Protesters and police must exercise restraint

The country is on the tenterhooks today as Azimio embarks on its much-hyped demonstration in Nairobi to protest the high cost of living and Raila Odinga's alleged stolen victory in the 2022 presidential election.

It is no clear what the demonstration will entail, but the opposition has vaguely talked about 'mass action' and even threatened to storm the State House, the residence of President William Ruto who they claim is illegally in office and must go.

Raila has declared today declared a public holiday - never mind he doesn't have such powers - and asked his supporters from across Kenya to converge in the city for the finale of the Azimio protest meetings that have taken the coalition leaders to several parts of the country in the past few weeks.

Azimio has every right to protest. The right to demonstrate and picket is enshrined in our Constitution. However, the Constitution has no room for violent protests.

The Opposition must therefore live up to its promise of holding peaceful protests. During their meetings in various parts of the country, Azimio leaders have been urging their supporters to act responsibly and, commendably, these gatherings have largely been peaceful.

We would therefore not want to see the protesters engaging in violence or resorting to draconian measures such as theft, destruction of property and blockage of roads as has happened many times before.

Storming State House

We want to hear the Azimio leaders preaching peace, as they have been doing in the past month, as their supporters converge in Nairobi today. The opposition can go ahead and stage its demonstration but Kenyans, who do not wish to take part in the protest, should be allowed to go on with their business as usual.

In addition, we urge Raila to banish the thought of leading hapless Kenyans in storming the State House. Such a drastic action, as we have warned here before, would be grossly ill-advised and could lead to needless shedding of blood. Overrunning the State House has never been and will not be a walk in the park.

In the same breath, we implore the police, who will be in the streets in their hundreds, to similarly exercise restraint. They must act professionally. Police must keep their distance and avoid provoking the crowds unnecessarily.

Notably, after the dust is settled, protests such as this one almost always leave a big blemish on the police service. Some officers act with uncalled for zeal and excitement which ultimately leaves them with blood in their hands and egg on their faces.

Mindless bludgeoning, teargassing and shooting of protesters and even non-protesters, whenever they occur, remind us of the unprofessional nature of the officers and the urgent need for change in the service.

Police as well as the protesters must not overreact today. They must act within the law. Majority of Kenyans would not want to see any ugly scenes. Let commonsense prevail among the protesters and the police officers. Let peace prevail.

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