Kimani Ichung'wah: Arrest Raila, nothing will happen

Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya leader Raila Odinga addressing a roadside gathering at Imara Daima in Nairobi County on Thursday, March 30, 2023. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Majority Leader in the National Assembly Kimani Ichung’wah has called for the arrest of Azimio leader Raila Odinga for leading protests that he terms destructive.

According to the Kikuyu Member of Parliament (MP) Odinga has “sold fear” to previous governments, a habit that he says has made him “look like an untouchable”.

Odinga’s lieutenants, including Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, have, in the recent past, been arrested and charged in court for taking part in the March 20 Azimio protests, which the government controversially outlawed.

Kimani Ichung’wah says the State should not only go for the “small fish” but also the demos’ giant.

“I am urging police to arrest Raila Odinga for perennially putting Kenya on the edge with illegal and destructive protests. I know there is widespread fear that if he is arrested, then the country will plunge into chaos, making it ungovernable. I want to tell you, without fear of contradiction, that nothing will happen to Kenya if Odinga is arrested,” Ichung’wah told The Standard.

Ichung’wah said the former Prime Minister is “blackmailing” President Ruto into sharing government positions with him.

“If one allows blackmail to continue, it never stops. Let’s follow the rule of law in airing and resolving our grievances. And if one breaks the law, like Odinga is doing, then he must be arrested and prosecuted. I’m challenging the Inspector-General of Police Japhet Koome to arrest Odinga.”

Several political factions and observers, including the African Union Commission, the clergy and the international community, have called for dialogue between President Ruto and Odinga in efforts to calm the country and avoid economic disruption.

Ichung’wah says the dialogue “doesn’t have to be between Ruto and Odinga”.

“Let Odinga ask his MPs and senators to document and bring their grievances to Parliament. We must not allow Kenya to be blackmailed into negotiations that only serve the interests of two people; in this case, Ruto and Odinga,” said the Kikuyu MP.

He added: “Azimio has 160 MPs in the National Assembly, they have more than 20 senators in the Senate. It is in Parliament that Kenyans’ issues are highlighted and solutions suggested. You cannot bring down the cost of living by disrupting the economy.”

Ichung’wah says Azimio had the opportunity of presenting their election grievances to Supreme Court judges after the August 9, 2022 presidential election.

“They (Azimio) want to say that they don’t believe in Kenya’s institutions, including the Judiciary, IEBC and the democracy. They went to the Supreme Court and lost. The earlier they move on, the better for them and Kenya. Odinga is in denial, that despite having the backing of the government of the day and the security apparatus, he still lost the election. In his mind, an election loss was an impossibility.”

As Ichung’wah throws barbs at the ODM leader, Odinga says he is ready to pay the ultimate price so long as Kenyans’ rights are respected by President Ruto.

Speaking at Jesus Teaching Ministry in Embakasi East, Nairobi on Sunday, March 26 ahead of the following day’s Azimio protests, Odinga said: “We are saying that we shall hold peaceful protests in accordance with the law but [Police IG Japhet] Koome says he will arrest us. I want to warn him to desist from such utterances and not to try to provoke chaos. I’m ready for the arrest and don’t send any other officer, come arrest me by yourself.”

The ODM leader added: “We do not want to bring anarchy in our country. But we are fighting for our rights. We have a right to tell Kenyans the truth because the Bible says 'say the truth and it shall set you free'. We have a right to peacefully demonstrate.”

At the heart of Azimio’s grievances, is the high cost of living, which the coalition accuses President William Ruto of refusing to address.

Azimio also claims that the August 9, 2022 presidential election was marred with irregularities that ended up favouring President Ruto. Odinga was Ruto’s main challenger in the election.

President Ruto has maintained that he won the election fair and square, and that Odinga had the opportunity to challenge his win at Kenya’s Supreme Court.

Odinga also wants the membership of the IEBC selection panel be reviewed to allow the opposition have notable say in the people who pick the next commissioners of the electoral agency.

At the same time, Odinga wants the Azimio team be granted access to the data that was sent to the electronic voter system, which ended up tabulating the number of votes garnered by each of the four presidential candidates in the 2022 presidential polls.