Raila Odinga's Azimio to call for boycotts as IEBC row rages 

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leader Raila Odinga during his rally at Kamukunji Grounds

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leader Raila Odinga during his rally at Kamukunji Grounds in Nairobi on January 23, 2023. He had just flown into the country from South Africa.

Photo credit: Diana Ngila | Nation Media Group

The planned rallies by opposition Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition are expected to culminate in a national convention in Nairobi where alliance leader Raila Odinga will declare civil disobedience, the Saturday Nation has learnt.

Officials of the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya alliance say the secretariat has been instructed to come up with a list of products associated with individuals and companies “that participated in the August 9, 2022, presidential election fraud” for a boycott by Kenyans.

During the convention to be held tentatively at Kasarani Sports Complex, the opposition coalition will also instruct its supporters to stop paying taxes in protest against the high cost of living “triggered by the scrapping of subsidies on petroleum products, electricity, flour and other basic items”.

The coalition has scheduled another public engagement at Jacaranda Grounds, Nairobi, tomorrow before moving out of the capital city for rallies in the 47 counties that will precede the final declaration designed to paralyse the Kenya Kwanza government operations.

Resignation demands

In an unprecedented escalation of a political battle stemming from the disputed election, Mr Odinga has demanded that President William Ruto resigns, insisting that the latter is in office illegally.

“We’re going to demand that Ruto resigns and allows Kenyans to have their will. The people’s will is God’s will and...that is what should happen. Ruto says that he is a man of God, he respects righteousness and he respects the rule of the law. Let him live to that. The elections were flawed. He did not win,” Mr Odinga said in an NTV interview on Thursday night.

The veteran opposition leader said Dr Ruto’s continued stay in office “is akin to a coup”.

“I challenge Ruto to accept the will of the people of Kenya, otherwise it is going to be an illegitimate government ruling the country just like a civilian coup. I want to tell those who voted for me that their votes were not in vain. When we form a government, we will work together with them,” he said.

Mr Odinga is expected to lead the Sunday rally before jetting out to Nigeria in the evening. 

Details of his engagement in the West African nation were not immediately available to journalists but his political allies said Mr Odinga would address a gathering on democracy. 

Nigeria is to hold elections on February 25.

The Saturday Nation has reliably learnt that Mr Odinga’s latest push against President William Ruto’s administration is largely aimed at forcing electoral reforms, including having a political negotiation in reconstituting the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) ahead of the 2027 General Election.

The call to Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition supporters not to pay taxes may, however, turn counter-productive as it would affect mostly opposition-controlled counties. 

Mr Odinga is also likely to face huge setbacks in his latest anti-government campaign after some of his close allies, especially governors, rejected the mass action call.

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leader Raila Odinga during his rally at Kamukunji Grounds

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leader Raila Odinga during his rally at Kamukunji Grounds in Nairobi on January 23, 2023. He had just flown into the country from South Africa.

Photo credit: Diana Ngila | Nation Media Group

The opposition coalition seeks to push President Ruto to agree to an Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group (IPPG), similar to the one that reconstituted the electoral commission ahead of the 1997 General Election in picking a team for the agency.

Western powers influence

Mr Odinga hit out at unnamed Western powers, he accused of meddling in the country’s political affairs. 

The opposition leader said the Western nations interfered with the August 2022 elections by backing his opponent.

“We demand that any attempts to reconstitute the IEBC single-handedly by Ruto cease forthwith so that Kenyans themselves can reconstitute the body after full and fair deliberations,” Mr Odinga said when he met Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leaders drawn from Nairobi County. 

“We have even told foreign nations to stop interfering with our internal matters. Kenyans will resolve their own problems. Kenyans must be allowed to elect their leaders and not what we have now – leaders imposed on them by a corrupt electoral commission.”

A source in the coalition told the Saturday Nation that the ruling Kenya Kwanza alliance has not finalised a report on the magnitude of the planned pushback by the opposition.

“This is a drawn-out battle. It will be done in a way that will shock the country. President Ruto is trying to put a brave face in all these but it appears like he has not understood what is to happen in the coming days,” the opposition alliance official who did not want to be named said. 

Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni confirmed plans to hold countrywide public meetings before a convention is held in the city.

“What we are doing are public barazas where views are collected. We will be in Jacaranda on Sunday before moving to other parts of the country,” the former Ndaragwa MP said. 

“At one point, people will come together to make a declaration on the next course of action. The finer details of the programme are not out but work is in progress.”

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya National Coalition Executive Council chairman and former Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya said rallies have been planned to push the government to agree to the opposition’s demands that include independent scrutiny of election servers following fresh claims that Mr Odinga won the presidential vote.

“This is not a joke and Mzee (Mr Odinga) is very serious about it. We are even going to tell people not to pay taxes,” Mr Oparanya said.

Nyando MP, Jared Okello, said the countrywide engagements would be conducted in a similar manner to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) meetings.

The collected views, Mr Okello added, would later be collated to form the basis of the declaration the leaders will make during the national convention.

“We ask Kenyans, just like we did with the BBI, to share with us what we should do. We will ask Kenyans whether we should continue paying taxes,” the Nyando lawmaker said. 

“This government has done away with subsidies and prices of basic commodities are out of reach of a majority of Kenyans.”

“We will collect their views before holding a national convention, possibly at Kasarani Sports Complex in Nairobi. Whatever the convention will ratify is what we will do. We are ready to hold demonstrations even three times a week”.

Products' boycott

He said Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leaders are ready to tell Kenyans to boycott certain products “like we did in 2017”.

“The Azimio secretariat is working on a list of the products,” Mr Okello added.

President Ruto yesterday dismissed the planned anti-government rallies as ill-conceived.

Raila Odinga, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Narc-K leader Martha Karua at a public gathering at Kamukunji Grounds

Azimio la Umoja–One Kenya Coalition Party leader Raila Odinga, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Narc-K leader Martha Karua at a public gathering at Kamukunji Grounds in Nairobi on December 7, 2022.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

“We won’t follow the road of exchange of words. Ours is a path of development. They want to scare us but relax, the journey is still long,” the President said in Nairobi.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei criticised Mr Odinga “for falling back to the same script he has used after suffering election defeats”

Mr Cherargei said the ruling Kenya Kwanza coalition would not succumb to political blackmail by Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition. 

The senator added that President Ruto has indicated to Kenya Kwanza leaders and followers that he would promote his development agenda, including projects in Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition zones.

“The President has made it clear that he will not be distracted and will continue working towards implementing promises he made to the people during campaigns,” Mr Cherargei said. 

“When the President visited Nyanza, he committed to some projects, which he has promised to continue working on.”

He said Mr Odinga’s ultimate game plan is to force himself to be involved in the IEBC recruitment. 

“That is why he is creating a crisis. He is also pushing for a handshake,” he said, referring to the political truce between Mr Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 9, 2018..

Kakamega Deputy Governor Ayub Savula said county bosses have made a decision to work with the government.

“I am in Azimio la Umoja One Kenya but we need to advise our boss against such plans. We should give Ruto time to work. This is not the time for a destructive opposition,” he said.

Part of Mr Odinga’s game plan is to push for changes in the IEBC (Amendment) Act 2022, signed into law by Dr Ruto on Monday.

1997 memories

The Azimio proposal mirrors the IPPG deal brokered in 1997, which provided for every parliamentary party to have a representative in the electoral agency.

The deal saw parties nominate members to the then-Electoral Commission of Kenya. The IPPG comprised Kanu, Democratic Party, Ford Kenya, Ford Asili and Safina.

The parties were allocated slots in ECK according to their strength in Parliament. 

They then forwarded their nominees to President Daniel arap Moi for an appointment.

National Assembly Minority Leader, Opiyo Wandayi, said IEBC is not like any other commission but an agency that supervises elections, “which is a matter of life and death the world over”.

“Any time you create a perception that an electoral agency has been constituted in a partisan manner, you are setting yourself up for disaster as a country,” the Ugunja MP said.

Senate Deputy Minority Whip Ledama Olekina said Azimio la Umoja One Kenya wants parties given a major say in the recruitment akin to how Commission on Revenue Allocation and East African Legislative Assembly members were picked.

He added that Kenya Kwanza disregarded the amendments put forward.

“We wanted political parties to nominate the commissioners for everyone to feel included,” the Narok Senator said.