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Why Raila called off anti-Ruto protests amid IEBC Four probe

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga [Isaiah Gwengi, Standard]

Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya has called off planned nationwide demonstrations in support of four dissenting electoral body commissioners and to checkmate President William Ruto’s government.

While maintaining the illegality and partiality of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) handling petitions seeking to oust four IEBC commissioners, Raila reiterated that his camp would put up a spirited defence of the commissioners inside and outside Parliament.

Speaking after the Azimio Parliamentary Group meeting at Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka (SKM) Command Centre in Karen, Nairobi, Tuesday, the Azimio leader announced the planned “public engagements” had been rescheduled to December 7.

MPs from Azimio affiliate parties including ODM, Wiper, Kanu, Jubilee and DAP-K attended the PG meeting. Last week, Raila said he would hold countrywide meetings and demonstrations starting today to keep Ruto’s administration in check and stop the removal of IEBC commissioners Juliana Cherera, Francis Wandayi, Irene Masit and Justus Nyangaya from office.

He had planned a rally at Kamukunji grounds in Nairobi today which has since been deferred.

In a statement read by National Assembly Minority leader Opiyo Wandayi, the Azimio top brass said it had considered the ongoing national examinations and resolved to postpone the public engagements.

“We have listened keenly to appeals from parents with school-going children and we have decided to obey their wishes,” Wandayi said.

However, sources told The Standard that discontent within the Azimio camp fuelled by the unfair distribution of parliamentary committee positions that saw some MPs only allocated one committee - and which prominently featured in the PG talks, led to the postponement of the demonstrations.

Wiper leader Kalonzo is said to have insisted on the need for consensus-building before the resumption of public engagements.

“There is going to be another Parliamentary Group meeting next week after the party has ironed out some of the issues that came up today. There was general consensus that we can only proceed with mass action once everyone was reading from the same script,” said a source that sought anonymity.

Wandayi, who was flanked by Raila, Kalonzo, and former Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, among other MPs, continued the onslaught against the Ruto administration, accusing it of prioritising settling of political scores instead of addressing challenges facing Kenyans such as drought and insecurity.

He accused the Kenya Kwanza government’s push to re-organise the IEBC as a trial of the four commissioners.

“The Justice and Legal Affairs Committee is a lynch mob with a pre-determined position. We will not honour its findings. We will fight it to the end in and outside Parliament,” read the statement. 

Wandayi termed the team insensitive and desperate. 

The report by JLAC on the four dissenting commissioners will be tabled tomorrow and a special sitting “to try and sanitise the report” will be called on December 7.