Opposition leader Raila Odinga yesterday declared countrywide mass protests to force President William Ruto and his administration to address the high cost of living, engender electoral reforms and abandon dictatorial tactics.
On the fifth anniversary of his truce with Dr Ruto’s predecessor, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, that ended a post-election crisis after the disputed 2017 elections, Mr Odinga yesterday kept up the pressure on the incumbent, announcing a massive procession in Nairobi on March 20 in a bid for a “legitimate and inclusive government.”
The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party chief, who termed the move a “political green revolution”, called on Kenyans to defend what he termed as a stolen 2022 presidential election through the Movement for Defence of Democracy (MDD).
Clad in brown combat gear complete with boots and a cap, Mr Odinga declared that President Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza administration remains “illegitimate, reckless, heartless and incompetent,” and must now face the wrath of the people.
“We launch a campaign of defiance, of peaceful picketing, peaceful protests, boycotts, strikes, disobedience, peaceful petitions, peaceful sit-ins and peaceful demonstrations and it begins today and now,” the Azimio chief declared.
His announcement came hours after the lapse of his 14-day ultimatum to President Ruto’s administration to expedite the opening of the 2022 presidential election servers, halt the recruitment of new poll officials, and address the high cost of living, among other concerns.
Time for action
The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader, who was flanked by Azimio luminaries Martha Karua, Kalonzo Musyoka, Eugene Wamalwa and Wycliffe Oparanya among other leaders, said it was time for action against the Ruto regime for failing to address Kenyans demands.
“Take note that on March 20, 2023, we have a date with destiny in Nairobi. On that day our supporters throughout the country shall stage a massive procession in Nairobi for a legitimate and inclusive government. Save the date,” charged Mr Odinga.
He rallied professional groups to speak out against Kenya Kwanza’s “retrogressive” policies.
He said Article 37 of the Constitution provides that “every person has the right, peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities.”
He pointed out that Article 1 equally provides that all sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya and shall be exercised only in accordance with the Constitution.
“The people may exercise their sovereign power either directly or through their democratically elected representatives. We are today invoking these provisions of our Constitution to launch a massive peaceful movement of defiance,” he said.
Ms Karua who was Mr Odinga’s running mate in last year’s presidential election said the poll handed the country an illegitimate regime that is “heartless, reckless and dictatorial.”
“The Kenya Kwanza regime is dangerous for our democracy and, to restore the dignity of the Kenyan people and put back our country on the path to prosperity, this illegitimate regime must go,” the Narc Kenya leader said.
Ms Karua accused the government of embarking on measures whose effects have been to make the cost of basic commodities and services unaffordable to a great segment of Kenyans.
“It [the Ruto government] heartlessly removed subsidies for unga, electricity, petrol, diesel and paraffin, and school fees making life unbearable for a majority of Kenyans,” she said.
Mr Musyoka said the Kenya Kwanza regime was incapable of listening to the cries of the majority of Kenyans.
“Kenyan people shall now take back all their delegated powers to—peaceably and unarmed—assemble, demonstrate and picket,” the Wiper leader said.
Mr Odinga reiterated that the high cost of living, higher tax rates imposed by the government, importation of genetically modified organisms and unilateral reconstitution of the electoral agency are some of the compelling reasons for mass action.
He also cited what he termed as the victimisation of former Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officials Irene Masit, Juliana Cherera, Justus Nyang’aya and Francis Wanderi for standing for the truth against their former chairman, Mr Wafula Chebukati.
“Their removal from office through a kangaroo tribunal was actually meant to create a William Ruto IEBC,” he charged.
Mr Odinga claimed President Ruto has usurped “all legislative, executive and judiciary powers, which defines tyranny and dictatorship.” He described Dr Ruto’s administration as a two-tribe regime claiming that public appointments were skewed to favour two regions.
He said the creation of “unnecessary and unconstitutional offices in the public service, including those of their spouses, daughters and sons, at the expense of an already overburdened public and an empty exchequer” is a cruel ploy by president Ruto to reward his cronies. Mr Odinga further accused the President of dividing the country along religious and sectarian lines.
“The tribalisation and ethnicisation of our civil service by this illegitimate regime through targeted sacking and firing of legitimate public appointments is a career killer and recipe for future genocide,” Mr Odinga said.
He also revisited the crimes against humanity charges instituted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against President Ruto, saying, even though the case was dropped, the murder of ICC witnesses “did not and cannot relieve anyone of responsibility for crimes against humanity.”
President Ruto, Mr Odinga said, should clear his name in land-grabbing allegations, including the Adrian Muteshi case in Eldoret, where the Head of State was convicted and asked to return the land.
Mr Odinga also faulted Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, accusing him of lacking the moral authority to hold public office after he was allegedly dismissed from civil service in 1997.
He cited what he said were public records depicting how Mr Gachagua exited the service when he was District Officer 1 in Laikipia in 1997.
Today, protests are expected in Migori as Mr Odinga leads the Azimio brigade for a rally in the town before holding another meeting in Narok tomorrow, Mombasa on Sunday and Kilifi on Monday.