, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 18 – 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 two weeks ago.
The meeting dubbed Limuru 2B was organised to counter resolutions made by supporters of Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and his ICC co-accused William Ruto whose allies had converged in Eldoret also two weeks ago under the KAMATUSA tribal grouping.
A group of youth led by veteran lawyer Paul Muite and activist Ngunjiri Wambugu—the meeting convener—who had marched to the venue were blocked by police and decided to leave peacefully.
“You can see we are a peaceful group, the police have just decided to block this place because they don’t want us to hold our meeting,” Wambugu said and accused unnamed forces within the government who “are using the police to implement illegal orders.”
Heavily armed police officers sealed off the venue and declared it a no-go zone.
The group leaders then resolved to leave peacefully after addressing a press conference where they vowed to seek justice.
“I will be filing a petition in court, it is not acceptable at all because the police do not have any legal mandate to block our meeting,” Muite said.
He intends to sue Central Provincial Police chief John Mbijiwe, area divisional police chief and OCS as well as the area District Officer for what he terms “a violation of the Constitution.”
“I will be suing them individually because I don’t want the taxpayers’ money to be used in paying the damages; they are the ones to pay the damages themselves,” he said.
But as soon as Muite, Ngunjiri and musician Prezzo (Jackson Gechu Makini) left the venue, thousands of youth waving white handkerchiefs emerged from the Limuru highway chanting slogans of “we want peace” before they were confronted less than a kilometre from the venue of the cancelled meeting.
Police used teargas and fired in the air several times to disperse the group which converged in a forest nearby where they engaged anti-riot police in running battles.
Many of the youth sang and chanted anti-Kenyatta slogans and declared they don’t want GEMA.
“We don’t want GEMA, because it is a tribal outfit,” some of the youth shouted.
Dozens of them were arrested and bundled into waiting police trucks while others were clobbered. Several police officers were also wounded during the chaos that disrupted transport on the Limuru road for hours.
“We have cancelled the meeting. We don’t know where they are going and that is why we have dispersed them,” Mbijiwe the Central PPO said.
Police were puzzled how the thousands of youth outwitted the police who had mounted roadblocks on roads around Limuru to access the site.
Some of the youth complained of police harassment and accused the police of intimidating them.
“We have not committed any crime, why are we being hunted down like wild animals,” one of the youth protested.
After close to two hours of running battles, the youth made peace with the police and agreed to disperse.
Earlier, organisers of the Limuru meeting had addressed a press conference at a hotel on the Naivasha highway where they castigated unnamed political leaders whom they accused of frustrating their peace efforts.
The press conference was attended by among others Bishop Gitari, musician Prezzo, the late JM Kariuki’s daughter Rosemary among others.
JM’s daughter said: “We were going to the meeting to talk about what we have gone through and effects of negative ethnicity in the country. My dad died not as a Kikuyu but as a nationalist. You can see our rights have been violated by being denied access to meeting.”
Bishop Gitari condemned politicians fanning tribalism in the country and urged Kenyans to remain united.
“I was going to the meeting to preach peace I wanted to and urge Kenyans to support leaders based on their ideologies and not tribes. Recently, there was a group that held a meeting at same venue and they preached tribalism, now the police are stopping us yet we are going to preach peace.