'Bado Maandamano': It's return to demos as Raila Odinga heeds NGOs call

Anti-riot police officers trying to calm down Azimio supporters as they protested against the high cost of living on March 30, 2023. [Denis Kibuchi, Standard]

Anti-government demonstrations could resume as soon as next week, as the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya coalition piles pressure on President William Ruto to reduce cost of living and enact electoral reforms among other salient issues.

Azimio leader Raila Odinga on Thursday heeded calls by the civil society to have protests run concurrently with the bipartisan parliamentary talks.

He said he would make the announcement on resumption of demonstrations as soon as the Holy month of Ramadan concludes next week.

The former prime minister spoke after a day-long town hall forum with various groups at Ufungamano House in Nairobi, where he slammed the Kenya Kwanza Alliance for alleged “intransigence” in approaching the talks.

“We are not doing this because of any weakness on our side. We are only doing this because Kenya is bigger than all of us and that is why we want to engage,” Raila said as he doubled down on calls to expand the parliamentary process to include other players.

“Kenya Kwanza has said they cannot do anything outside the law. No law stops a dialogue outside Parliament... when we had a crisis, we had talks at the Serena Hotel, chaired by a foreigner. Those talks were not considered illegal or unconstitutional,” said the ODM leader, who also faulted Ruto’s handling of the skyrocketing cost of living.

Raila said Kenyans have “never had to struggle this hard to put food on the table”, even as he criticised the pay delays affecting civil servants.

He would also reveal plans to have police officers who allegedly killed opposition demonstrators possibly tried at the International Criminal Court, saying the coalition’s lawyers were working on the matter.

On expanding the talks, Raila was merely echoing the overarching message of yesterday’s engagement. Previous speakers called for inclusion of other stakeholders for fruitful engagements.

“We must meet on a neutral ground, where we can talk as equals,” Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua said.

The speakers slammed President Ruto for allegedly lacking seriousness in the talks, faulting Kenya Kwanza’s selection of Eldas lawmaker Adan Keynan, a Jubilee member, as one of its negotiators.

“You can always know when someone is serious in dialogue. How can you prefix dialogues with denials... and limit it to reconstitution of IEBC?,” Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka posed. Azimio would later propose the same in one of the 13 resolutions it made.

“Each party to the National Dialogue shall be allowed to put forward a set of thematic concerns for the National Dialogue. No party shall have a veto power on the thematic concerns and/or right to oppose a proposed thematic concern from another party,” activist Suba Churchill read the sixth resolution.

“Kenya Kwanza has failed the test of good faith,” said former Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa. “Matters facing this country are too serious to be left to Parliament.”

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi said Parliament was not representative enough to address concerns of Kenyans who did not vote.

“Parliament has never offered any solutions to the issues facing Kenyans. In fact, it has been an impediment to our progress,” the Ugunja MP said, as he alleged the presence of Venezuelan nationals in the country, who he said had been contracted to manipulate the election servers that Azimio wants to be opened.

Earlier, a member of Azimio’s IT team made a presentation on the alleged manipulation of election results across the various regions, which allegedly saw Raila lose 1.2 million votes as Ruto gained almost an equal number.

The presentation compared details allegedly revealed by a whistleblower working within the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission published on a website run by Azimio.

It detailed the various kinds of alleged manipulations Azimio has repeatedly said happened across various regions, the most significant of which, it was claimed, took place in Central and Rift Valley.

Demonstrators in Migori town show a live bullet recovered on March 27, 2023 during the anti-Government demo called by the Azimio one Kenya leadership. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

The analyst presented data alleging consistent deductions in Raila’s votes in some consistencies, with the same added to Ruto’s tally. In several instances, the number of the said deductions was 100 votes.

Other manipulations, it was further claimed, involved switching Ruto’s and Raila’s tallies in certain polling stations, with Azimio claiming some figures in the documents reportedly acquired from the IEBC results portal had been superimposed.

The constituency result declaration forms - Forms 34B - that were used in the presentation -one allegedly obtained from the server and the other from the IEBC portal - seemed to bear similar features, including signatures of respective agents.

The marked difference was their respective sizes, with the IEBC documents slightly larger than the ones Azimio produced. Azimio analysts said the truth can only be established by accessing individual electronic voter identification and transmission kits.

“Let us compare this with what is in the servers,” said Raila aide Oduor Ong’wen. Ruto was declared the winner of the presidential election with 7.1 million votes, against Raila’s 6.9 million, a result the Supreme Court upheld.

“The theft that was done here annoys you... we spent sleepless nights hunting for votes as others schemed on how to rig elections,” former Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya said.

On the alleged rigging, former Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria equated the election to “treason”.

Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni said opening servers would show who won the election.

“What we have been shown convinces me more than ever that Raila won but his victory was stolen,” Kioni said.

“Legitimacy is not Raila’s to give Ruto. It can only be given by opening the servers.”

Karua, as well as civil society players, had argued that denying access to the servers violated the constitutional right of access to information.

“Raila won in 27 out of the 47 constituencies. It is not possible that they could have won. We want the truth to be out... pursuant to Article 35 of the Constitution,” Karua said, arguing that it electoral injustice “should not be swept under the carpet”.

She made reference to Kenya’s unsuccessful quest to attain high electoral standards in previous cycles.

During the engagements, many called for meaningful reforms in the set-up of the electoral agency.

“We need to review the method of establishing the IEBC... stakeholders should have representation in the commission,” Suba said.

County governance watch Executive Director Kevin Osido said elections in Kenya triggered instability, urging for strategic changes.

“The political process we have focuses on humiliating competitors, critics and those who do not agree with your views rather than building cohesion and strategies for solving the country’s issues,” he said.

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