Is this the return of Raila Odinga-led mass action?

ODM leader Raila odinga addresses the press in Kisumu County on November 27, 2022. [Michael Mute, Standard]

ODM leader Raila Odinga is back in the trenches.

Speaking in Kisumu yesterday [Sunday] he announced the opposition will organise nationwide meetings from Wednesday to checkmate President William Ruto’s administration and  protect four IEBC Commissioners who contested the August 9 poll presidential results.

The new push resembles the People’s Assemblies that Raila launched in 2017 to pile pressure on former president Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration after his election loss. 

The pressure from the assemblies partly contributed to the famous March 2018 Handshake between Raila and Uhuru.

And in a replay of the 2017 script, the ODM leader is keen to use the broad-based forum to discuss issues affecting Kenyans and marshal public support for the IEBC commissioners.

Raila who launched scathing attacks on Ruto’s administration and vowed not to let the new administration push the country back to the dark days announced plans to start public meetings across the country to pile pressure on the government.

He unveiled a plan to conduct meet-the-people tours across the major towns in the country that includes Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Kakamega and Nakuru where they will ask the people if they accept that the four commissioners should go home.

Speaking to journalists in Kisumu during an impromptu meeting, Raila said that Kenyans will not sit back and watch as the four commissioners who stood for the truth are being intimidated by the government.

"As you know that this regime which came to power through the rigging of the elections is now hell-bent on trying to send home the commissioners who stood firm on the platform of the truth and we have said that this is not going to be acceptable, the people of Kenya will not accept it," Raila said.

ODM leader Raila Odinga and supporters at IEBC offices in Nairobi County on April 25, 2016. [File, Standard]

The development comes as a section of politicians continues with the push for the removal of IEBC vice-chairperson Juliana Cherera and commissioners Justus Nyang’aya, Irene Masit and Wanderi Kamau made their final submissions.

Raila said the opposition will explore “every avenue” to stop the removal of the four commissioners, including calling for mass protests.

He described the attempted ouster as a scheme to capture the IEBC for purposes of the 2027 General Election. 

“The government is planning to pressure the four IEBC commissioners who disagreed with Wafula Chebukati. We cannot accept this,” said Raila.

He said that the countrywide meetings which are set to begin on Wednesday at Kamkunji Grounds in Nairobi are targeted at protecting the independence of the electoral commission which he claims is on the verge of being infiltrated by the Kenya Kwanza government.

"An independent commission is the referee. It cannot be appointed by a player, so we will not allow the regime to impose a commission on the people of Kenya. That's not acceptable" he stated.

Through a series of rallies across the country, the ODM leader promised to challenge President William Ruto’s government for its “failure to stabilize the economy”.

He termed the high cost of living for Kenyans unacceptable and blamed the government for its failure to implement certain pledges.

He criticised President Ruto’s strategy to increase taxes in order to improve revenue collection and decrease the country’s reliance on foreign loans.

“We want Kenyans to live in peace and harmony and not hungry. Today, many cannot afford to put food on their table leave alone pay for school fees and basic necessities. This is not the country and government Kenyans were promised,” said Raila.

Raila said the failure of the President to address the hard economic times, coupled with “unpopular policies”, could lead to an uprising.

“To end these impunities of over-taxation and dry promises, we are planning to move around in all counties so that we can rise up and challenge the government.”

Raila who visited Siaya County on Saturday said he was worried about the state of unemployment, costly energy and basic goods, and the abolishing of Kenyatta’s programs that helped locals in the villages.

He said Kazi Mtaani was a tool that helped the unemployed fend for themselves and now people are suffering.

“You cannot abolish Kazi Mtaani and fail to create a solution for the abrupt abolishment. Where have you created the job for these millions of Kenyans whom you have denied a chance to earn,” Railed posed to Ruto.

“Kazi Mtaani was a program that was cost-effective for the government and not a cash burden to the government. Through the program we could keep our environment clean, plant trees, repaired our roads and keep the slums and villages clean.”

President Ruto had promised to lower the cost of living in his first 100 days in office but has since urged Kenyans to give him one year to handle the situation.

He also promised the speedy establishment of the Sh50 billion hustler fund, that 50 per cent of his Cabinet will be women, to spearhead the implementation of the two-thirds gender rule, as well as address corruption.

The Hustler fund has since elicited mixed reactions from Kenyans on the proposed credit limits of between 500 to 50000 shillings.

President Ruto also stated that under his administration, counties would receive funds from the national government on time. He has, however, dropped the Devolution ministry, leading to concerns among governors about the importance the administration places on devolution.