After days of a back and forth with the government, Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga Wednesday led his lieutenants to the first public engagement at the historic Kamukunji grounds, Nairobi.
Raila launched an onslaught on President William Ruto’s government demanding it reinstates subsidies on fuel, maize flour, school fees and electricity to lower the cost of living.
Raila, who was accompanied by Azimio leaders Martha Karua (Narck Kenya), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) and Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni, said the people were unhappy as things had worsened and he could not wait for the lapse of the government’s 100 days in office to see whether it will fulfill some election promises.
“Ruto needs to understand that though his fortunes have changed for the better, for a majority of parents if not all, the economic situation has become worse,” said Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi.
The leaders called for an inclusive and consultative process of reconstituting the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) claiming that Parliament and Judiciary were all captives of the Executive.
Raila alleged that the speed with which the National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) dealt with petitions against the four IEBC commissioners was a sign that the Parliament was subservient to the executive.
He further claimed that the manner in which the Judiciary swore in members of the tribunal appointed by Ruto to investigate the conduct of the commissioners shows that it is in cahoots with the Executive.
“The Judiciary is captive to the Executive. We have seen the President going to the Judiciary and promising to give them funds. Now they are doing what he wants,” said Raila.
He demanded the reinstatement of the four commissioners and swore to block President Ruto from appointing new IEBC team.
Karua accused the executive of impunity and taking control of other arms of government to push through its agenda. She argued that the push to oust the commissioners was political vendetta because they rejected the August 9 presidential election results.
Karua argued that it was within the commissioners’ rights to denounce the results.
“If we allow those commissioners to be relieved of their duties as the country watches, then no one will be able to defend their rights in this country,” she said.
The Narc Kenya leader said any decisions made pertaining to the electoral laws and IEBC need to be deliberated by Kenyans and not just by the President and the Executive.
Karua further alleged that IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati’s prolonged stay in office despite being required to go on terminal leave awaiting his retirement in January 2023 was to influence the outcome of the upcoming by-elections in Kandara, Elgeyo Marakwet, Bungoma, Garissa Township constituencies and Utawala ward.
Pulling in thousands of people in the historic grounds that was a cradle for opposition rallies in 1990, Azimio supporters set camp for hours awaiting for Raila and other leaders who arrived at 2.17 pm escorted by Bob Marley’s song, Iron Lion Zion while the crowd chanted, “baba, baba, baba.”
In an environment charged by the hope that the opposition might heal what the locals term as disappointment by the Ruto administration, they zealously welcomed Raila and his entourage as the trademark campaign song Lelo ni Lelo rent the air.
Benjamin Odero, 55, a Kamkunji arrived at the grounds at 12pm in anticipation of the ODM leader’s direction on what he says is a government that has failed to fulfill its promises.
Just like Odero, Wanyonyi Wanjala, 52, expressed displeasure with the Hustler Fund and the nomination of Cabinet Secretaries and Principal secretaries terming the process a sham.
“The president prioritised awarding the positions to his allies and those who lost in the previous election,” said Wanjala.
Karua argued that despite the country having enough resources to alleviate the citizens from the ravages of drought, rising inflation and high cost of living, little has been done for the people.
“There is enough money to reduce the cost of living. For three months they have only catered for their needs,” she said.
“We are convinced we are witnessing the emergence of the most cold-hearted regime in the history of our country. There is need for the Ruto regime to be put under intense scrutiny,” said National Assembly Minority Leader Wandayi.
Former Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi, Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang, former Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, Embakasi East MP Babu Owino and a host of leader tore into actions undertaken by the President and said that the opposition will increase activities in the coming months to check the government.
Babu Owino, Kasipul Kabondo MP Ong’ondo Were and Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua directed the locals to borrow money from the Hustler Fund but not repay.
“We will take that money but we will not pay. I have also taken it but will not pay,” said Were.
“This thing called Hustler Fund has no legal framework. It has not even gone through Parliament. Where have these billions come from yet the Treasury has not approved them,” wondered Kalonzo.
Raila told Kenyans to take the funds as a deposit for the interest free fund they had been promised advising them not repay but instead go for more as it is their money.
Ruto launched the fund on November 30, a programme that offers loans at 8 per cent interest rate.
Azimio leaders reiterated that they will hold parallel Jamhuri Day celebrations at Jacaranda grounds, Nairobi, on December 12, where they will host patriotic Kenyans who had fought for the second liberation of the country.
“We will celebrate and start the New Year with style. Starting next week, we will show you our programme meant for liberation. We want women and young men to rise up courageously and fight for the democracy that many sacrificed for us to have,” said Raila.
They also demanded that Ruto enhances cash transfers to the elderly and vulnerable, boost Linda Mama Programme, institute discipline, order and clarity in Cabinet Secretaries declarations.
The leaders want the government to ensure ethnic and regional balance in appointments, restore Kazi Mtaani project, discard plans to import Genetically Modified Foods and seeds and constitute Hustler Fund in line with the law and with no threats to the youth.