March to State House is on, Raila Odinga declares

Raila Odinga

Azimio leader Raila Odinga addressing ATG Deliverance Church faithful in Ongata Rongai on March 19, 2023. 

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

A defiant Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader Raila Odinga has vowed to lead protesters to State House today, setting up a showdown with police who have declared protected areas are out of bounds.

In an interview with Azimio TV yesterday, Mr Odinga expressly stated that demonstrators will converge at the city centre before marching to State House.

“We shall converge at the Nairobi city centre and begin the journey to State House to reclaim our victory. The time to liberate our nation is now,” Mr Odinga declared.

But President William Ruto, who attended an interdenominational prayer rally at Kapsabet showground yesterday declared that the government will deal firmly with the protesters, saying the demonstrations are a ploy to destroy peoples’ property.

Speaking at the ATG Deliverance Church and roadside rallies in Ongata Rongai, Kajiado County yesterday, Mr Odinga avoided specific reference to State House, only stating that “tutaanzia CBD tukienda huko (We shall start from the CBD heading there)”.

He was accompanied by former Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni and Roots Party leader George Wajackoyah, among other leaders.

In a separate church service at Unshakable Faith International in Kayole, Nairobi, other Azimio principals—Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua and Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka—remained bullish, insisting that nothing would stop them from marching to State House.

Ms Karua said they will march with their supporters to State House before settling on their representatives who will proceed to present their petition. The ex-Justice minister said there is nothing wrong in going to State House as it is a government building that should be within reach by every Kenyan.

“We will demonstrate tomorrow (today) come what may. It is our way to say enough is enough. This is not Moi’s era when we were brutalised for demonstrating. It is provided for in the constitution,” said Ms Karua.

“We have a date with destiny tomorrow (today). We are coming to do what is right and not to fight anyone. Our people cannot go hungry to finance the expensive lifestyle of the government using their taxes,” she added.

Mr Musyoka said there is nothing stopping them from going to State House, saying in Singapore, protesters even went as far as using the swimming pool in the presidential palace.

Even as the opposition leaders remained defiant on their march to State House, they could be headed for a major clash with the police after Interior Cabinet Secretary Prof Kithure Kindiki yesterday declared that protected facilities remain out of bounds.

“It is hereby notified for information of the general public that pursuant to the Protected Areas Act (CAP 204 of the Laws of Kenya), security agencies shall prevent unauthorised access to all protected areas,” Prof Kindiki said in a statement.

He pointed out that whereas security agencies shall respect Article 37 of the constitution, which guarantees the right of every person, peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, demonstrate, picket, and to present petitions to public authorities, police will remain vigilant to ensure protection of the rights and freedoms of others and to promote broader societal interests.

“For every right or freedom guaranteed in the constitution, there is a corresponding obligation criminalising violation of the rights or freedoms of others. Your rights or freedoms end where the rights or freedoms of others start,” the CS said.

Nairobi Regional Commander Adamson Bungei warned that police will deal firmly with protesters who will break the law. He cautioned against access to restricted areas like State House without explicit authority.

Protect property

A defiant Mr Odinga insisted that the duty of the police is to protect people and their property and not to license protests as that is guaranteed in the constitution.

“The days when police licensed demonstrations ended with the old constitution. They are only served with the notice and that’s the constitution.

“Police have been notified and we will not be intimidated or blackmailed by police. I want to tell all Kenyans that tomorrow (today) is a public holiday and if you can’t come to Nairobi demonstrate where you are peacefully but for those who can come to Nairobi, come and we show these cowards that Kenya is bigger than them,” Mr Odinga charged.

He went on: “Kenya is for all the Kenyans. It’s ours. That’s why tomorrow (today) we will be there, we shall start the protests at KICC all through to Parliament and go there ...”

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja said there is no problem demonstrating as long as it is carried out in a peaceful manner without endangering lives or destroying people’s properties. He added that he has been calling for peace in the country but that should not be confused with asking for a handshake.

“My mandate to the people of Nairobi is to protect lives and property. We will do whatever it takes to make sure they are safe,” Mr Sakaja said. He was speaking during a church service at the Deliverance Church in Mugumoini Ward, Lang’ata Constituency.

Nairobi County ODM Chairman George Aladwa told the Nation that they have used the Azimio constituent parties’ structures to coordinate the mobilisation of their supporters from upcountry.

“Everything is okay. We are set. Our supporters will converge in Nairobi but we have the means and strategy on how they will reach our designated areas in town before the grand march begins,” said the Makadara MP.

“I want to state categorically that we shall be in town and begin our marching from there on. Several of our supporters are already in Nairobi and they have adequate communication from our coordinators. We already have a record of those who have arrived and we have team leaders from all Azimio member parties coordinating our plans,” added Mr Aladwa.

Police are planning to position themselves on key roads leading to the city centre to stop the protesters from accessing the CBD.

Opposition protests

National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wa and UDA Secretary-General Cleophas Malala have warned that they will rally their supporters and the business community to protect their property. Mr Ichung’wa has also accused former President Uhuru Kenyatta of undermining his successor by sanctioning the opposition protests.

“Let him retire with respect like those who served before him. Former President (Daniel) Moi retired and never attempted to undermine his successor Mwai Kibaki. Kibaki also retired and not in any one occasion did he attempt to undermine you (Uhuru) as President.

“We ask you that in the same honour and respect to give maximum respect to the constitution of Kenya and those who elected this administration to serve this country,” Mr Ichung’wa said.

Mr Malala threatened that he will lead UDA supporters to march to Mr Odinga’s Karen home in Nairobi.

“As you do what you are calling peaceful demonstrations to State House, we shall also be doing peaceful demonstrations to your home,” Mr Malala said.