NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 13 – Police on Thursday violently dispersed a group of demonstrators who tried to march to Parliament, hours after the government accused the protest organisers of being sponsored to destabilise the government.
The demonstrations were led by activists Timothy Njoya and Boniface Mwangi, whom the National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC) had accused of getting funding from USAID to bring down the Jubilee government.
The two activists were leading demonstrators to Parliament when they were tear-gassed as they approached Freedom Corner after police outlawed the protest.
A statement issued by NSAC Chairman Francis Kimemia on Wednesday night stated that the Foreign Affairs Ministry had been asked to urgently summon USAID officials over the alleged plans to topple the government.
The protestors sang as they started their march along State House Road, before proceedings towards Kenyatta Avenue. Drama started when they arrived at the entrance to Freedom Corner, which was sealed off by anti-riot officers.
According to the police, the meeting had no permit.
Their leaders engaged in verbal exchanges with police while quoting sections of the Constitution which they claimed allow them to assemble there. “What does Article 37 say?” one of the protestor shouted.
After a 30-minute engagement, their leaders decided to proceed to Parliament. Police had restrained themselves from using tear gas, until the protestors started marching towards Parliament.
As teargas filled the air, everyone was on the run, including the leaders. Njoya however remained beside one of the General Service Unit trucks and watched as police engage his ‘followers’.
He later addressed journalists saying they wanted to show their displeasure with how the government was carrying out its duties.
“We are here today to appraise whether these values are being fulfilled or found wanting in State institutions and public arena. Are our leaders measuring up to the standards of maturity, moral capacity and performance expected of them by our national covenant?” he posed.
Asked whether they had received funding, Njoya said Kenya was part of the global village and can work with any nation. “Kenya is a global village, we all work together,” he said.
Nairobi County Commander Benson Kibui had earlier appealed to the lobby group to stop the protest, saying the police didn’t want to shift their focus.
Aware of the recent security threats, Kibui had advised that instead they could call for a press conference and air out their grievances, “in the interest of the country’s security including theirs.”
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