Friday, July 4, 2014

Court bars Cord from mass action calls

Cord leader Raila Odinga addresses a rally at Tononoka grounds in Mombasa on June 15, 2014. The High Court has restrained Cord from calling for mass action during the planned Saba Saba rally on Monday. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | FILE

Cord leader Raila Odinga addresses a rally at Tononoka grounds in Mombasa on June 15, 2014. The High Court has restrained Cord from calling for mass action during the planned Saba Saba rally on Monday. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | FILE  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By PAUL OGEMBA
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Former prime minister Raila Odinga and his co-principals in the opposition Cord coalition have been stopped from calling for mass action during their Saba Saba rally scheduled for Monday in Nairobi.

In the event that Mr Odinga and his co-principals former vice president Kalonzo Musyoka and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula defy the court order and call for mass action leading to chaos during the rally, they will be personally held liable for the consequences, the court ruled.

Justice Isaac Lenaola, however, declined to stop the rally as requested through the application by Nairobi Senator Gideon Mbuvi Sonko, but warned the Cord leaders not to use the forum to incite the public to violence or interfere with those not attending the rally.

“The public meeting organised by the coalition on July 7 shall proceed as planned during which they shall exercise their rights to assemble peacefully without being armed and without any defamatory rhetoric or disturbing activities of those not attending the rally,” ruled Justice Lenaola.

NO PUBLIC HOLIDAY

Justice Lenaola further allowed a consent by lawyers representing both parties that July 7 (Saba Saba) is not prescribed as a public holiday and any calls by the Cord principals declaring the day a public holiday is null and void.

He did not, however, specify the consequences the Cord leaders will face if they defy the court orders, saying that he will make a decision if that happens.

In declining to stop the much publicised rally, Justice Lenaola said that it was the coalition’s constitutional right to assemble and that the court can only interfere if the rally poses real threat to the country’s security.

Mr Odinga has held rallies in other towns in what the Cord coalition claims are consultative meetings with the people to pressurize the government to call for a national dialogue to discuss problems facing the country.

Cord has been pushing for talks over corruption, tribalism in public appointments, insecurity, high cost of living and restructuring of the electoral commission among other grievances.

RULED OUT DIALOGUE
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Jubilee coalition government have however ruled out dialogue with the opposition arguing that their grievances could be addressed by established constitutional institutions.

The Nairobi Senator went to court through lawyer Harrison Kinyanjui seeking to stop the Saba Saba rally arguing that Cord politicians could use it to incite members of the public to ethnic violence as witnessed from their speeches in rallies they have held in other towns.

“The contents of speeches and demands being issued at the rallies can only be discussed through duly constituted institutions. The court has a duty to stop the rallies which are a threat to promotion of right of freedom,” said Kinyanjui.

Mr Mbuvi swore that it was unlawful for the former PM to declare July 7 as a public holiday saying it is only the constitution and the president with such powers.

“The threats of inciting citizens to abandon their work and stage mass action on July 7 and the declaration that the day will be a public holiday is a violation of the constitution which prohibits any other person from exercising state authority,” he said.

He argued that the alleged incitement and hate speech uttered at the rallies is creating ethnic tension which has resulted into loss of life, destruction of property and eviction of certain communities from some places.

The Senator added that Interior minister Joseph ole Lenku and Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo have failed to stop Cord from holding the rallies and it was only through a court order that they can be stopped.

“Unless the court intervenes, the rallies and the statements made will continue to infringe on the people’s right to life and more so threaten to overthrow a duly elected government,” swore the senator.

Justice Lenaola also allowed the Nairobi Senator’s request to advertise the orders in newspapers and through local radio stations to notify the Cord luminaries.

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