Raila directs action against police boss over Limuru chaos

Police erect a roadblock on the road leading to the Jumuia Conference Centre Limuru, the venue of the Limuru 2B meeting called to counter recent Gema and Kamtusa gatherings April 18,2012. Prime Minister Raila Odinga ordered the Internal Security minister to take "immediate action" against Kenya's police boss after his officers blocked the meeting. WILLIAM OERI

Prime Minister Raila Odinga has ordered the Internal Security minister to take "immediate action" against Kenya's police boss after his officers blocked a youth meeting Wednesday.

In a statement, Mr Odinga also directed Prof George Saitoti to investigate alleged death claims made by Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara.

The PM said the police action to violently disperse the crowd that was heading to the venue of the Limuru 2B meeting was a violation of the Constitution.

"Kenyans were yesterday (Wednesday) treated to a spectacle that they thought had been banished from their lives with their new Constitution.

"The sight of police officers putting up roadblocks on a major thoroughfare and repeatedly firing rounds of tear gas at hundreds of perfectly peaceful people caused intense alarm," said Mr Odinga.

"The police did not maintain law and order as they are required to do."

Under the National Accord and Reconciliation Act that established the Coalition Government, Mr Odinga, as Prime Minister, has powers to supervise and coordinate government departments including ministries.

On Wednesday, the meeting called to counter recent Gema and Kamatusa gatherings turned chaotic after police blocked more than 2,000 youths who had turned up for the rally.

The officers lobbed teargas canisters and on several occasions used live ammunition to disperse the crowd.

Five people were arrested but the police could not confirm whether they would be charged in court on Thursday.

The operation was led by the Central police boss John Mbijjiwe and CID chief Henry Ondiek and lasted for about five hours before the youth informed the police that they had decided to leave the area peacefully.

The organisers of the Limuru 2B said it was aimed at bringing together Kenyans from all regions to champion non-tribal alliances ahead of the General Election. It was organised by among others, Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi and former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga.

But on Thursday, Mr Odinga raised the red flag saying the scenes were reminiscent of the old order and had no place in a civilised society.

"Such police tactics are a recipe for disaster. They also besmirch the integrity of the government's commitment to uphold the law.

"They take us decades back and raise alarm to the fact that despite giving ourselves a new constitution, we are not out of the woods yet. The forces of status quo are still lurking and are ready to take Kenya back at the slightest opportunity," said Mr Odinga.

The PM said the latest show of might by the police was a pointer to what Kenyans should expect in the run up to the next elections.

"It has also raised their fears about what else might lie ahead which might curtail the exercise of their democratic rights as we head for the next election."

"Scenes of Archbishop Reverend David Gitari and former MP Hon Paul Muite, who fought gallantly for the freedom we have today, being tear gassed and shot at, will not be tolerated by Kenyans any more, nor images of unarmed youths being chased away like criminals from the scene of a licensed meeting," he added.

Mr Odinga lambasted the police for taking sides over the matter saying they had chosen to protect those out to sabotage a lawful meeting.

"It is unacceptable that police can cancel a gathering on grounds that thugs planned to disrupt it.  Police indicated to the organisers that a group led by a Member of Parliament had threatened to disrupt the meeting.

"But rather than arrest those who were threatening to cause a breach of the peace, and provide security for those meeting lawfully, the police chose to assist those who were sabotaging a lawful meeting!"

Mr Odinga said the government was committed to ensuring all Kenyans observed the rule of law and were free to exercise their democratic rights.

"The action yesterday (Wednesday) sent very wrong signals about the commitment of our security agencies to a free and fair democratic process," said the PM.

"Those rights include the right by the people of Kenya to make independent political choices without intimidation or blackmail."

On Wednesday, Mr Imanyara recounted to a shocked Parliament chilling details of a night ordeal where he says he was accosted by four thugs.

Mr Imanyara said the goons forced him to pledge support to a leading presidential aspirant during the 11.30pm incident, which happened on State House Crescent Tuesday night.

He told stunned MPs that he was coerced into saying "Uhuru tuko pamoja" (Uhuru we are together) three times and told to swear facing Mount Kenya.

“I have said many times and a repeat, in the face of the new Constitution, I am willing to die but I will not accept a situation where anyone, no matter how senior or mighty directs me on whom I should support.

"I won't be party to any compartmentalisation of this country into regions and let those who think they can intimidate others know that we cannot be cowed,” he said.