Raila to Koome: I will be at the protest, come arrest me

Japhet Koome

Inspector-General of Police Japhet Koome (left) and Azimio leader Raila Odinga. Mr Odinga has dared the police to arrest him.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party boss said he will be on the frontline in today’s protests and challenged Mr Koome to execute his arrest.
  • Narc-Kenya party leader Martha Karua said the law does not grant police powers to issue permits for demonstrations and warned the President against violating the Constitution.

  • Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki announced that the government would push a new law to restrict demonstrations. 

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has dared the police to arrest him today, even as he vowed to push on with anti-government protests that authorities have outlawed, signalling tougher measures to curb the nationwide demonstrations that have been planned for twice every week.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki yesterday announced that the government would push a new law to restrict demonstrations as he declared police will not tolerate a repeat of violent protests.

Prof Kindiki issued a statement after Inspector-General of Police Japhet Koome addressed a press conference during which he warned opposition leaders of arrest and insisted he had not allowed today’s demonstrations.

“The government shall introduce in Parliament subsidiary legislation in the form of regulations pursuant to the Public Order Act and the Statutory Instruments Act to provide for the legal circumscription of assemblies, demonstrations, pickets and petitions,” the CS stated, adding the new regulations will cover notification procedures, duties of security agencies to protect the rights of [participants], demarcation of assembly, demonstration, picket and petition zones, among others.”

“It is not feasible for security organs to allow masses of people to roam streets and neighbourhoods of their choice carrying stones and other offensive weapons while chanting political slogans and disrupting the daily activities of others. Accordingly, law enforcement agencies shall not tolerate the reported plans to repeat the violent, chaotic and economically disruptive protests that took place in Nairobi and Kisumu [last Monday]” Prof Kindiki said.

Yesterday, Mr Odinga lashed out at Mr Koome over what he termed as veiled threats to Kenyans planning to participate in today’s protests.

Mr Koome had insisted that police did not approve any demonstrations, even as Mr Odinga and his team maintained that the Constitution only demands the service of notice to the police.

The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party boss said he would be on the frontline in today’s protests and challenged Mr Koome to arrest him.

“We are saying that we shall hold peaceful protests in accordance with the law but Koome says he will arrest us. I want to warn him to desist from such utterances and not to try to provoke chaos,” Mr Odinga warned.

“I’m ready for the arrest and don’t send any other officer, come arrest me by yourself,” Mr Odinga told the police boss.

Narc-Kenya party leader Martha Karua said the law did not grant police powers to issue permits for demonstrations and warned the President against violating the Constitution.

“Even if you opposed this Constitution, you ... must stick to [it]. We served our protest notice five days ago and that’s all. You have no right to claim that you must issue us with a permit to demonstrate,” Ms Karua said.

Article 37 of the Constitution provides for the right, “peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities.”

Public meeting

The Constitution also stipulates that “a right or fundamental freedom in the Bill of Rights shall not be limited except by law, and then only to the extent that the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom.”

The Public Order Act provides for the need to notify the National Police Service before holding demonstrations and also outlines the power of police to prevent a public meeting where appropriate and where it is obvious that it will not meet constitutional objections.

The new regulations the government plans to enact seek to impose tighter restrictions.

Yesterday, Mr Odinga also faulted President William Ruto, who left the country on an official visit to Germany, for claiming that his calls for protests were aimed at causing anarchy.

“We do not want to bring anarchy in our country. But we are fighting for our rights. We have a right to tell Kenyans the truth because the Bible says 'say the truth and it shall set you free'. We have a right to peacefully demonstrate,” said the former Prime Minister.

Ms Karua, former Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, Roots party leader George Wajackoyah, Nairobi Orange Democratic Movement Chairman George Aladwa and a host of MPs and ward representatives accompanied Mr Odinga to the “prayer for the nation service” at Jesus Teaching Ministry in Nairobi.

Mr Wamalwa said the coalition had complied with the law, warning that they will not allow the police to attack, maim and kill Kenyans expressing their rights to protest.

“Last time Nairobi police chief [Adamson] Bungei claimed that we did not give notice and two Kenyans lost their lives while many others were injured. That was a lie and, this time round, we issued notice over five days in advance. It does not depend on the generosity of Bungei to allow us to participate in the peaceful protests,” said Mr Wamalwa.

The Democratic Action Party-Kenya leader called on the President to lower the high cost of living, stop the unilateral reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and open the servers containing information on last year’s presidential elections for audit.

“We’re protesting to avert the impending disaster in 2027 over IEBC,” he said, referring to the next General Election.

The opposition leaders yesterday launched a web platform where Kenyans can post occurrences during the protests, citing deliberate plans by the government to gag the mainstream media.

“In the face of a real threat to the free media, we wish to assure Kenyans that we have put in place a secure web platform where members of the public are invited to post occurrences in form of photos, videos and audios during our weekly peaceful demonstrations,” the coalition announced in a statement.

“This material will be available for the world to see. This will enable us to keep the public and all stakeholders informed of progress and real-time occurrences across the country. Anybody with a phone or a camera can access and post anonymously or view the material remotely,” said National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi.

He pointed out that anyone who intends to cause mayhem will also be captured through “a number of our IP-enabled spy cameras that will transmit to our cloud servers in real-time. A link to the portal is mddkenya.com.”

Yesterday, Mr Koome confirmed that he had withdrawn the security of politicians who have confirmed their participation in today’s protests, even as he criticised Azimio’s demands to have IEBC’s elections servers opened.

“Why do you want to ruin the country for something that the common mwananchi [ordinary citizen] does not understand? I do not understand it myself.

“We have been restraining ourselves. We cannot do that anymore. We must come out as the police service to ensure law and order is maintained. That is the message for everybody.”

‘Throw stones’

“I will deal with you as a law-abiding citizen of the country. I have a job to do, and I will discharge that mandate without fear or favour,” Mr Koome said.

“If you are a politician, the IG will give you security. How can you throw stones at the police when you have one of them keeping you safe? I will recall my officers. All [politicians who] have been involved in throwing stones at the police, I have withdrawn their security,” he added.