Raila storms Ruto's Nakuru turf ahead of 'mother of all protests'
Leaders of the Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition on Thursday stormed Nakuru County, part of President William Ruto’s Rift Valley home turf, warning foreign countries against interfering with Kenya’s affairs.
This comes ahead of their planned March 20 walk to State House, a protest against what has been termed an illegitimate government.
The coalition’s luminaries, led by Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga and Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, who held an anti-government rally at Mazembe Grounds in Nakuru, claimed the government is using foreign missions to portray opposition leaders as anarchists.
“We are aware that the government is using foreign missions to paint the opposition as anarchists. We call upon our friends in other countries not to interfere with our internal affairs,”stated Mr Musyoka.
The Wiper Democratic Movement leader maintained that the Monday countrywide protests will be peaceful.
“We promise that on Monday, we will participate in peaceful demonstrations. Our match will be peaceful and will not target anyone. Whoever will bring violence is not part of us. We will demonstrate until William Ruto leaves the State House. We will not use weapons,” he said.
“We know they have plans to use a few of their supporters to loot the shops and blame it on Azimio but l want to tell them that we shall be very disciplined. The Constitution gives us enough freedom. The Constitution protected Ruto when he was fighting with his boss. It says all sovereignty of the state lies with the people of Kenya and can be exercised directly by the citizens. We are inviting all of you to demonstrate from wherever you will be. As your leaders we will lead you and give directions.”
In his address, Mr Odinga maintained that he will not be intimidated ahead of Monday’s countrywide protests.
Speaking at Mazembe Grounds, he also said the demonstrations will be peaceful but warned that he and his supporters would not be intimidated.
While referring to his run-ins with former President Daniel arap Moi’s Kanu regime, Mr Odinga said he will not be cowed by veiled threats from the State.
“We cannot be intimidated by William Ruto and Rigathi Gachagua. I want to tell them that I fought for the second liberation in this country. The two cannot understand what I have gone through. I was arrested [and] charged in court and I went to prison in 1983 but was discharged for lack of evidence. I have been fighting for democracy and was put in detention for eight years when some of them were still breastfeeding,” said.
“Long ago, during the President Daniel Moi regime, it was different. You would be arrested for anything. The lion was dreaded but we uprooted its teeth. I am ready and prepared to pay the ultimate price while fighting for the liberation of Kenya.”
While declaring the March 20 demonstrations the "mother of all protests,” - expected to bring the country to a standstill - Mr Odinga also used the platform to list six reasons to justify the planned protests.
Among them were President Ruto’s refusal to allow the audit of the servers of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the high cost of living after the government eliminated subsidies, alleged nepotism in the Kenya Kwanza administration and failure to consult all stakeholders in the constitution of the IEBC.
The Mazembe Grounds rally was Mr Odinga's first public meeting in Nakuru since he lost to President William Ruto in last year's presidential election.
He was welcomed by former Nakuru County Assembly Speaker Joel Kairu, Movement United for Super Action party Secretary-General Engineer Ngatia and other ODM grassroots leaders.
Mr Odinga reiterated that the Azimio coalition won the 2022 presidential election.
Mr Musyoka said: “I was with Raila Odinga in 2013, when our votes were stolen and we accepted the court’s decision. It happened in 2017, but Uhuru put the country first and brought in Raila. But what happened in 2022 … we shall not allow it.”
Political pundits say Mr Odinga used the Nakuru rally to test the waters in President Ruto's turfs ahead of the grand march to State House on Monday.
Former Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said protests will also take place in South Africa, Nigeria and Tunisia.
“We are not mad people to hold protests. It will not only happen in Kenya. The same will be held in South Africa, Nigeria, Tunisia - to fight for the people,” he said.
On Friday, Mr Odinga will go to Kiambu County for another significant rally as he builds momentum for his Monday date with destiny.