Kenya: Ruto Terms Azimio Protests as Undemocratic, Says No Room for Odinga in Govt

Nairobi — President William Ruto has termed the anti-government protests led by Opposition Chief Raila Odinga as undemocratic.

Speaking Monday during the Labour Day celebrations at Nairobi’s Uhuru Gardens, the Head of State reiterated that there is no room for opposition leaders in government even as proposed parliamentary-led bi-partisan talks appear to have hit a dead end.

He pointed out that his administration respects the rights and freedoms of every Kenyan and appreciates the role of the Opposition to keep the government in check but warned that he will not allow the protests to degenerate into anarchy.

“We also know what democracy looks like, what human rights are. It is nothing to do with violence, anarchy or destruction of property, livelihoods and destruction of people’s businesses. That is not democracy, that is not human rights,” Ruto said.

The Head of State said that it was wrong for any individual to destroy the livelihood of another in the pretext of fighting for democracy.

President Ruto maintained that he will execute his role of protecting the lives and property of Kenyans as he issued a warning shot to the Azimio coalition against causing chaos or destruction of property.

He added that Kenya is a democratic country and that his administration “wants the best for everybody.”

The Head of State further advised Odinga to address his concerns through peaceful means under the proposed parliamentary bi-partisan process.

Ruto’s statement came hours Deputy Inspector General of Police (Administration) Noor Gabow declared planned Azimio protests unlawful.

Gabow cited recent Azimio protests which he argues have been “symptomatic of unacceptable trend of criminal incidents including wanton destruction of property, arson, robbery, looting, injuries to Officers, and even death of a Police Officer.”

He warned that the government will not allow any form of demos in the country arguing that it poses a grave threat to national security.

“In the interest of national security, we wish to notify the public that the planned demonstration or assembly is unlawful and affirm our earlier unequivocal statements condemning violent protests and the public attacks on Law Enforcement Officers on duty,” Gabow said in a statement he issued on behalf of the Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome.

He pointed out that the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 under Article 37 stipulates that every person has the right, peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, demonstrate, picket, and present petitions to public authorities.

The Public Order Management Act, 2012 regulates public gatherings by prohibiting offensive weapons at public meetings and processions hence the move to ban the Azimio demos.

The DIG stated that since the beginning of Azimio protests in 2022, security officers have responded with “utmost restraint despite the provocation by the illegal protestors against Police.”

He maintained that security agencies will execute their mandate without any fear or favor to ensure that peace is upheld in the country.

“We wish to reiterate our responsibility to maintain law and order; and enforce the law without fear or favor, strictly complying with the rule of law and respect for human rights,” he said.

abow made the statement a day after Nairobi County police boss Adamson Bungei announced that no protests will be allowed in the capital city.

Bungei cited previous violence, deaths, and destruction of property during protests as the reason for declining the Raila Odinga-led coalition’s request to stage protests on May 2.

While confirming that he received notification of Azimio’s intention to conduct public demonstrations within Nairobi County, Bungei said that whereas Article 37 of Kenya’s Constitution (2010) allows every citizen the right to peacefully assemble, demonstrate, and picket, “the right to assemble is not absolute under the Constitution.”

President William Ruto had also issued a warning against any form of lawlessness or destruction of property by supporters of the Azimio Coalition as the country braces for a second round of anti-government demonstrations next week.