National Super Alliance flag bearer Raila Odinga on Thursday cut short his campaigns in President Kenyatta’s Kiambu backyard, after hostile crowds at various stopovers heckled and stoned his motorcade.
Police in Thika town deployed tear gas and fired live bullets to disperse rowdy youths who hurled stones at Mr Odinga’s motorcade after a confrontation ensued between his supporters and those of Jubilee.
Trouble started when part of the crowd began chanting Jubilee slogans, occasionally interrupting the Nasa presidential candidate’s speeches, angering some of his handlers who started chasing them away, armed with wooden sticks.
As confusion ensued, Jubilee supporters started hurling stones towards the Nasa handlers, leading to chaos around the area where Mr Odinga was making his address near county government offices.
Some of his handlers and supporters assaulted part of the crowd perceived to be Jubilee supporters before police intervened.
Mr Odinga, who was accompanied by Nasa co-principal Musalia Mudavadi, Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama and Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang, was driven off to another stopover at Githurai, where he faced similar hostility.
The opposition flag-bearer, who was in the county for the second time, having visited last week, had just begun speaking when a section of the crowd that was chanting Jubilee slogans drowned out his voice.
His handlers moved to disperse the crowd to enable Mr Odinga to sell his policies, before all hell broke loose.
Police and bodyguards of some of the leaders shot in the air to disperse the rowdy youth who were throwing stones at vehicles as the politicians were being chauffeured away from Githurai trading centre to safety.
Immediately after the tour, Mr Odinga, through his adviser Salim Lone, condemned the incidents, saying it was apparent that a group of young people armed with stones and other weapons had been organised to attack the Nasa convoy.
He urged his supporters to keep calm at political rallies held by his opponents, and not be provoked by rivals whom he claimed would wish to portray them in bad light by sparking chaos.
“Peaceful protesting is a legitimate expression that people can employ to air their views to political leaders.
"But it is another matter altogether when people come to a rally armed and prepared to disrupt it or cause violence,” read the statement that was sent to newsrooms last evening, in which they demanded police investigations.
Mr Mudavadi urged supporters to restrain themselves to ensure that peace reigns during the campaigns.
“We urge our supporters to exercise restraint. We want to win these elections peacefully,” he said.
Earlier, the politicians addressed a crowd at Kenol trading centre in Murang’a County where the tour started but they were shouted down by Jubilee supporters.
Mr Odinga and Mr Mudavadi managed to make their speeches amid jeering but Mr Muthama had to cut short his after the heckling intensified.
Angered by the crowd, Mr Muthama told them off and later at Thika Jua Kali, which was the only stopover where they received a warm welcome, said it was bad manners for the electorate to heckle leaders, saying everyone should be allowed to campaign everywhere in the country.
“This behaviour is not good at all. You would have at least allowed me to speak.
"We will still win even if you do that (heckling). Kenya is one and we will go everywhere because we are one nation and we will move forward together,” Mr Muthama said.
Mr Mudavadi condemned the heckling of President Kenyatta’s tour of Kisumu County where his deputy William Ruto was jeered and in Baringo where Nasa was chased away at Kabarnet on Tuesday, and asked Kenyans to exercise tolerance during the electioneering period.
His sentiments were echoed by the IEBC, with chairman Wafula Chebukati condemning the ongoing spate of violence.
“The IEBC condemns the political intolerance witnessed in the ongoing campaigns. All candidates are free to campaign in any part of the country,” Mr Chebukati said Thursday.
The Nasa team rubbished claims by Jubilee leaders that they were not ready for the elections, saying together with their supporters, they were eagerly waiting for the D-day.
However, they demanded that the IEBC be impartial to guarantee a free, fair and credible election.
“We want the election to be held on August 8. We do not want a postponement.
"All we want is for the referee to be well prepared so that the competition in which Kenyans will choose their leaders will have a level playing ground,” Mr Mudavadi said.
The politicians sought to woo the community by debunking what they said was propaganda by Jubilee that Mr Odinga was their enemy, and if elected president, he would oppress them.
Mr Kajwang however took a different tone when he warned Jubilee against rigging, saying Mr Odinga’s votes would be heavily guarded and if anyone dares to rig, they would be faced head on.