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How Raila kept his diary under wraps, outsmarted police again

 Azimio Leader Raila Odinga addresses his supporters in Kibra Nairobi on March 27, 2023. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

For the second week running, police prevented the opposition from demonstrating within the Nairobi Central Business District, dispersing them at strategic points of entry.

Police officers in Nairobi indiscriminately lobbed teargas canisters at largely peaceful crowds at Kawangware and Kibra, further soaking them up with their water cannons, breaking up several marches of the protestors.

And the demonstrators would react by hurling stones at the police, resulting in endless running battles. The protestors would regroup after each round.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga had once again succeeded in outsmarting the police, keeping his day's diary under wraps. For much of the day, there was no news of his plans, with his allies, on their part, divulging nothing.

But from the opposition's movements on Monday, there was no indication that marching to the CBD was ever on the cards.

Raila's apparent strategy involves having the police chase shadows in the city as they head to residential areas, where the bulk of their supporters live. Azimio plans to hold demonstrations on Thursday.

Minutes past 1 pm, the opposition's convoy would emerge from his Orange Democratic Movement's Chungwa House headquarters, where Azimio leaders had been meeting.

A chance encounter with Raila's communication team along Argwings Kodhek Road led us to Chungwa House. The Standard had conducted spot checks at the Serena Hotel and Raila's Karen residence and his known offices.

The Azimio convoy coursed into Kawangware, largely catching locals off guard. Some had opened up their businesses, closing up at the sight of Raila's convoy. As though on cue, residents would fill the streets, sufurias and cooking sticks in hand.

The former prime minister would address the first two gatherings before police arrived to disrupt the third with countless teargas canisters.

And Raila's convoy would retreat deep into the slums, working a way to Kibra as a sea of humanity flowed in their direction.

But they would meet police officers along Naivasha Road, who unloaded more teargas on the protestors. Raila's engagements in Kibra were uneventful as police kept off. Residents chanting "Ruto must go" and "unga" carried twigs to as a sign of peace.

As the Standard journalist left Kibra for the City Centre, officers at the Lang'ata Police Station shot teargas canisters at our vehicle, causing damages.

Raila also criticised Monday's vandalism of one of his business premises and the invasion of land owned by former President Uhuru Kenyatta's family.

While addressing a gathering of opposition demonstrators at the Kamukunji Grounds in Kibra on March 27, Raila termed the two attacks "criminal and foolish", alleging that they had been conducted by criminals hired by senior government officials.

Kamkunji was the opposition's last stop in a series of protest marches by demonstrators that began in Kawangware and ended up in Kibra.

Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya coalition party leaders questioned the intentions behind the attacks, saying it betrayed the ill intentions President William Ruto's administration allegedly harbours against the opposition.

"Sending criminals to my business is childish. But we will not relent," Raila said, hinting at an escalation of the bi-weekly protests, urging his supporters to await his directions.

Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua warned of the consequences of harming their leaders.

"If you harm Raila, the whole country will come for you," said Karua, making reference to the government.

"We now know who is interested in peaceful demonstrations and who is only interested in chaos," Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna said.

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