William Ruto: Azimio grand march not intimidating

Azimio la Umoja Leaders Raila Odinga, Martha Karua, Kalonzo Musyoka, Eugene Wamalwa, and Jeremiah Kioni in Nairobi. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

The grand march to State House has begun, according to opposition leader Raila Odinga, and millions of Kenyans are tired of President William Ruto's empty promises.

Raila said citizens are ready to use the language that the government understands to reduce the high cost of living, including all stakeholders in the formation of a new Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, and launch the servers of the August 2022 general election.

In a swift retort, Interior CS Kithure issued a statement warning that all government security agencies will prevent unauthorised access to areas under state protection.

"It is hereby notified for the general public's information that security agencies shall prevent unauthorised access to all protected areas in accordance with the Protected Areas Act (CAP 204 of the Laws of Kenya")," Kindiki's statement reads in part.

Speaking in Ongata Rongai town yesterday, Raila said Kenyans will gather at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre at 6am for a peaceful demonstration demanding that the President address the serious challenges that they are currently facing.

Illegal protest

"Kenyans have fought for their rights for a long time, and when we hear some people talk about only those who have shares in this government benefiting from job opportunities and development, what do they mean? This country belongs to all of us," Raila said.

Raila chastised the National Police Service for declaring the protests illegal, claiming that ODM deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya had informed them of their plan and that there was no need for citizens to obtain a permit to picket.

However, in a statement, the CS made no mention of the issue, instead, dismissing previous statements by the former Prime Minister declaring today a public holiday and assuring Kenyans of their safety.

"Monday, March 20, 2023, is a regular working day. All weekday activities, including learning in schools and other educational institutions, must continue as usual."

The former Prime Minister said he will lead the demonstrations and that the opposition leaders will not be intimidated or cowed by the police to stop agitating for the rights of ordinary Kenyans who have continued to suffer under the current administration.

Empty promises

Raila said the government is collecting taxes from citizens on a daily basis and that it should explain why the cost of cooking flour, sugar, electricity, fuel, and even school fees for their children remained high despite campaign promises that they would be reduced immediately.

President William Ruto stood firm during a thanksgiving event in Kapsabet, saying he will not be intimidated into submitting to Raila's demands.

The president said he will not bow to ultimatums to divert attention away from the government's economic plans to transform the livelihoods of all Kenyans.

He accused the opposition leader of selectively exercising constitutional rights for political gain, with the goal of achieving selfish interests through picketing and demonstrations.

"His (Raila) political philosophy is known and for over 40 years, he has led chaotic protests and blackmail to force himself into government."

Raila, according to President Ruto, has organised chaotic protests in the country, which have terrorised and marginalised the Nyanza region from benefiting from meaningful development.

"His only way to gain power is through unconstitutional means, such as rejecting the election results. We cannot allow him to continue terrorising the entire country rather than respecting the rule of law and constitutional institutions," he said.

Voice of the voiceless

In Nairobi, Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni said Raila has been the voice of the voiceless and that he will not relinquish that role anytime soon because millions are impoverished while a select few seek to enrich themselves at the expense of the majority.

"The Azimio coalition will not back down in its fight for the well-being of 50 million Kenyans, which is why millions will join Raila in the streets of Nairobi until this administration listens to us," Kitui Senator Enock Wambua said.

"Raila has been vilified and called names, but he is a true patriot whom citizens will remember for many years after he is gone because, unlike other leaders, he has always had the best interests of Kenyans at heart."

The arrest of student leaders from various universities, according to Kenya Universities Students Organisation chairperson Anthony Manyara, will not deter them from championing the interests of all citizens, and life has not been easier for them under the current regime.

"The government should be aware that the International Criminal Court and the East African Court of Justice are closely watching how they handle peaceful Kenyans agitating for their rights, and they should allow Kenyans to exercise their democratic rights," Manyara said.

No backing down

At the same time, Martha Karua said the Azimio brigade will continue to march to State House today, despite threats from the Kenya Kwanza government to stop them.

Karua said they will not back down until the government lowers the cost of living.

"It is the responsibility of each and every Kenyan of goodwill to stand up for our country by coming out tomorrow. Fear not for your safety because it is in God's hands. "We must demonstrate, but it will be peaceful," she said.

Kenyans' taxes, according to Karua, should be shared equally and without discrimination. 

She spoke at Unshakable Faith Church in Komarock, Nairobi, where she was accompanied by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

[Report by Edwin Nyarangi, Jacinta Mutura, Winfrey Owino and Edward Kosut]