Policeman arrested for teargassing Martha Karua

Raila Odinga's running mate Martha Karua is whisked to safety after a teargas canister exploded during a rally at Gusii Stadium. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya presidential running mate Martha Karua was evacuated after a teargas canister was lobbed towards the dais when she started addressing a rally at Gusii Stadium in Kisii County, yesterday.

The tear gas canister exploded about two meters from the dais forcing the rally to end abruptly as leaders scampered for safety. The Azimio presidential running mate was whisked to safety by security. The incident left scores of women injured while three county government vehicles had their windscreens broken in the ensuing melee.  

Police say the teargas canister that exploded at Gusii Stadium during the Azimio rally yesterday afternoon was discharged by a police officer based at Kisii police station. Police Spokesperson Bruno Shioso says the officer responsible is in custody and will assist in the ongoing investigations.

“This was witnessed by members of the public who beat him up accusing him of spoiling the meeting. He was at the scene in civilian clothes," he said.

Gusii leaders in attendance had addressed the rally including governor James Ongwae who welcomed the Azimio presidential running mate to give her remarks before chaos erupted.

Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s wife Ida, who had earlier on accompanied Ms Karua to other events in Kisii, did not attend the rally.

Karua and Ida commissioned the Kisii County Mother and Child Hospital, a Doctors Plaza and Kisii Gender-Based Violence and Drug Rehabilitation Centre. They were accompanied by governor Ongwae, Woman Reps Janet Ongera (Kisii), Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay), Sabina Chege (Murang’a) and Rose Nyamunga (Kisumu). The duo addressed a rally at Kisii town Capital roundabout where they campaigned for Raila.

Karua’s address was briefly interrupted by the arrival of more than 300 youth before Kitutu Chache MP Richard Onyonka calmed them down.

Minutes later ODM Kisii governorship candidate Simba Arati too arrived with another group of youths. Addressing a meeting at Kisii Teaching and Referral hospital Ms Karua and Ida called on Azimio leaders to carry out peaceful campaigns.

“The electorates will decide on who is best suited to lead the county. Almost all Gusii leaders are my friends and we have a long-standing friendship. Let us not tear at each other, all we need are Azimio leaders and a win for Raila Odinga,” said Ida.

Karua said she was not new in Kisii and urged leaders to end wrangles. “Let us give Raila good leadership with whom he could be comfortable to work with. I am sure that we will form the next government, but we must also have Azimio leaders,” she said.

Eye witnesses said the incident happened within minutes. “We thought it was a gun shot. I found myself at the gate running towards town,” said Mary Kemunto, a delegate from South Mugirango.

Several people who were caught off-guard by the sudden teargas explosion scampered for safety in different directions.

Peter Ombuna, a boda boda resident too said the incident happened as he was walking out of the field. “I was responding to my customer’s call that I pick him from the house. I suddenly saw people running out.”

Yesterday evening while addressing the media in regard to the incident, Governor Ongwae apologised on behalf of the Kisii residents over the incident.

“We held other peaceful events early in the day and all that happened is regrettable. We had one governorship candidate who forced more than 500 male youth into the stadium.”