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Day of drama as Raila teargassed by police, barred from city centre

 Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga (second left), Wiper Party's Kalonzo Musyoka, former Defence CS Eugine Wamalwa and Narc Kenya's Martha Karua outside Serena hotel March 20, 2023. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Azimio leader Raila Odinga was on Monday teargassed by police as he led protests in the city. He at one time took cover in a hotel to evade the police.

After being barred from the city centre, Raila and several Azimo leaders made several stopovers around Nairobi to address residents.

Azimio supporters too engaged the police in running battles even as the officers deployed high-pressure water canons to disperse crowds along the routes Raila used.

But a defiant Raila told his supporters that Monday’s demonstrations were just the beginning of weekly mass demonstrations that will be held every Monday until the government lowers the cost of living.

Raila, wearing what resembled combat uniform, complete with a khaki coloured cap and matching shirt and trousers arrived at the Serena Hotel around midday unnoticed where he is said to have joined Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka. The latter was said to have spent Sunday night at the facility where they monitored the happenings around the city.

At around 1pm Azimio governors, senators and MPs trooped to the hotel for lunch as they strategised for their entry into the city in the afternoon with a heavy contingent of security personnel barricading roads leading to Serena Hotel.

The opposition leaders left at around 2.30pm with Raila terming the demonstration a success despite the government unleashing police to break up what he termed as a peaceful demonstration, saying that would be a weekly occurrence going forward.

“Kenyans are going to demonstrate in Nairobi every week until the government listens to their demands to bring down the cost of living, including all the stakeholders in the formation of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and stop skewed employment,” said Raila.

The Azimio leaders addressed crowds at City Stadium, Eastleigh, Kamukunji, Mathare and Thika Road.

Raila said that the government has displayed a high level of intolerance for attempting to stop the public from listening to them yet they were out to exercise their democratic right to picket and demonstrate so as to call the Kenya Kwanza regime to order.

He told President William Ruto's administration to be prepared to face the wrath of angry and hungry Kenyans who were disappointed with his failure to deliver election promises.

 Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga addressed crowds at City Stadium, Eastleigh, Kamukunji, Mathare and Thika Road. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

“We have seen this administration failing to implement even a single promise made to Kenyans. Instead life has continued being difficult even as we see the formation of a bloated Cabinet which will cost Kenyans millions of shillings to maintain annually,” said Raila.

Kalonzo predicted that the Kenya Kwanza administration might be in power for one term since it had failed on many things yet Kenyans had high expectations and would not give a second chance to leaders who did not keep their promises.

The Wiper leader said that the conduct of the Ruto administration showed that it lacked legitimacy because if it had delivered all election promises it would not have had reason to fear peaceful protests.

Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua told the government to be prepared to face the wrath of Kenyans who will not accept their government failing to serve them yet they are heavily taxed compared to neighbouring countries.

Karua said that citizens have now discovered that the opposition was fighting for the rights of Kenyans with the Ruto administration already getting jittery since it was aware that it had failed to deliver on all the promises made during campaigns.

“We have seen the Ruto administration failing to deliver everything promised that is why they are unleashing police officers to throw teargas at us yet we are carrying out peaceful protests. Let them know this is just the beginning,” said Karua.

Security was tight along State House Nairobi with armed police checking all vehicles and pedestrians with several barriers along State House Road and Dennis Pritt Road to ensure the demonstrators did not reach the official residence of President Ruto.

Several armoured vehicles were placed in strategic positions from as early as 6 am as the officers did not want to take chance after Raila threatened to lead a grand march to State House.

Several businesses along the road were closed with owners fearing the prospects of protestors looting.

Vincent Kolunja who sells Juice and fruits to those residing near State House and the students of the University of Nairobi told The Standard that business was low due to uncertainty over the protests.

"On a good day, by 10 am, I would have made at least Sh2,000 from selling juice. Today by that time, I had only made Sh200. If this continues we are going to suffer, we hope President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga will sit down and reach some agreement," said Kolunja.

 Teargas billowing at Serena Hotel where Azimio la Umoja leaders led by Raila Odinga were to hold a presser on march 20, 2023. [Jonah Onyangoi, Standard]

Security officers were stationed at all State House gates while the home of former President Uhuru Kenyatta which is nearby was also guarded with the gates locked with no activity being witnessed.

James Musyoka who operates a kiosk along Ring Road said he had opened his shop because they were assured of security but rowdy youths invaded it and took away everything before they were repulsed by the police.

"I had opened my shop because the government had assured us of security. Now I have lost everything despite being a poor Kenyan just like those who stole from me," said Musyoka.

Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga, Siaya Governor James Orengo, Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna, Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua, Suba North MP Milly Odhiambo, Roots party leader George Wajackoya and Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni joined Raila in the rallies

Others were Likoni MP Mishi Mboko, Embakasi East MP Babu Owino, Kisumu Town West MP Rozah Buyu, Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang, Migori Woman Rep Fatuma Mohammed and Nominated MP Irene Mayaka.

Senate Minority Leader Stewart Madzayo and National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi were arrested while participating in the demonstrations early in the day and taken to the DCI headquarters.

They were later released unconditionally.

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