he said.
“We wish to remind Ruto that this country has had a system like the one he is trying to reinvent. We fought that system. We brought down that system. We will do so to the one he is inventing. We will bring it down.”
Mr Odinga also said he would hold another rally at the same venue on Jamhuri Day.
A parallel rally on Jamhuri Day was among the items discussed during the Azimio Parliamentary Group meeting on Tuesday but was left for the coalition leadership to make a final decision.
Some leaders were of the opinion that Jamhuri Day celebrations are national and ought not to be destabilised.
Mr Odinga said he and his group would not sit back and watch President Ruto revert to tendencies that plunged the country into the 2007/8 post-election violence.
“We were here in 2007 when the (Mwai) Kibaki administration single-handedly picked IEBC officials ahead of elections. We protested and were called names. We were told the administration was acting within the law. That single undertaking left more than 1,300 Kenyans dead, pulled thousands of Kenyans out of their homes and drove the economy into the gutters through violence,” Mr Odinga said.
The ODM leader criticised President Ruto for amending laws governing the appointment of IEBC commissioners, saying it would allow the Kenya Kwanza administration to pack the commission with henchmen.
He was referring to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2022 passed by the National Assembly on Thursday night and is headed to the senate.
The bill that is sponsored by Majority Leader Sylvanus Osoro seeks to change the composition of the selection committee that oversees the filling of vacant positions in the commission.
It proposes that the Public Service Commission nominates two members down from the current four while donating the other two slots to the Political Parties Liaison Committee and the PSC.
Laying the ground
“We in Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition want to let Kenyans know that with the benefit of history, we are going to protest and resist much more strongly than we did in 2007 because we know just how wrong this can go if we do not stop it now,” Mr Odinga told reporters.
He faulted the decision by the government to send home four IEBC commissioners, adding that President Ruto is laying the ground for rigging the 2027 General Election.
“The four are being forced out because William Ruto and United Democratic Alliance (UDA) administration want a clean slate at the IEBC and fill it with his stooges and henchmen for 2027,” Mr Odinga said.
“The UDA is on the campaign trail for 2027 in 2022. If that is what the administration has decided to prioritise, we are ready to join it down that path.”
Additional reporting by James Murimi