CORD ignores police, vows to hold rally

The Coalition for Reforms and Democracy has vowed to hold rally in Eldoret on Friday despite cancellation by police, setting the stage for possible confrontation between officers and CORD supporters.

“Tutaenda Eldoret wapende, wasipende (we shall go to Eldoret whether they like it or not)” , declared CORD leader Raila Odinga whose team is piling pressure and President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto to yield to its demand for national dialogue over weighty matters the country is grappling with.

CORD has named insecurity, tribalism in public appointments, corruption and economic downturn as some of the challenges the nation is facing.

"Police have a duty and constitutional responsibility to protect citizens. We expect police to provide protection for our supporters in Eldoret," declared the former premier in reference to the rally to be held at the town's 64 Stadium. 

Raila maintained that CORD would press on with the remaining rallies, ahead of the main meeting in Nairobi on July 7, if the Government fails to call for national talks.

The former Prime Minister spoke at a news conference convened at Orange House in Nairobi yesterday, which was also addressed by Ford Kenya leader and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula. The leaders said another rally planned for Saturday in Ntulele, Narok County, would not be cancelled.

"We wish to clarify that we will proceed with both rallies as planned; Eldoret on Friday and Ntulele on Saturday. In the predictions of doom and chaos being fuelled by Jubilee, we see a deliberate effort by the Government to pursue a self-fulfilling prophecy similar to the vile propaganda Kanu spread in the late 1990s that multiparty politics would breed chaos, ethnic hatred and bloodshed," CORD said.

The Opposition coalition had earlier been granted a permit to hold the Eldoret rally before police reversed the decision over intelligence.

"The CORD political rally scheduled to take place on June 27 at 64 Stadium, Eldoret, shall not take place due to the volatile security situation on the ground as guided by intelligence reports. The earlier permit issued to yourselves therefore remains cancelled until the security situation in the county gains normalcy," read the cancellation notice by the police and signed by Patrick Lumumba for the town's division commander.

It was addressed to Uasin Gishu ODM chairman Kipkorir Menjo.

Yesterday, Raila said: "The Government should do everything to convene a national dialogue. What we are doing now is collecting views from Kenyans that will form the agenda of the national dialogue."

He denied claims the Opposition was holding the 'consultative' rallies to incite Kenyans against the State, arguing that the Constitution provided for freedom of assembly and expression.

"We are not inciting Kenyans. What we are saying is that the country is facing serious national challenges over which no leader has a monopoly of ideas regarding how to confront them. We need to talk with each other and find lasting solutions to the myriad problems the country is facing," Raila said.

The former PM said the police had no constitutional mandate to cancel their rallies, arguing what was required of the Opposition by law was to issue notice of their meetings so that relevant agencies could provide security.

He scoffed at attempts by the Jubilee Government to intimidate CORD by zoning off certain regions using "trivial reasons". CORD argued the latest attempt by some politicians to zone their strongholds and bar their opponents from holding rallies there was akin to curtailing fundamental freedoms and smacked of a deliberate move to divide the country along political lines

The coalition hit out at the Executive, accusing it of trying to divide the country along Jubilee and Opposition zones as was the case during the Kanu era in the 1990s. This, the team said, was a bid to stop people from exercising their freedoms as contained in current "hard won" Constitution.

"As the Opposition coalition, we stand committed to defending the constitutional right of Kenyans to free expression, association and assembly. We threaten no one and we expect no one to declare us threats to peace or to threaten us," said Wetang'ula.

"Kenyans need to remember that the struggle for the freedoms we enjoy today took more than 20 years because the leadership then tried to stop us from attaining and enjoying them," Raila said.

He added: "The people who are today trying to stop us from enjoying the fruits of that long and deadly struggle are products of the system that tried to stop us from getting the freedoms. That is why they can still instruct police to purport to be cancelling public gathering, a role that was long taken out of the hands of the police. We call on the national government to respect the Constitution by providing security at all these CORD events.

"Provision of security is the primary role of any government on earth. In fact, it is the only reason why people agree to operate under some form of government," he added.

Wetang'ula accused police of deliberately failing to provide security for all CORD rallies held so far despite the Opposition making formal appeals.

After the Eldoret and Ntulele meetings, the Opposition heads to Kisumu and Machakos on July 5 and 6 respectively.