Raila rallies supporters in fresh anti-Ruto plan

raila odinga

Azimio leader Raila Odinga addresses a People'ss Baraza at the Kitale, Town square grounds on February 26, 2023.

Photo credit: Pool

Opposition leader Raila Odinga is marshalling various groups and his grassroots political wing for mass action amid revelation of a plan to lead his supporters to State House to present a petition on skyrocketing prices of basic commodities.

The Saturday Nation has learnt that Azimio La Umoja One Kenya alliance is considering presenting a public petition to President William Ruto.

The coalition also plans to stage demonstrations in major towns across the country.

Mr Odinga has told Kenyans that he will be making an announcement on Thursday on how the mass action would be executed should Dr Ruto fail to address the coalition’s demands upon elapse of the 14-day ultimatum on Wednesday.

But Dr Ruto and Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua yesterday dismissed the demands by Mr Odinga, terming them unrealistic.

Mr Gachagua said the only engagement he and the President can have with Mr Odinga is on the opposition leader’s retirement from politics.

“I ask the opposition to stop disturbing me with the demands to open the (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission – IEBC) servers. There is no article in the Constitution that says the servers must be opened. I will not engage in an exercise that is not anchored in law,” President Ruto said in Nakuru.

In Eldoret, Mr Gachagua said Mr Odinga would not succeed in forcing a handshake with the Kenya Kwanza government as happened with then-President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 9, 2018.

“William Ruto does not buy fear. Even if they hold demonstrations from Monday to Monday, there will be no handshake,” Mr Gachagua said.

“Let the opposition play its oversight role. The only discussion we are willing to have with Raila is his retirement and exit from politics.”

Mr Odinga has been meeting different interest groups drawn from political parties and religious organisations as he seeks to fire up his support base for the planned protests against “electoral fraud”.

He held a closed-door meeting with 35 Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) county chairpersons in Nairobi yesterday.

The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya alliance chief told them to be prepared for the marches and mass action.

Parallel planning meetings are being held by Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni.

Mr Kioni expects Mt Kenya to join other regions in the demonstrations.

He has since met grassroots mobilisers from Kiambu County and Nairobi Transporters Association members.

ODM chairman John Mbadi – who attended Mr Odinga’s meeting yesterday – told the Saturday Nation that party officials have been instructed to be ready to mobilise supporters in their areas.

“We discussed the party position on the August 9, 2022 election and our resolve to reclaim our stolen victory. They (county chairpersons) have been asked to prepare for the rallies. They have been mandated to mobilise ODM supporters in their areas to turn up for the marches,” Mr Mbadi said.

“The party leader will communicate the mass action plan on Thursday. He will provide details on how the opposition rallies will be conducted.”

Nyando MP Jared Okello, an ally of Mr Odinga, said the opposition plans to lead its supporters in presenting the petition to the President.

“We have taken the decision to petition him on the matters raised, including the high cost of living and our demand to have the IEBC servers opened. We will all be there to take the petition to State House,” Mr Okello said.

“State House is a public office and any Kenyan has right protected by the Constitution to present a petition to State House. We will communicate our next course of action if Ruto fails to act on our demands.”

The lawmaker said the procession by the opposition would be peaceful.

The planned march is likely to make the government deploy heavy security around State House.

In recent weeks when Azimio la Umoja One Kenya held anti-government rallies in the city, security agencies erecting checkpoints on State House Road.

In a joint statement, the ODM county officials declared their resolve to stand with Mr Odinga in reclaiming his “presidential win”.

“The county ODM chairpersons are fully behind the party leader to restore the stolen victory and push for an audit of election results,” the party officials said after Mr Odinga had addressed the press and left the venue of the meeting.

“We also support his initiative to pressure the Kenya Kwanza regime to lower the cost of living and call for mass action should the government turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the people’s concerns.”

Mr Kioni admitted that he held the meetings as part of the build-up to the mass action.

He, however, declined to provide details of the plans, only saying that Mr Odinga would give the signal on the next course of action.

“The plans are still on. I have been meeting groups to share our plans. Raila will give us the final word. When going to war, you do not make public your plans. That will be showbiz,” Mr Kioni added.

Mr Odinga held another meeting with the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) in Nairobi on Thursday.

He hosted the preachers at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation.

Mr Odinga vowed not to relent in his plans to invoke the “people’s power” against President Ruto’s administration over the high cost of living.

Nairobi CIPK Coordinator Salim Charo said the Muslim community would join the opposition protests “to restore sanity in Kenya”.

“It is our understanding that the issues raised are urgent and need to be acted on now,” Mr Charo said.

“We will not hesitate to support other steps, including a resort to people’s power to realise the objectives should the Kenya Kwanza government fail to act.”

Mr Odinga gave President Ruto 14 days to lower the prices of basic commodities and taxes.

The opposition also demanded the opening of IEBC servers as well as an audit on the presidential election results.

It said the reconstitution of the IEBC must be stopped and an inclusive process put in place instead.

President Ruto has gone ahead with the process by forming the recruitment panel for IEBC commissioners to replace the team that retired or resigned. Members of the committee have taken the oath of office.

Additional reporting by Justus Ochieng