How police frustrated the planned mass action

Azimio leader Raila Odinga being whisked away by security after his vehicle was teargassed outide Serena Hotel, Nairobi, on March 20, 2023. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

A heavy deployment of police officers on all major roads, particularly those leading to State House, as well as close monitoring of demonstrators by the police, explains why the police were able to keep Raila Odinga and his supporters from becoming involved in Azimio’s mass action plan.

The Azimio leader had threatened to lead his supporters to State House, where they planned to present President William Ruto with a petition.

On Sunday night, a large contingent of police officers was deployed in and around the CBD to prevent Raila and his supporters from approaching State House.

The Nairobi County Security and Intelligence Committee’s initial plan was to bar demonstrators from entering the CBD.

By midnight Sunday, police officers had poured into Nairobi’s streets to patrol the city centre and monitor people’s movements.

Some of the officers were tasked with ensuring vehicles transporting demonstrators from the countryside were not allowed into the city.

As a result, there was increased patrol on all major roads, including Waiyaki- Way, Thika Road, and Mombasa Road.

A plain-clothed police officer fires teargas to disperse Azimio la Umoja supporters during anti-government protests in Nairobi on March 20, 2023. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

As early as 6am on Monday, all security teams assigned to deal with the riots began relaying the security situation in the city centre to commanders in Nairobi.

Another team of officers stationed at the Integrity Command Centre in Jogoo House was busy monitoring the situation via CCTV cameras located throughout the city. This team provided real-time updates to officers on the ground as well as their commanding officers.

Police set up roadblocks in the areas surrounding State House Road and all feeder roads to scrutinise motorists using these roads. The plan was to make sure no vehicles transporting large groups of people were allowed on these roads.

Nairobi police chief Adamson Bungei issued a warning on Sunday, threatening arrests.

Azimio la Umoja protestors under arrest along Moi Avenue, Nairobi, March 20, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Last week, The Standard revealed some of the strategies devised by police chiefs in an attempt to quell the protests. The Nairobi security team, according to sources, has recommended a heavy deployment of police officers in and around the city centre.

Furthermore, the team recommended that all major roads leading to the CBD be closed and that no demonstrators be permitted. Vehicles ferrying politicians and their supporters were not to be allowed to access city centre.

To achieve this, the police planned to use officers from the elite GSU, Administration Police RDU and regular police officers.