NAIROBI: Opposition leader Raila Odinga has cited failure by relevant Government institutions to act on grievances against the electoral commission as one of the reasons they resorted to public protests, which resume today.
Raila cited Jubilee’s control of the National Assembly, which dismissed a petition against the polls’ chiefs, and the failure by the anti-corruption agency to charge electoral commissioners over the Chickengate scandal, to justify Opposition protests to kick out Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) commissioners.
He said the petition filed by Opposition supporter Wafula Buke in 2014 was thrown out with accusations that he had been sent by CORD to fight the commissioners.
Raila added that the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) had refused to charge electoral commissioners “despite the fact that existing evidence has successfully prosecuted the bribe-givers in a London court.”
“Is it to mean then that the people are helpless? Is it conceivable that the people who empowered the institutions to work for them have now to sit helplessly and watch as these institutions betray them? Could the servants have now become more important than the masters?” Raila asked.
He went on: “Our Constitution foresaw such possibilities and provided the now greatly talked about rights under Articles 37. Under Article 37, every Kenyan is given a right to assemble, demonstrate, picket and present petitions to public authorities.”
Raila said the Opposition has resorted to the streets “to tell the commissioners of IEBC that they must resign as they have failed in their duty and we have no faith whatsoever in their ability to be impartial in a political contest in which we are contestants.”
“And we went to the streets to tell all Kenyans that they must not sit back and watch their sovereignty abused and their aspirations betrayed by an irresponsible and unaccountable regime. That is why we are returning to the streets on Monday. We are confident that the Constitution is on our side as we demonstrate and we will remain defiant and undeterred by the violent reactions of the police towards us,” Raila said in a statement issued yesterday.
In Nairobi, IEBC chairman Issack Hassan braved demands for his team’s resignation from civil society representatives and politicians.
And later, while speaking in Homa Bay, Raila said the quest for minimum electoral reforms was unstoppable and the coalition will “neither retreat nor surrender.”
He said CORD was re-energised and like River Nile, it was flowing with waves and force which would sweep anything that stood on its way.
He said the problems facing Kenya were compounded by a ‘weak leadership’ that was not responsive to the needs of the masses.
Raila said no amount of intimidation, including teargassing the Opposition chiefs, would cow them from airing their views and pressing for changes to the electoral laws.
“The protests continue today. No retreat, no surrender until we achieve minimum electoral reforms and we mobilise voters to defeat Jubilee at the General Election,” said Raila.
The ODM supremo recalled that at the advent of multiparty politics, the Opposition pushed the Kanu regime to allow for minimum electoral reforms through consensus.
“We are looking for a similar model as the Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group to address the electoral flaws, which will include non-political stakeholders, and to reach an amicable consensus,” said Raila.
“We are not targetting individuals who are commissioners occupying IEBC offices but we are looking at the institution, its composition and the general management of election processes to be reformed to allow for a free fair, credible and democratic elections,” said Raila.
But even as he called on the masses to join the Opposition leaders in the march on IEBC offices, the Government has opposed the strategies being employed by the Opposition, with Deputy President William Ruto terming them as outdated.
Mr Ruto challenged the Opposition to practice politics of maturity and observe the rule of law in airing their grievances.
“The Constitution is clear on how to resolve our issues, but they (Opposition) have chosen the path of demonstration and destruction of property,” he said.
Meanwhile, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery has warned that those who take to the streets would face the full force of the law.
The CS said the Government would use measures similar to those deployed earlier against those who had sought to invade the IEBC offices at Anniversary Towers in Nairobi.
“I said the other day that we have enough teargas to disperse these people. My warning still stands that we will not give a chance to anyone who wants to threaten our security,’’ said Mr Nkaissery.
IEBC chairman, who has remained defiant, called for constructive engagement instead of street protests, which he said would not yield much.
“Those pushing for our removal should follow the Constitution. The commission is ready to engage the Opposition and especially CORD, but in a civil and organised manner,” said Hassan.
In Mombasa, CORD leaders from affiliate parties met on Saturday and yesterday to draw up plans for the protests to be led by ODM Deputy Party Leader and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho. But they agreed to postpone the protests to a day when majority of coalition leaders would be available.
“We had initially planned to hold the demonstration on Monday (today) but the governor and most of the local MPs are still away. We will be in action immediately the governor is back,” said ODM Mombasa County Chairman Mohamed Hatimy.
— Reports by Kepher Otieno, James Omoro, Moses Nyamori and Titus Oteba