Rival protests set for Kenyan capital

February 16, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 16 – Two separate civil society groups have notified the police of their intention to hold peaceful protests in Nairobi on Wednesday over the current political impasse in the country.

One of the groups led by Okiya Omtatah said would be demonstrating against what they term as President Mwai Kibaki’s ‘laxity to fight corruption’ while another one said it will be opposing Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s move to ‘suspend’ two Cabinet Ministers from government.

Mr Omtatah told Capital News that he handed over his notification letter to the Officer In charge of Central Police Station on Monday and was contacted by a senior police officer from the station on Tuesday who granted them authority to demonstrate.

“We have followed the due process of the law.  We notified the police of our planned demonstration and I have just received a telephone call from the station and we have agreed on the route to use,” Mr Omtatah told Capital News on phone.

He said he had mobilised thousands of his supporters to participate in the peaceful protests which he said would begin from Uhuru Park to the Office of the President on Harambee Avenue.

“It will be a massive protest.  We want to tell Kibaki that he is wrong on this… we want him to take firm action on corruption, those implicated must vacate office to facilitate investigations,” he said.

Another group under the banner of the Gusii Land Veterans Association and KRRP similarly said it had notified the police of their planned protests against the Prime Minister’s actions.

A notification letter signed by officials of the Association James Moturi and Jerry Kenyansa, a copy of which we obtained stated that protestors would assemble at Uhuru Park at 10am.

“We write to notify you that Civil Society Organisations will have a peaceful demonstration against the Prime Minister who purported to sack the two Ministers – Prof Ongeri and William Ruto,” it reads in part.

“We also support the Head of State for revoking the suspension of the two Ministers by the Prime Minister,” the letter said.

The group said it had prepared a petition to be handed over to the Prime Minister’s office at the Treasury Building.

Police on Tuesday evening said they were strategising how to keep watch over the two rival groups to avoid a possible clash, considering they both planned to use the same route.

There were reports that another group of youths from Kibera slums was planning to take to the city streets on Wednesday though it had not formally notified the police.

Central Police chief Richard Muguai said organisers of the groups planning to demonstrate were under instructions to adhere to the law and avoid violence.
Mr Omtatah told Capital News that they would hold countrywide demonstrations next Wednesday if President Kibaki fails to take action within seven days.

“This Wednesday, it will be demonstrations in Nairobi only but next week we shall be on the streets in all major towns.  We have given him (President Kibaki) seven days to act on our petition,” he said.

And even as the civil society planned to take to the streets, tension was reported to be high in various parts of the Rift Valley, particularly in Eldoret, Kapsabet and Nandi Hills since Sunday when the Prime Minister announced the ‘suspension’ of the two Cabinet Ministers.

Police said security had been intensified and that adequate patrols would be carried out in those areas to ensure there is maximum security.

Tom Aosa of the Community-Based Organisations (CBO) told Capital News; “it was unfortunate that Kenyans are still thinking along perceived community kingpins.”

“After disagreements in the 2007 General Elections which led to violent chaos in the country, it is surprising that there are people still thinking along the lines of their politicians and can dare hold demonstrations in support of their politicians like what was witnessed in some towns in Rift Valley,” he said.

“We need to live as one community because we are all Kenyans, even the two leaders should work together and avoid all these wrangles because we want peace,” Mr Aosa said.


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