How I plotted Kibaki security breach

Monday December 15 2008

Civil right activist Fredrick Odhiambo and wife

Civil right activist Fredrick Odhiambo and wife Sarah Nyokabi at Nairobi Womens Hospital on Monday where he is receiving treatment after being roughed up during Jamuhuri Day celebration. Photo/JAMES NJUGUNA  

By MOSES DOLA

For a man who caused a presidential security breach that might cost jobs, he’s lucky to be alive.

Fredrick Odhiambo, 28, is guaranteed a slot in Kenya’s history books as a man who planned and executed an embarrassing presidential security lapse single-handedly.

He also forced President Kibaki to cut short his speech moments after the President finished reading the written version.

To many, he is known as a “heckler” who preaches politics in the city streets and at Jivanjee Gardens, but to the highly trained security detail, he is an embarrassment to their vigilance.

Just how a man not familiar with presidential security protocol could walk up to two rows behind the president unnoticed and sit for two hours is a tale of intrigue and suspense.

Not even the hawk-eyed presidential guard, always in their hundreds during functions of such magnitude, spotted him as he walked past several sniffer dogs.

“When messages have to be delivered, especially to the ruling elite, and no one is willing to do so, it pains me, so I volunteered to deliver a message to the President,” said Mr Odhiambo as he sat on his Nairobi Women’s Hospital bed on Monday.

He is nursing injuries he says were inflicted by the “seriously embarrassed presidential guard” after they noticed they had failed in do their work — that of keeping off intruders from the VIP dais.

He was under 24-hour police guard until Sunday afternoon when security at his bedside and room were withdrawn.

“For three days, said Odhiambo, I planned my mission, and I swear I was all alone; not even my wife Sarah Nyokabi knew a thing about it,” he says.

So when he finally settled on Jamhuri Day as the ideal date to deliver his message to the President, he woke up at 5am, and on an empty stomach boarded a matatu from his Ngong home to the city centre.

“My wife wondered where I was going in a suit at 5am, and I told her I had some mission to carry out and that the voice of the people must be heard,” said Mr Odhiambo.

Dressed in a grey suit, blue and white spotted tie and a striped grey shirt, he waited until people started streaming into Nyayo National Stadium, the venue of this year’s 45th Jamhuri Day celebrations.

When Members of Parliament and ministers started arriving and taking their seats, he mingled with some of them and walked towards the main dais and sat on a minister’s chair, three rows from that of the President. He chatted jovially with some of the country’s high and mighty.

“Some of them told me that the seat I was on was that of a minister, but none of them asked me to leave,” added Mr Odhiambo.

He was all the time unaware that a presidential guard was sitting only two chairs beside him, and even greeted him: “Hi!”

As the President rose to speak, something prompted Odhiambo to shoot up in protest and start shouting.

Radio presenter Walter Mong’are aka Nyambane, was being manhandled by regular policemen, AP and GSU commandoes just below the dais.

Before he knew it, and even before he could deliver his message to the country’s Number One, security men were all over him, carrying him to a secret room.

What followed was a 30-minute ordeal at the hands of the presidential guards — an ordeal that has landed him in hospital.

“They kept shouting at me, asking who had sponsored me to embarrass them, but I maintained I was alone and without bankroller.”

He still, however, wishes to deliver his sole message to the President and says that if he does not, someone else will.

“I wanted to tell him to ask MPs to pay tax and that the freedom of the media is paramount.”