A confrontation between security forces and opposition supporters looms after Cord leaders swore to defy the government’s “cowardly” decision to ban political rallies in the city.
Cord insisted that a planned rally to welcome its leader Raila Odinga at Uhuru Park on Saturday is still on.
The former Prime Minister has been in the United States for two months, on what has been described as a lecture tour.
Police said they were banning all rallies for the forseeable future because of security fears.
Madaraka Day is the same weekend and while the challenges of securing two big public events in a city under almost constant attack by terrorists are considerable, there are also suspicions in the opposition that the government is interfering with their rights.
POLICE NEED SPACE
Announcing the rally ban, Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo said police needed space to tackle security, including terror attacks, experienced in the country recently.
“In this regard, therefore, we have to prioritise the interests and security of all Kenyans by calling off all political meetings and processions in the country to prevent and pre-empt any criminal incidents including terror,” he said in a statement.
But Cord leaders Moses Wetangula, James Orengo and Farah Maalim condemned the ban, saying they would not be cowed.
Mr Wetangula said by banning political rallies due to terror threats, the IGP “is telling Kenyans and the world that the terrorists are winning”.
He described the move as a “cowardly act” insisting that the Saturday rally would go on with a build-up meeting at Dagoretti North on Friday.
“We have no doubt in our minds that this cowardly act is meant to derail Cord’s activities which are peaceful, which are legal, which are constitutional,” Mr Wetangula told journalists outside Mr Kimaiyo’s office soon after the ban notice was released to the Press.
“On Saturday we are going to have a reception for the former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and a rally at Uhuru Park regardless.
‘‘On Friday, we are going to have a build-up rally in Dagoretti North in Kawangware where we are going to address our supporters,” said the Bungoma senator.
Mr Wetangula said the party had held previous meetings in Mlolongo and Baba Dogo which were no threat to security.
Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba described the ban as a “disguised attempt to return the country to police brutality”.
Mr Namwamba, who featured prominently in rallies organised by Cord as a build-up to the Saturday event, said his party would continue with the plans for the rally.
Mr Odinga’s spokesman, Mr Dennis Onyango, said the former Prime Minister was not involved in arranging his homecoming reception. “The team here came up with the idea. The team was to come up with a programme and share it with him for input. That had not happened by the time police announced the ban,” Mr Onyango said.
He said the team led by Mr Wetangula and Senator Orengo was still trying to secure a meeting with the Inspector General after which they would brief Mr Odinga to get his input.
Mr Kimaiyo referred to intelligence reports that criminal elements might take advantage of huge political gatherings to carry out attacks.
“This order is issued against a backdrop of various aspects of insecurity which we are currently addressing,” he said.
County Commissioner Njoroge Ndirangu said the County Security Committee had suspended all rallies.
“The prevailing security situation cannot allow for holding any public rally in the county this weekend,” Mr Ndirangu, the chairman of the Nairobi County Security Committee said. Police were deployed on a security operation, others were involved in Madaraka Day preparations and celebrations, he said.
“We are focusing on making Madaraka Day celebrations secure and successful and ensure that all Kenyans are accorded an opportunity to celebrate their achievements,” Mr Ndirangu said.
Mr Namwamba said the ban was intended to cause “unnecessary fear” among Kenyans while taking advantage of the security situation to “disguise a rebranded political oppression”.
“I want to urge all Cord supporters wherever they are to turn up in large numbers to receive our leader, Mr Raila Odinga. We are asking the police to provide security.” Mr Namwamba said.
He challenged Mr Kimaiyo to use his independent office for the good of the public rather than, he claimed, to facilitate the return the country to the dark old days.
“Cord will neither be cowed nor intimidated by the Jubilee government’s draconian and unconstitutional threats cheekily disguised as security measures,” he said.
The National Security Advisory Committee, chaired by Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, met at Harambee House yesterday morning and after evaluating the security situation advised cancellation of the rallies.
TNA’s Onyango Oloo, whose Jubilee coalition was planning a rival event in the city, regretted the ban but said it was in order as long as it was made in good faith.
“It is unfair to bar politicians from conducting rallies. But we may excuse them (police) if this has been done for the general good of the country,” he said.
On Monday, Majority Aden Duale announced that Jubilee will hold its own rally in the city on Saturday, adding they were looking for a venue.
He later supported the rally ban but said Jubilee leaders would demand a statement from Mr Kimaiyo on the reasons, scope and duration of the ban.
“If the decision by the IGP is because of security and to save lives, we totally agree with him but he has to give reasons for it,” he said.
Cord leaders, among them Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula, his Siaya counterpart Mr James Orengo and former National Assembly Speaker Farah Maalim, condemned the ban and said the rally is on.
THREAT OF TERROR
Mr Wetangula said by banning political rallies due to terror threats , the IG “is telling Kenyans and the world that the terrorists are winning”.
He described the ban as a “cowardly act” saying the rally now scheduled to be held at Uhuru Park will go on preceded by another one at Dagoretti North on Friday.
“We have no doubt in our minds that this cowardly act is meant to derail Cord’s activities which are peaceful, which are legal, which are constitutional,” he said while addressing journalists outside Mr Kimaiyo’s office soon after the ban notice was released to the press.
“On Saturday we are going to have a reception for the former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and a rally at Uhuru Park regardless. On Friday, we are going to have a buildup rally in Dagoretti North in Kawangware where we are going to address our supporters,” said the Bungoma Senator.
Mr Wetangula said the party had held peaceful meetings in Mlolongo and Baba Dogo.
He said there was no need to have “unhelpful provocations” arguing that the opposition was responsible and would hold rallies every weekend in all the 47 counties to “tell Kenyans how this country is heading in the wrong direction”.
“We are going to have serious rallies every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We don’t want Kenyans in authority to press panic buttons for no reason,” added Mr Wetangula.
Mr Maalim said it was frustrating to even get a venue adding that the opposition had been barred from KICC grounds which had earlier been booked for the planned Cord rally on grounds that the venue was to be used for another “presidential function”.
“We decided to go to Uhuru Park and we went ahead to book it and now we are told the Inspector General has suspended the meeting,” he said and questioned the authority on which the IG was banning meetings.
Mr Orengo said the ban was akin to the actions of former dictatorial governments.
He said there was no basis to ban political meetings saying a certain process must be followed before such an action is taken.
“We have seen this before and we know what to do.. we will not be cowed, the Inspector General cannot act unilaterally,” said Mr Orengo.
“I believe these meetings are going to go on and I don’t think that the powers that exist today can match the forces that we have fought before.”
Additional reporting By John Njagi