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ODM, UDA protest as police storm Ongwae's home over Bonchari by election

ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna addresses a press Conference alongside Kisi Governor James Ongwae and other Kisii ODM Leaders at Kisii Sports Club on May 14, 2021.[Sammy Omingo, Standard]

A section of political leaders in Kisii has protested after armed police officers stormed Governor James Ongwae’s home.

The politicians allied to ODM and UDA parties said it is unfortunate that police were being used politically to intimidate other leaders ahead of the Bonchari by-election slated for Tuesday next week.

The two parties have raised concerns over intimidation and harassment by police as their respective candidates conduct campaigns.

The by-election has attracted 13 contestants.

On Thursday night armed police stormed Kisii County Governor James Ongwae’s residence as he was having tea with Senator Prof Sam Ongeri and Woman Representative Janet Ong’era on accusation that they were holding an illegal political meeting.

Addressing the media in Kisii town on Friday morning, Ongwae said he had been informed that an unlawful assembly was taking place at his residence, which they had come to disperse.

Ongwae said he requested the police to withdraw but they latter insisted they would not leave until the two legislators had left his residence.

“I am calling on President Uhuru Kenyatta to put a stop to this, elections come and go. Leaders are all transitory. Democratic institutions must be respected. 50 officers can’t storm my house as if I am a wanted criminal,” he said.

The governor added: “I didn’t become a governor by accident. I was elected by majority votes. This is not the way to run a Country. I have been a Permanent Secretary and I didn’t see such decisions made. This is unfortunate.”

Senator Ongeri said the party understands the art of winning and losing in any elections.

While urging IEBC to take charge of the forthcoming by-election, Ongeri said he had traversed the Bonchari constituency and was hopeful that the residents will make the right choice.

“You may have a temporary relief that you won but I can assure you that you have lost it all. One must understand where people are coming from and where they are going. There are seasons for everything. don't try to maneuver and manipulate the result,” he said.

Ong’era in her sentiments said it was shocking for police officers to raid the governor’s residence without a court order.

“I am demanding concrete reasons from IEBC and other relevant agencies on why they allowed for a by-election yet they know there was Covid-19 amongst us. We have a by-election in Juja but we have not seen such kind of harassment,” she said.

ODM party Secretary General Edwin Sifuna said that "desperate times call for desperate measures."

Sifuna claimed that police wielding guns, truncheons and teargas stalked the campaign entourage led by Kisii Woman Representative Janet Ong’era and dispersed at least four peaceful, town hall meetings.

“When the MP and leaders accompanying her confronted the police officers to explain why they were unlawfully trying to disrupt a peaceful and lawful democratic process, they said they had been given instruction from their superiors to do so,” he said.

While alleging that a businessman was arrested on the accusation that he was supporting ODM candidate Pavel Oimeke, Sifuna said the foregoing are not isolated incidences.

“We have it on authority that as our candidate’s meetings were being disrupted, a top national government official was holed up in a secret meeting with senior government operatives in Bonchari,” Sifuna said.

He said that during the meeting, the officers were ordered to disrupt campaign meetings held by the ODM candidate.

“We wish to appeal to the people of Bonchari not to be intimidated. The victory is definitely theirs. They have been here before in 1993. They prevailed and will prevail again,” he said.

MPs Alice Wahome-Kandara, Silvanus Osoro- South Mugirango, Beatrice Kones- Bomet East, Nakuru Woman Rep Elizabeth Chelule,  Kericho’s Florence Bore and Elgeyo Marakwet’s Jane Chebaibai while drumming support for a UDA candidate Terresa Oroo said Inspector General of police Hillary Mutyambai must move swiftly and ensure that police officers are not being misused.

Wahome said the MPs have been on the ground carrying out peaceful campaigns for their candidate for the last two months and are disturbed by the presence of heavily armed police officers who have been following them and dispersing their meetings without any provocation.

“We are asking the police to allow us to carry on with our campaigns before the deadlines,” Wahome said.

But Kisii County Police Commander Francis Kool denied the allegations that police were favouring a candidate sponsored by the government.

Kool said the work of security officers was to ensure that law and order was maintained as campaigns continued.

''Let it be clear to all candidates in Bonchari Constituency by-election that they must follow all guidelines for the conduct of an election and also maintain COVID-19 management protocols, failure to which the Police will not hesitate to take necessary action,'' Kool said.

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