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How Azimio allied protests remained peaceful in Mt Kenya

 Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga addresses a crowd at Quarry in Rongai, Kajiado County on March 19,2023 after attending church service in the town. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance staged peaceful protests in some counties from the Mt Kenya region ahead of tomorrow’s mass action.The demonstrations were held in Muranga town, Kiambu, Nyandarua, and Nakuru counties, while in some counties like Embu and Nyeri, the opposition sympathizers chose to issue pressers affirming their support to their leader, Raila Odinga's call for mass action.In Muranga, Habire Chege, a youth leader and former Nominated MCA led demonstrators in Muranga town streets, the strongholds of Kiharu Mp Ndindi Nyoro, a firm adherent of President William Ruto.

In a region where Nyoro was re-elected without producing a campaign material, the protests were peaceful, with Chege and his pack of close to 500 protestors crisscrossing Muranga town and causing a temporary traffic snarl-up.Chege said aware that they could not be allowed by the police to hold the protests, they did not write to inform the police of their intentions as they would not only reject their pleas and monitor the organizers."As organizers, we remained tight-lipped in our plans and stormed Muranga town by surprise, our intention was not to harm or destroy people's business but to show our solidarity with our leader Raila in his quest to have a free Kenya," Chege said.Among the issues that Chege and his team highlighted were the high cost of living and the appointment of Chief Administrative Secretaries at a time when the country is affected by hard economic times.

In Nyeri, Eric Makara, a local politician, said authorities got wind of their plan to stage protests at Karatina town, the home to Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and warned the organizers of a move that saw most of them develop cold feet resulting to issue a presser."We had prepared to hold demos but our plan leaked to authorities and managed to dilute the plans. We intended to hold peaceful protests though but announced that we are in support of Raila," Makara said.He added that after the mass action, small-scale traders in Nyeri County would have their day in Nyeri town at a later date to decry the increased taxation."After the mass action, we will increase our activities in counties without fear, we want to put the Kenya Kwanza government on its toes over the unkept promises," Makara said.This comes even as church leaders, cultural groups and government-allied leaders accuse Raila of weaponizing misery.Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishop's chairperson Rev Martin Kivuva asked Raila and his team not to give space to demonstrations that risk turning violent, or matches that aim at insurrection and mutiny, saying such actions would negate the very rights and authority of their demands."We are amazing Raila and all aggrieved leaders to seek other avenues to address the merit-worthy issues. With the same breath, with urge the President to address the plight of the distressed Kenyans," a statement signed by the prelate read in part.Nyeri Catholic Diocese Archbishop Anthony Muheria echoed Kivuva's statement, saying while there was the need for government to rethink its recurrent expenditure like the recent appointments of CAS, mass action was not the best way to air discontent as would lead to a slippery path and occasion loss of lives.Bishop Stephen Maina of Full Time Winners Gospel Church and the chairperson of Muranga bishops accused Raila of using innocent Kenyans to drive his political agenda."It's a pity to Raila's followers who end up engaging with police in running battles for no reason. If government cedes Raila's demands they will be left in the cold, and a time has come for Kenyans to reject such leaders," he said.Engineer Samuel Ngethe, a member of the Kikuyu Council of Elders, called for dialogue, saying by doing so would avert a state of anarchy that may follow as a result of mass action."Despite pressure from his lieutenants, President William Ruto should weigh dialogue and the aftermath of the mass action at a time when the country's economy is at its deathbed.

Engaging Raila in dialogue will not make him a lesser President," the elder observed.However, political analyst Prof Gitile Naituli said Raila was only doing what is expected of him, and Kenya could only get worried if he woke up to praise the government."If the opposition keeps praising the government, that would mean the death of an alternative voice to the government of the day," he said.Former Nyeri MP Ngunjiri Wambugu on his part, wondered whether it was by coincidence or design that four opposition parties in Africa would be talking to streets in one day opining that 'we could be pawns in a game that we don't understand".

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