Arrest of activist, Raila ‘the fifth’ chants mark Budget day

Treasury CS Ukur Yatani at the Parliament buildings, Nairobi to present his final 2022/23 budget on April 7, 2022 [Elvis Ogina, Standard

The arrest of an activist on Harambee Avenue calling for the reduction of food prices and later outside the National Treasury building set in motion events that defined Budget reading yesterday.

It all started with a group of protesters parading outside the Treasury building at 1.30pm. Armed with placards and courage, their message was simple; they wanted the cost of living and food prices lowered.

They hoped to catch Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani exiting the building to pass their message. When he took too long, they decided to have a go at it anyway.

They displayed banners calling for justice but it wasn’t long before security agents took action.

What followed was the arrest of a man clad in a red jacket and khaki trousers, a development that angered Kenyans online. The man was arrested by plain-clothed officers, roughed up and dragged to a waiting police car. In between the clobbering, the man was, however, still able to amplify his suppressed voice before being whisked away.

“We are a horrendously suppressed nation. We want justice. The poor people in this country are dying. I am ready to suffer for my country if it means getting justice,” he said. Soon after, Mr Yatani exited the Treasury building headed for Parliament.

When the clock struck 2.45pm, the CS arrived at Parliament Buildings, closely followed behind by Central Bank of Kenya governor Patrick Njoroge.

Clad in a navy blue suit that betrayed his affluence, the CS was received by MPs among them Budget Committee chairman Kanini Kega and his Finance counterpart Gladys Wanga. But for a man who literally held the fate of more than 40 million Kenyans for the next year in his hands, Mr Yatani strode with ease to the chambers.

When he posed for a photo session after incessant calls from journalists, he was garlanded by Members of Parliament, Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries and staff. He would briefly hold up the Budget briefcase for the iconic ‘budget reading photo’ and plastered a smile on his face while at it.

Shortly after, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi led members through the debate of a report on the Coffee Bill 2020.

The debate was interrupted by the arrival of ODM leader Raila Odinga a few minutes past 3pm accompanied by Suna East MP Junet Mohammed. Mr Odinga proceeded to the Speaker’s gallery as Mr Junet made his way to his seat. 

At exactly 3.30pm the Speaker proceeded to acknowledge the Cabinet Secretaries present including Najib Balala (Tourism), Amina Mohammed (Sports), and members of the diplomatic corps.

It was however the ODM leader’s introduction that prompted foot thumping and cheering in the chamber that played host to only a handful of MPs. When he stood to bow in a show of respect to the MPs, chants of “the fifth” rented the air.

Shortly after, Mr Yatani strode from the room where he had been kept waiting and headed to read this year’s Sh3.3 trillion budget.

In hand was the culturally-rich budget briefcase which is traditionally relegated to the confines of the Treasury.

As the CS made his way, MPs clapped, others cheered while others jeered. What followed was an hour-long session where Mr Yatani outlined new tax measures to be introduced to fund its trillion shilling budget amid a studious silence in the chamber.