Chaos and confusion marred a Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) rally in Kitui on Saturday.
Politicians allied to Deputy President William Ruto were harassed by a team of bouncers hired to provide security at the event.
The MPs, who arrived moments after the rally had started, were barred from accessing the main dais where Opposition leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka, governors and other elected leaders were seated.
The more than 40 heavily built men intercepted and led the Tangatanga MPs who included Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen and Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot.
Drama started when two senators and MPs Kimani Ichung’wa (Kikuyu) and Moses Kuria (Gatundu South) were left standing behind the governors, prompting protests from Kamba MPs, who demanded that their colleagues be accorded the respect they deserve.
MPs Victor Munyaka (Machakos Town) and Nimrod Mbai (Kitui East) threatened to lead a mass walk-out unless their visiting colleagues are treated with respect and dignity.
They later surrendered their seats to Mr Murkomen and Mr Cheruiyot. As the shouting at the main dais intensified between the host MPs and the men in black, a scuffle erupted. Mr Kuria was frog-marched by the bouncers and ordered to leave the venue.
Kitui Central MP Makali Mulu was forced to halt his speech as the pushing and shoving continued while his colleagues from Ukambani rushed to rescue Mr Kuria.
Police intervened to save the Gatundu South lawmaker from the bouncers who were manhandling him. Mr Kuria sat on the ground ostensibly to avoid being pushed into the crowd.
At this point, Kiambu Governor James Nyoro who was sworn into office on Friday following the impeachment of his former boss Ferdinand Waititu, shouted that Mr Kuria had been disrespectful to President Uhuru Kenyatta and should be ejected from the rally.
Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu picked the microphone and announced that Mr Kuria should not have been allowed into the meeting for allegedly insulting President Kenyatta, as Governor Nyoro urged her on. Mr Kuria and Mr Ichung’wa are among Kiambu MPs who did not attend Mr Nyoro’s swearing-in as Kiambu governor on Friday.
As the police shielded Mr Kuria from the bouncers, Kitui MPs insisted he and his colleagues were their guests and could not be harassed as they watched.
Mr Kuria was later allowed back to the main dais but, like his fellow Tangatanga MPs, was not allowed to address the tension-soaked rally.
Kitui MPs Makali Mulu (Kitui Central), Nimrod Mbai (Kitui East) and Rachel Nyamai (Kitui South) condemned the harassment of their colleagues.
“We were the hosts and it is extremely painful and shameful to see your guests being harassed by thugs you have no idea who brought them,” Mr Mulu said.
They demanded to know who hired the bouncers to provide security at the BBI rally and who gave them instructions to harass elected leaders at the event.
Mr Mulu said some of the MPs lost money in the confusion.
“Certainly, that’s not how to build bridges, we should have accommodated Mr Kuria and his colleagues even if we disagree with their views on BBI, but what happened can easily polarise the country,” said Mr Mulu.
Senator Cheruiyot said they did not expect such kind of harassment by hired goons at a rally meant to build bridges of unity in the country.
“It is clear now that they only want those preaching expanded executive to speak at the BBI rallies. It’s a shame anyone with pro people agenda must be muzzled,” Mr Cheruiyot told the Nation after the rally. Mr Odinga said he was grateful for the support he had received from the Kamba community in the last two presidential elections, where Mr Musyoka was his running mate and looked forward to working with him in future.