As the country is holding its breath over tomorrow’s planned mass action by the opposition-led Azimio leader Raila Odinga to force President William Ruto to lower the cost of living, Kenyans from all walks of life have expressed mixed reactions.
Political leaders drawn from Azimio la Umoja from the Western region support the planned demonstrations in the city, whereas those in Kenya Kwanza are against them.
Religious leaders have asked Raila to put off the planned demonstrations and instead consider having a dialogue with the President to solve the current impasse.
Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi (ODM) has maintained that the demonstrations by Azimio will go on across the county and beyond as planned.
Osotsi said this would be one way to compel Ruto’s administration to lower the cost of living, as they had promised Kenyans during the campaigns. “What we want is for the government to lower the cost of living for our people as promised. That’s the only language they can listen to,”
Osotsi said that no property would be destroyed or life lost as there would be no chaos from Monday demonstrations.
“Some people from Kenya Kwanza have been saying that those demonstrations will be chaotic, but we have assured Kenyans it will be peaceful even here in Vihiga,” said Osotsi.
Vihiga is among the counties that have seen pockets of demonstrations called for by the Azimio team on March 10 in Luanda and Mbale towns. Several demonstrators went to the streets, and the top concern was the high cost of living, high taxation, and cost of education, among other issues.
But Beatrice Adagala, the ANC Acting Secretary General and Vihiga Women Rep said it was shameful for the Azimio team to hold the nation at ransom with street demonstrations.
"I urge the residents of Vihiga and the nation at large to avoid the demonstrations and go to work, and the children be allowed to go back to school, " said Adagala.
Malava MP Malulu Injendi (ANC) scoffed at Raila for organizing the demonstrations, terming it as derailing Kenya's development progress.
“Malava residents want development and not street protests. If any leader is coming here to ask residents to join protests, we will not allow that. Kenyans have rejected pelting stones in demonstrations, they want to get avenues of how they will empower themselves and put food on the table,” said InjendiButali Chegulo MCA Kevin Mahelo (UDA) asked residents to keep off the demonstration.
“If someone asks you to join the mass protest ask them to ensure you have maize, money and food. If not, keep off the protest and concentrate on ploughing your farm or planting maize,” Mahelo noted.
Kakamega Catholic Diocesan Bishop Joseph Obanyi has asked Raila and Ruto to look for alternative ways of resolving the current problems the country is facing as opposed to mass action.
Bishop Obanyi, who spoke after a Sunday service, told Ruto to also listen to the cry of Kenyans in solving the problems facing the country.
“Appointment 50 Chief Cabinet Secretaries amidst the current challenges of the high cost of living and runaway inflation doesn’t show a government that cares for its people when the wage bill is already bloated,” said Bishop Obanyi.
He went on: “Protests is not the way to go as that will lead to loss of property and lives. Let’s have a dialogue between the former prime minister and the president."
The National Alliance of registered Churches of Kenya ARCK, Chairman Bishop Samuel Welimo, asked Raila to halt the protest plan and check the government without demonstrations.
“The country needs peace. Demonstrations derail the country from progressing. The protest might fuel violence and even affect learning and peace which Kenyans have fought for. Let the opposition look for a better avenue of solving disputes like a dialogue instead of demonstrations,” Welimo noted.
Bishop Isaac Wawire of Praise Center Mbale said that despite the law allowing Kenyans to protest, leaders should use alternative methods to solve the problems facing the nation, as protests can disrupt the country's economy.
"We have the avenue to talk as Kenyans, let us not resolve to violence that will derail the nation just a few months from the general elections," said Issac Wawire.
Reporting by Brian Kisanji, Jackline Inyanji and Mary Imenza