Police battle youths after anti-Gema meeting flops

Wednesday April 18 2012

Police move to block Limuru meeting
Youths cheer as they storm the main entrance to Jumia conference centre Limuru on April 18,2012. Anti-riot police blocked the venue after police banned the meeting that was to counter recent gatherings by Gema in the same venue. Photo/WILLIAM OERI
Youths cheer as they storm the main entrance to Jumia conference centre Limuru on April 18,2012. Anti-riot police blocked the venue after police banned the meeting that was to counter recent gatherings by Gema in the same venue. Photo/WILLIAM OERI
By ZADOCK ANGIRA [email protected] and ANNE MACHARIA [email protected]

An anti-Gema and Kamatusa meeting planned for Limuru turned chaotic after police blocked more than 2,000 youths who had turned up for the rally.

The officers lobbed teargas canisters and on several occasions used live ammunition to disperse the youths and organisers of the event dubbed Limuru 2B.

The meeting at Jumuia Conference Centre was organised to counter another held there by Gema leaders two weeks ago.

Five people were arrested but the police could not confirm whether they would be charged in court on Thursday.

The operation was led by the Central police boss John Mbijjiwe and CID chief Henry Ondiek and lasted for about five hours before the youths informed the police that they had decided to leave the area peacefully.

Igembe North MP Mithika Linturi and former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga, who organised the meeting, did not come to the venue.

The youths swarmed the town and its environs and engaged the police in running battles.

Lawyer Paul Muite later convened a press conference at the Wida Highway Motel on the Nairobi/Nakuru highway, where he condemned the cancellation of the talks and the police action.

He said they would sue the area police boss for disrupting the meeting.

“If the meeting does not go through, a petition will be filed against the PPO,” he warned.

Mr Ngunjiri Wambugu, retired Anglican Archbishop David Gitari, Ms Rosemary Kariuki and Mr Aburi Mpuri were among the leaders who attended the Limuru meeting.

Dr Gitari said it was unfortunate that some politicians were using ethnic alliances to seek the presidency instead of promoting and upholding national unity.

“Leaders can be found anywhere in this country and it is time we abandoned the politics of ethnicity,” he said.

Mr Muite noted that the Constitution granted all Kenyans the right to convene a meeting and it was unfair to outlaw the talks whose main agenda was unity and nationalism.

He asked why the police did not stop the first meeting that espoused what he termed as ethnic agenda.

Mr Muite dismissed police reports that some groups had planned to disrupt the meeting, saying the solution would have been to pursue those breaking the law and not blocking a peaceful rally.

“Why do we allow those who wanted to disrupt the meeting to carry the day?” he posed.

He accused senior politicians he did not name of being behind the cancellation.

“There was nothing subversive and I think these officers involved in violation of people’s rights should not continue serving,” he said.

At the Jumuia Conference Centre, the gates remained closed. According to a guard, the management had prepared for yesterday’s meeting.

Armed police were within and around the compound. Police diverted traffic to Tigoni. Three roadblocks were erected on the main routes leading to the centre.

However, this did not prevent the youths from reaching the venue. They alighted a few kilometres away and walked to the venue.

The police had cancelled the meeting on Tuesday claiming organised gangs had planned to infiltrate it and cause mayhem.

The meeting was meant to counter earlier ones by the Gikuyu, Embu and Meru Association (Gema) and Kalenjin, Maasai, Turkana and Samburu Association (Kamatusa) that anointed Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto as their respective leaders.

Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto are among four Kenyans who were indicted by the International Criminal Court at the Hague in January over the 2007/8 post-election violence.

The two, who have declared interest in the presidency at the next General Election, denied planning or funding Wednesday’s chaos in Limuru. (READ: Showdown looms as police ban talks)