Last Monday’s heckling of President Uhuru Kenyatta in Migori brought back memories of his father Jomo Kenyatta’s chaotic visit to Kisumu on October 25, 1969.
Just like the violence that followed when Jomo clashed with Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Kenya People Union (KPU) supporters, Uhuru’s rally in Migori was marred by shouting and stone throwing.
Rowdy youths took strategic positions in front of the dais, throwing shoes and shouting pro-ODM slogans soon after Migori Governor Okoth Obado rose to speak. Uhuru had visited the county to launch an anti-malaria campaign. Leaders roundly condemned those behind the fracas. The scene was similar to the 1969 incident in which crowds charged as the presidential motorcade left, prompting security officials to open fire on the mob. Eleven people died in the fracas and several were injured. Jomo had gone to Kisumu to open Russia Hospital (now Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Referral and Teaching Hospital).
In the Kisumu incident, the presidential convoy was met with shouts of Dume (the bull), KPU’s political symbol, from a group of hecklers. Uhuru was also confronted with pro-ODM chants at Migori Primary Grounds, but only this time, the security personnel didn’t fire although they had cocked their guns.
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So far, six people have been arrested, charged in court for causing disturbance and released on bond. Migori County Police Commander Clement Gatogo says many more are still being sought to help in investigations. Since Tuesday, there has been heavy presence of detectives in Migori. They are out to uncover the faces behind fracas, even as a blame game continues among politicians.
Nyanza has witnessed several chaotic scenes targeted at leaders in the recent past. Last weekend youths blocked former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s wife Ida in Siaya, demanding money. She had visited to attend the burial of former Bondo MP Hezekiah Ougo. Last month, rowdy youths stormed Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma’s office and disrupted the inaugural County Development Board (CDB) meeting that was to be presided over by Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o.
Raila also met resistance from local youths when he attended the inauguration of a Sikh statue that had been erected in the Kisumu Central Business District (CBD) by the Sikh community. The youth later destroyed the statue, alleging that it promoted idolatry. Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno, who is an ally of Uhuru, was also heckled when he said he would form a new political party, Kalausi, to rival ODM. The youth accused Dalmas of undermining ODM that sponsored him to Parliament.
At the inaugural launch of the ‘Okoa Kenya’ initiative in Kisumu at Kirembe Grounds, Kisumu Women Representative Rose Nyamunga was assaulted, her items stolen and her bodyguard roughed up. Two police women from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) were also beaten up and their clothes torn.
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Migori Governor Okoth Obado, who is believed to have been the target of the heckling in Migori, condemned the incident and claimed the disruption of the President’s tour was organised by his political rivals.
“The heckling was not organised by boda boda operators but by political leaders in Migori County. The youth were paid to heckle me and the President and later wined and dined at a local hotel. Their bills were paid by one of the politicians,” Obado alleged. Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, who was heckled at a CORD rally during Raila’s return from the US in May, termed the incident as barbaric and primitive. “The President has been to Western, Coast, North Eastern and many other places and we have not witnessed such acts of hooliganism,” Kidero says.
Raila condemned the fracas terming it unfortunate and uncalled for. “This should not be happening at this age and time. Let every leader freely tour the country and express his or her views,” Raila says.
Ida said the culture of heckling is unbecoming. “Our youth have lost their souls, become restless and reckless and as a community, we must quickly find out what the problem is,” she said. Nyong’o, while condemning the incident, said the tumult across Nyanza should not be connected and treated as inter-related. “As ODM, we condemn heckling because it is a poor culture and bad manners. It is not a cilivised behaviour. Let aggrieved youths channel their grievances through avenues in the county and national governments. Let all people be given the chance to speak their minds,” Nyong’o says.
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But Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale disagrees. “It is not about Nyanza youths. They are just expressing their anger that the President has chosen to take development projects in other regions but give Nyanza a raw deal,” Khalwale says.
He adds: “The President should engage in meaningful projects related to the youth. Let him leave distribution of nets to nurses. Nyanza youths are angered because they are left out of the President’s development agenda.” Kisumu West MP Olago Aluoch called on the Nyanza youth to be tolerant to divergent political views.
“The chaos at Migori was not spontaneous. It was organised. It is primitive that to date, some politicians still plan to disrupt their opponents’ rallies,” Aluoch said, adding: “The reaction in the Jubilee strongholds is that of anger and will galvanise the supporters to do worse things to CORD and Okoa Kenya initiative. It is counter-productive.”
Nyatike MP Omondi Anyanga, said: “I am disappointed as a leader of this region and one who was in the team that visited State House prior to the President’s visit.”
Businessmen and church leaders in Migori condemned the incident, warning such acts of violence could scare away investors.
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“Let us learn to be tolerant. Heckling and stone throwing can never solve our problems. We should constructively engage with leaders,” said the Reverend Samuel Ochieng Mark of Maranatha Faith Assemblies, Uriri Central Pastorate. He said days when name-calling was the order of the day are long gone.