Wamalwa: Our supporters to decide on march to State House

Former Cabinet Secretary (CS) Ministry of Defense Eugene Wamalwa during an interview at his office at Valley Arcade in Lavington

Former Cabinet Secretary (CS) Ministry of Defense Eugene Wamalwa during an interview at his office at Valley Arcade in Lavington on March 16, 2023. Wamalwa urged Kenyans to maintain peace during the anticipated mass demonstrations to be staged on Monday 20th. 

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

The Raila Odinga-led Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party has sounded a warning to President William Ruto and the Inspector General of Police Japheth Koome that they would bear the greatest responsibility should security officers attack innocent protesters during the opposition’s planned ‘mass action’ tomorrow.

In an interview with ‘Sunday Nation’ reporter JUSTUS OCHIENG, one of the coalition’s luminaries, former Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, says the International Criminal Court (ICC) is alive to crimes against humanity charges and cautioned security officers against breaking the law.

But in what could reveal their true intention, the Democratic Action Party-Kenya (DAP-K) leader explained that should the demonstrators choose to peacefully march to State House to present their grievances to the President, police should only provide escort to them.

Here are excerpts from the interview.

What’s Azimio coalition’s big plan on Monday?

On Monday, March 20 we shall have the mass action that we called on February 22. We want to assure Kenyans that our march will be peaceful. It’s a march for the voiceless suffering Kenyans who were promised that in 100 days food prices would come down.

Article 37 of our Constitution allows us to have this kind of conversation about peaceful protests.

We will not be armed, we will not harm anybody but we will be fighting for these issues that touch on the lives of every Kenyan.

We did make it very clear to the Kenya Kwanza regime that there are three things we would like them to address: the issue of the high cost of living, stopping the unilateral process of the recruitment of IEBC commissioners and opening the 2022 presidential election server but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears hence the mass protests.

Where are your supporters supposed to converge and how will you conduct the protests?

We have invited Kenyans to come to Nairobi. What we are asking them is to march peacefully and protest in their own way.
Are there plans to march to State House?

State House is the House of the people. The people of Nyamakima recently came out in large numbers, had a very peaceful demonstration and marched to the office of the Deputy President and presented their petition. 

We saw a march in Kisumu, they presented their petition to the office of the county commissioner. 

If Kenyans on Monday want to march to State House to present their petition to William Ruto, they are free to do so. They have every right because that’s their house and Ruto must listen to them.

Police and military people are all suffering. They live in this country, not outer space. The pain we are feeling is the pain they are also feeling.

Article 37 of our Constitution gives every Kenyan the right to protest on Monday. 

So they do not need Ruto’s permission to demonstrate and the police officers are only supposed to escort the demonstrators if they choose to walk to State House, welcome them and tell the President your people are at the gate, come and speak to them. 

So let the people decide.

Has former President Uhuru Kenyatta, the Azimio Council chairman, sanctioned the mass action?

He is still our chairman as Azimio and Raila Odinga is the party leader. So in terms of who gives the command, it is Raila Amollo Odinga and the former president has been very clear that his party leader is Raila. 

So what Raila says is the final word in Azimio.

Do you think the former president’s involvement in Azimio matters is a ploy to frustrate his former deputy’s government?

Not at all. Many people have been asking me why I’m the only minister who was in Uhuru’s government and who is in politics. Many people do not understand that I was in politics even before I joined Cabinet.

It’s not sabotage. It’s a journey that began long before the Jubilee government and it's one that will go on after the Kenya Kwanza government.

Uhuru Kenyatta has served this country. He did his ten years, he might not have done the best in the eyes of Ruto and others but he did his part. They must stop blaming Uhuru Kenyatta for every one of their failures.

They are there now, let them do what they must. Stop driving the country in the rearview mirror blaming Uhuru in the morning, Raila in the afternoon and Mama Ngina at night, they must stop the blame game. I am not afraid of anybody despite facing threats.

What kind of threats are you receiving and from who?

All our security was withdrawn. We have received all sorts of threats but we are prepared. We know that some of us have been targeted for trumped-up charges just as my former colleague Dr Fred Matiang’i. 

But we are prepared, not intimidated and we will not be intimidated. We are in this for the long hog.

In other jurisdictions, leaders who have served in the security sector, even if they retire, normally maintain some level of security for you. But we are saying our best security is God. We are not afraid.

Is the Azimio leadership ready to bear personal responsibility should the protests turn violent?

We know there are plans by some elements who want to infiltrate our protesters so that they cause chaos. We are aware of this and we are telling them that we will be looking out.  Anyone who starts any violence, that’s not an Azimio person and we will not allow any violence.

How’s life out of the Cabinet?

I’m a political animal. I had very limited oxygen within offices but for God and my country, I had to do my part as Minister for Justice, in implementing this Constitution.

It was a great honour at a very young age to be entrusted with one of the most progressive Constitutions in Africa if not in the world. I’ve also had the privilege to serve as Minister for Water.

Being in Cabinet was very limiting and since coming out of the Cabinet I’m like a bird in the air now. I’m enjoying politics. I can go anywhere I want and meet anybody I want.

Apart from politics, my passion is farming. I was born on a farm. I used to do maize but now I do a little bit of coffee, avocado, and macadamia. I love farming so I’m really enjoying life outside Cabinet.

Do you still meet former Cabinet secretaries who served under ex-president Uhuru Kenyatta?

Yes. We are friends. We have a cup of tea once in a while. We brainstorm on issues affecting Kenyans and we look at what we did right and probably what they are not doing right.

Really no one has a monopoly on ideas that’s why in a country as divided as Kenya, the President under Article 131 is not just a symbol of national unity, but he is required to enhance and promote national unity. 

So it is the president who should go out and bring everybody to the table. If we are to have today a national conversation on the situation of our country, I can tell you there could be better ideas that could come in terms of resolving or putting remedial measures to the situation facing us more than what the Kenya Kwanza regime is doing but they are not willing to do that.

Our late president Mwai Kibaki got a bigger margin in terms of the victory over Uhuru, Uhuru had a bigger margin over Raila but Ruto has the thinnest margin of 200,000 votes which is still in doubt in all the revelations that have come out yet he is not willing to reach out.

Instead of building bridges to bring the country together, he is busy building a wall around State House.

What would you advise President Ruto to do, in this situation?

I would advise him to build bridges instead. Reach out to Raila Odinga on the issue of IEBC. If that issue is resolved then we might be talking of a different country.

You (ex-Defence minister) and Fred Matiang’i (ex-Interior) were in critical ministries. How did you fail to avert the electoral theft Azimio says happened? 

As Minister for Defence, my mandate was on ensuring the territorial integrity of our country.   We did not have any role in the elections and anyone who wants to probably taint the image of KDF must know that KDF is one of the institutions that is deeply entrenched in professionalism.

Let them keep their politics out of KDF because I’ve been hearing a lot of things about the military. I think the military remains apolitical and as their minister, I was not involved in the elections. The evidence that is coming is obvious.

The Interior Ministry was at the centre of it, arrested some Venezuelans who came with some gadgets and election materials and everybody knows about this.

The IEBC CEO this week also admitted that some electoral material and equipment were stolen and all these matters touch on the integrity of our elections. So when we want to have a conversation about that you can’t just dismiss us saying elections are over, move on. We won’t let our country go to the dogs regardless of what they claim.

Do you think Uhuru was a victim of betrayal by his own men in his quest to have Raila Odinga succeed him?

I don’t think so. The fourth president was not a candidate in this election and so he was not betrayed by anybody. But of course, there are those who are hell-bent on going after him and his family, which is a terrible thing.

Ruto is creating a very dangerous precedence. When you look at when Jomo Kenyatta took over power, he went to Nakuru and made a very strong statement. He told the colonial masters who had tried him in Kapenguria – who put up trumped up charges against him and jailed him for seven years, when he got out, the first thing he did in Nakuru he said, “I forgive you all. We forgive but we shall never forget.”

When Moi left State House and Kibaki won, Kibaki never followed Moi yet Moi never supported him. Moi supported Uhuru Kenyatta.

When Uhuru came in, and by the way, many people might not know this, Kibaki never supported Uhuru. Kibaki had his own project. Uhuru won in spite of Kibaki’s support. There is no day Uhuru followed Mwai Kibaki’s family. Why is Ruto following Uhuru’s family, and why is he following Moi’s family, this is a very dangerous precedence he is setting.

What’s your parting shot in regard to the mass action plans for tomorrow?

I would urge the police to allow Kenyans to freely demonstrate whether in Nairobi or any other city and town. It’s not just happening in Kenya, it will also happen in South Africa. Right from Cape to Cairo, there will be demonstrations on Monday.

So Monday will be a big day for our democracy and we would not like to see our men and women in uniform misused to brutalise their own compatriots, to injure any one of the protesters, or God forbid, for them to shoot anyone of the protesters.

This is our country and we will still be there after Monday. We will be judged by how we conduct ourselves. The police are supposed to escort the demonstrators but not to injure, maim or to kill any one of them.

If anyone does that, let them remember that the ICC is still there, the former Inspector General of Police was taken to ICC because of that.You will be personally held liable.