Raila orders Saitoti to censure police over Limuru chaos

Police used live ammunition and teargas to disperse thousands who wanted to attend the Limuru 2B meeting

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 19 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga has ordered Internal Security Minister George Saitoti to take immediate action against the Commissioner of Police and all Provincial Administration officials who were involved in violent dispersal of anti Gema youth in Limuru.

Saitoti has also been directed to ensure that immediate investigations are carried out on threats to the life and family of Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara.

In a statement, Odinga said that the police failed to protect the rights of the conveners of the meeting by using teargas and live ammunition to disperse them.

Apart from violating the constitution, Odinga said that police should have been observant of the fact that organisers such meetings incur substantial expenditures (such as paying for the conference venue, its logistics, travel for the delegates and programming the availability of speakers) which he said cannot be undone at the last minute.

Police opened fire and lobbed teargas at thousands of youth who were marching to the Jumuia Conference Centre in Limuru for a meeting organised to counter another held there by GEMA leaders on March 23.

Odinga insists that police tactics in cancelling the meeting were a recipe for disaster and also tainted the integrity of the government’s commitment to uphold the law.

He said that if police had information against any individuals planning to disrupt the meeting dubbed Limuru 2B they should have dealt with them and let the meeting go on.

“It is unacceptable that police can cancel a gathering on grounds that thugs planned to disrupt it. Police indicated to the organisers that a group led by a Member of Parliament had threatened to disrupt the meeting. But rather than arrest those who were threatening to cause a breach of the peace, and provide security for those meeting lawfully, the police chose to assist those who were sabotaging a lawful meeting!” Odinga’s statement read.

“They chased the innocent through fields, constantly firing tear gas and bullets, and alarmed residents in neighbouring compounds and disrupted their daily lives. The police did not maintain law and order as they are required to do,” he further stated.

Odinga insisted that such scenes belonged to the past and that they had been banished from the lives of Kenyans with the new Constitution.

“The sight of police officers putting up roadblocks on a major thoroughfare and repeatedly firing rounds of tear gas at hundreds of perfectly peaceful people caused intense alarm of a kind we have not experienced for some years now,” the statement further read adding that Wednesday’s meeting was organised by some of Kenya’s ‘most respected luminaries known for their commitment to democracy, national harmony and peace’.

The PM says that the action by the police on Wednesday had also raised their fears about what else might lie ahead which might curtail the exercise of democratic rights ahead of the next election.

“Scenes of Archbishop Reverend David Gitari and former MP Hon Paul Muite, who fought gallantly, for the freedom we have today, being tear gassed and shot at, will not be tolerated by Kenyans any more, nor images of unarmed youths being chased away like criminals from the scene of a licensed meeting.”

They take us decades back and raise alarm to the fact that despite giving ourselves a new constitution, we are not out of the woods yet,” the statement said.

He has assured that the government remains committed to upholding all the democratic rights the people of Kenya so painfully won and entrenched in the Constitution including the right by the people to make independent political choices without intimidation or blackmail.

Imanyara told parliament on Wednesday that he feared for his life after he was accosted by four men as he drove to his home near State House, Nairobi on Tuesday night.

LORDRICK MAYABI

Lordrick is a graduate of the University of Nairobi with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. He is passionate about political and governance issues. He also takes keen interest in human rights matters, justice and is fond of sports.