A major confrontation between the Government and the Opposition is in the offing after acting Interior CS Fred Matiang’i banned NASA protests in Nairobi, Kisumu, and Mombasa.
Matiang’i said he had banned the demos from the city centres to protect Kenyans and their property but opposition leaders vowed not to budge, saying demonstrating and picketing is their constitutional right.
Matiang’i, citing the Public Order Act, said he issued the ban after disruption of businesses and alleged looting during the demos called by NASA leader Raila Odinga.
He warned that those who notify police of the planned protests would be held liable for any destruction.
“The Government notifies the public that demonstrations shall not be allowed within the CBDs of Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu. The Inspector General of Police has been advised accordingly,” he said.
He also said he would regulate the conduct of public processions and demonstrations.
“In accordance with Article 254 (4) of the Constitution and pursuant to the powers accorded to me by section 22 of the Public Order Act, I will be gazetting regulations that will govern the conduct of public processions and demonstrations,” Matiang’i said.
He said he was guided by Section 5 of the Public Order Act in making the decision. He insisted that his order does not curtail the right of NASA supporters to demonstrate and picket.
He said the ban followed a resolution of a National Security Advisory Committee meeting.
“I assure Kenyans the Government has no intention, whatsoever, to claw back fundamental rights and freedoms of Kenyans. But we shall not allow a few Kenyans, while purportedly exercising their freedoms, to infringe on the rights of others,” Matiang’i said.
Article 37 of the Constitution provides that every Kenyan has a right to peacefully assemble, demonstrate, picket and present petition to public authorities while unarmed.
The CS said the NASA chief executive, Norman Magaya, will be prosecuted over property destroyed in Nairobi during recent protests, having been the one who gave the notice for the demos on October 6.
He asked owners to report to Central Police Station so the damage can be quantified.
But Magaya vowed to continue leading the demos. “What the CS is doing is not in law. My role only ends at notifying the police. That is what the POA says. The rest is for the police. If he wants to arrest me for doing the right thing, then be it,” Magaya said.
He accused the CS of allowing his employer to use him to intimidate the Opposition.
“Why has he not arrested officers who stormed the University of Nairobi and beat up students or those killing people in Kisumu?” Magaya said.
NASA principal Moses Wetang’ula said they will continue with protests today despite the ban. He said they will go to court to start private prosecutions against Matiangi for allegedly violating the law.
“The CS has been failing in his duties. His utterances show he wants to criminalise a legal political activity. We shall hold him responsible should anything happen to Magaya,” Wetang’ula said.
NASA MPs Otiende Amollo (Rarieda) and Simba Arati (Dagoretti North) said the demos will go on and urged supporters to turn up in large numbers.
They said the police should avail themselves to provide the demonstrators with security.
“The blame for absence of peace in demos is not on NASA but on the police. The CS is only reading part of Section 5 of the Public Order Act (POA) to benefit one side. He should read the section in its entirety then he will understand he is missing something,” Amollo said.
He said Matiang’i has no powers to give such orders. “The CS cannot give an order, then promise to make regulations to back it. This is unlawful. The law gives Kenyans the right to demonstrate and we will continue doing that,” he said.
“POA requires that one only notifies the police of intention to demonstrate. Then the responsibility to provide security to the picketers, businesses, and other people rests on police.”
Other Opposition MPs Jared Okello (Nyando), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem), Adipo Kuome (Karachuonyo), and Fred Ouda (Kisumu Central) said the directive has only given them reasons to intensify the protests.
Seven Jubilee MPs from Nairobi welcomed Matiang’i’s action. Led by Yusuf Hassan (Kamukunji), the MPs said the order will ensure normalcy return in CBDs of these cities.
“We laud Matiang’i for issuing the order. It will ensure law and order. Business people will also continue with their activities without fear. The traders have already incurred huge losses,” said Hassan.
“As MPs from Nairobi, we ask Opposition leaders to desist from holding protests in the capital,” said Hassan who was flanked by other city MPs Charles Njagua (Starehe), Nixon Korir (Lang’ata), John Kiarie (Dagoretti South), Benjamin Mwangi (Embakasi Central), George Theuri (Embakasi West), and Ndirangu Waihenya (Roysambu).
Carole Kariuki, the chief executive of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, welcomed Matiang’i’s order, saying it would protect lives and property.
“POA gives him the power to intervene where there is no order. This is good news for the business sector,” Ms Kariuki said on Thursday.