We will return to the streets next month if talks fail, Raila now warns

Azimio leader Raila Odinga speaks Ahono village, Gem, Siaya county, during the burial of David Omondi, who was shot dead in Kangemi, Nairobi. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

The showdown between Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Coalition and the government appears far from over despite the ongoing efforts to kickstart dialogue as ODM leader Raila Odinga hinted at a possible return of mass protests by September 1, should the talks fail.

On Saturday, while a tough-talking President Wiliam Ruto told residents at Kenol, Murang’a that he will not allow any more protests in the country and ruled out a handshake with the opposition, a defiant Raila told his supporters of plans to go back to the streets.

According to Raila, the opposition has given the talks a chance for a period of 30 days to find solutions to their concerns, failure to which they will regroup for another set of mass action against the government.

“There are issues we hope we will agree on. If we do not agree and find a settlement by the end month, then we will be back on the streets on September 1,” said Raila.

The opposition appears inclined to push through their demands and is working on a plan to counter the government’s potential crackdown on another round of protests. The plans include suing individual police officers for the violence meted on their supporters as part of an effort to discourage the government from using brutal force.

Speaking in Ahono village, Gem, Siaya county during the burial of David Omondi, who was shot dead in Kangemi, Nairobi, during last month’s protests, Raila asked the Kenya Kwanza side to avoid giving unnecessary conditions during the talks.

“We are talking without conditions and so they should not give us conditions either. We are ready for talks but if there is no agreement after 30 days, our people will be out on the streets again,” said Raila.

According to the ODM chief, the Constitution gives the people the power to demonstrate, lodge petitions and picket. He said they will exploit the provisions to the letter to ensure that the voice of Kenyans is heard.

Defiant tone

While many had hoped that the dialogue would reduce the strong political criticisms between the two camps, Raila maintained a defiant tone and launched scathing criticisms against President Ruto’s regime.

He took a swipe at President Ruto and his regime for allegedly promoting violence against innocent civilians and maintained that all the officers who were responsible for the death and injuries of protestors will be sued in court.

“We are going to sue all the individual police officers who attacked our supporters. We have already collected their details including their pictures and their service numbers,” said Raila.

He accused the president of allegedly celebrating the killing and shooting of innocent civilians including those who were removed from their homes by police officers.

President William Ruto speaks during the opening of Githurai Market in Kiambu County. [PCS]

“Kenyans have a right to protest against the government, a right to demand that the cost of living is brought down because they pay taxes. It is the role of the government to ensure Kenyans live a comfortable life. A government that frustrates and forces its citizens to pay high taxes is not for the people,” he said.

He said the opposition will not be bullied into silence and maintained that they are prepared for anything in their efforts to ensure the government addresses the high cost of living as well as other issues they have raised.

Raila’s comments come as the 10-member team selected by both camps prepares to hold their first meeting scheduled to meet next week amid an exchange of criticisms from the two camps.

The coalition picked Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka to lead its delegation in the talks, which are to be mediated by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

In his speech, Raila claimed that they have documented the police officers they intend to sue for attacking innocent civilians. He blamed the president and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua for the loss of lives.

Celebrated them

“It is you who gave orders to the police and then later celebrated them, claiming they had done a good job. The job of killing a human being cannot be praised and termed good. These children killed are Kenyans with rights and it is the role of the police to protect them,” argued Raila.

“How can you claim you are a Christian yet encourage police to maim innocent Kenyans? Christians do not celebrate death. Our silence must not be taken as a weakness. Most of these youths shot were not even protesting in towns but seated in their homes. It is not true what the police were saying that they were destroying properties,” added.

Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo said they are going to sue the police officers who shot and killed innocent protesters as individuals.

“We have lost 41 people and 500 injured during Azimio protests. Twelve of the dead are from Siaya County. We are going to sue each police as an individual. We have their numbers. We are working with the Law Society of Kenya,” said Amollo.

 Siaya County Speaker George Okode condemned the excessive use of force on innocent people during protests.

“It is not proper for police to use excess force on our people. Irrespective of the number of people you brutalise and kill, we shall not be cowed. Police must not be allowed to brutalise unharmed protesters,” he said.

He added: “We owe nobody an apology for going to the streets and when the right time comes and we are given a directive to go to the streets, we shall do it.”