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Government orchestrating blogger purge – Alai

PHOTOMENNAIROBI, Kenya, July 26 – They exited the Nairobi Remand and Allocation Prison in Industrial Area singing, “we shall not be moved, even if you slap cuffs on us and throw us in jail, we shall not be moved.”

On the front line was Raila Odinga’s former presidential campaign manager Eliud Owalo, flanked by Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Members of Parliament and prominent blogger Robert Alai.

The cause that brought them together apparently bigger than the differences that saw the cowboy boot clad Owalo part ways with the Odinga led ODM.

The man who brought them together was one Seth Odongo, perhaps better known as Dikembe Disembe to those who subscribe to his blogs.

Odongo who was arraigned on Friday on charges of intent to stir ethnic animocity, they protested, remained detained on the other side of the prison gates because his cash bail had been set at the, “punitive,” figure of Sh2 million.

Odongo’s arraignment, Alai contended, was part of a government conspiracy to muzzle bloggers critical of it. “It’s very unfortunate that the government is trying to intimidate bloggers. Bloggers especially believed to be allied to the opposition.”

“Personally,” he claimed, he’d been on the other side of the Industrial Area prison walls not less than 12 times in under a year.

He therefore called on the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) to stop victimising bloggers, “for expressing their opinions.”

And while the NCIC recommended arraignment, on charges of hate speech, and release on Sh2 million cash bail of The National Alliance (TNA) Gatundu South aspirant Moses Kuria in June would appear to discount CORD’s assertions that, “their,” bloggers are being targeted, Owalo argued that it did not.

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“That was a smoke screen,” he said, “When Moses Kuria was in court the other day they came up with this bail term of Sh2 million. The target was not Moses Kuria, the target was the opposition.”

And despite their standing shoulder to shoulder, that was where Owalo and Alai’s statements were discordant; Owalo classified Odongo as a, “CORD blogger,” and Alai did not, describing him instead as a student, “not being funded by the party.”

In fairness to the NCIC, however, it is worth noting that the head of the digital arm of the Presidential Strategic Communications Unit, Dennis Itumbi, was also investigated by it.

But then even he accused the NCIC of witch hunting.

Owalo and Alai did however stand in solidarity with lawyer Anthony Oluoch’s position that Odongo’s cash bail amounted to, “a sentence before a trial.”

He, Senior Counsel James Orengo and other, “CORD lawyers,” he said, were working overtime so they could move to the High Court on Monday in a bid to have it, “benchmark how should the lower courts issue bail.”

In that effort, Owalo said, the legal team would also be seeking to have Odongo’s bail terms, “revised downward.”

Until then, he said, they would continue to consider Odongo as the first political prisoner of the Jubilee government and would be convening at the Uhuru Park Freedom Corner at 8.30 on Monday morning.

“So,” Alai concluded, “that’s our main beef which we express offline and we express online.”

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Their beef concluding a week in which the Kenya Defence Forces and Deputy William Ruto’s Twitter accounts were reportedly hacked into.


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