Raila Odinga calls off Kamukunji rally

Azimio leader Raila Odinga. [David Gichuru, Standard]

Azimio leader Raila Odinga has called off the Kamukunji rally that was scheduled for this afternoon.

Addressing a press conference at his Upper Hill office in Nairobi on Wednesday, July 12, Odinga lamented increased police shootings, assaults, and harassment directed at his supporters.

"In order to protect our people and prevent further injuries and loss of lives, we have made the strategic decision not to proceed with the rally at Kamkunji this afternoon. In any case, the people have made their point," said Odinga.

"We would like to take this opportunity to thank Kenyans for heeding our call to fight for ourselves," he added.

The Azimio chief expressed regret that the otherwise peaceful protests had been marred by injuries and possible deaths in various parts of the country.

He accused the police of shooting, injuring, and killing protesters, including in Nairobi.

He alleged that the Azimio crew, who had been sent to set up the stage at Kamukunji grounds were attacked and their equipment damaged. Some were arrested.

"Scores of protesters have been arrested for participating in an exercise that is clearly protected by the Constitution. As usual, it is the police maiming and killing people. Slowly, our country is degenerating into a police state. We must not allow this to happen again," said Odinga. 

His statement comes even as supporters engage police in running battles across major cities in the country in protest against the high cost of living.

During the protests, transportation and businesses in major towns were paralyzed as protestors took to the streets.

Protestors in Kisumu lit bonfires on major roads to demonstrate the high cost of living. Public Service Vehicles (PSVs) halted their services, leaving passengers stranded.

In some parts of the country, hundreds of residents had to walk to work as PSVs that risked their usual commute were stopped and passengers asked to alight along the way for fear of retaliation.

In Nairobi, hundreds of motorists using the Nairobi Expressway were stranded at the Mlolongo exit after rowdy youths vandalized a section of the road.

Odinga affirmed that the fight for a better Kenya was still on, downplaying the government's tactics to thwart what he termed as peaceful protests.

"There is no moving on until Ruto comes out openly and agrees to repeal the Finance Act, 2023 and embark on other measures to lower the cost of living," he said, adding, "There is no moving on until he [the president] comes out loud and clear on the need to have a bipartisan reconstitution of IEBC and commits to respecting and stop interfering with other political parties."

Among the issues of contention for Azimio is: the high cost of living, punitive taxes brought forth by the Finance Act of 2023, and the reconstitution of IEBC.