Kenya On Edge As Azimio Protests Resume Thursday

Nairobi — Kenya on Thursday remained on the tenthooks as the opposition, led by Raila Odinga under the Azimio banner, vowed to proceed with its three-day anti-government protest campaign that started on Wednesday.

President William Ruto’s administration’s failure to tackle the escalating cost of living and high inflation challenges is among the coalition’s salient grievances driving them to the streets.

Dubbed the “sufuria movement,” the coalition went ahead with their protests across various regions of the country on Wednesday, despite the government’s ban on such demonstrations.

On Tuesday, Martha Karua, the Azimio principal, encouraged the youth to actively participate and demonstrate strong solidarity in their cause.

She stressed that the government would only take the necessary action if the youth and Kenyans at large continue to heed the coalition’s call to protest and express their anger and frustrations.

“We encourage Kenyans to continue picketing, demonstrating, and protesting in their own ways in their own local areas in as much as they can. The government needs to hear our voices,” she said.

In response to the call, youth from various regions of the country, including Kisumu, Nakuru, and Kisii counties, subsequently took part in the banned protests.

The demonstrations simultaneously led to clashes with the police, as the youth expressed their discontent with the situation for the better part of the day remaining highly charged and uncertain as the protests unfolded.

During the confrontations that followed, the police engaged with protesters, resulting in the tragic loss of three lives from gunshot wounds, while numerous others sustained injuries.

Some parts of the country also witnessed significant destruction during the incidents.

– Subdued Azimio protests –

In contrast to previous demonstrations, the protests held on Wednesday in Nairobi and other towns appeared to be less intense.

Although the Azimio leader Raila was missing in action and did not actively participate in the protests, his supporters heeded his call and took part in the demonstrations.

In a statement released by the coalition, Karua acknowledged that despite Raila’s absence, the protests were deemed successful.

“We salute the gallant Kenyan patriots who braved the teargas, water cannons and bullets by turning up in their numbers,” Karua said.

Following his fifth defeat in the 2022 presidential election against President Ruto, Raila has organized multiple rounds of protests against the government since March 2023.

Raila’s loss to President Ruto was a close one, with a narrow margin of 200,000 votes separating the two candidates.

Despite his loss, Raila has been vigorously advocating for youth liberation by encouraging protests, making him a nightmare in President Ruto’s administration.

The former Prime Minister, however, remains adamant, asserting that President Ruto’s victory was a result of rigging orchestrated by the former Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairperson, Wafula Chebukati.

President Ruto and Raila, once close allies, have now become bitter adversaries, each holding hard-line stances on the country’s state of affairs.

President Ruto has maintained that he is determined to quell Raila’s anti-government crusade which he regrets is detrimental to his efforts of improving the country’s economic fortunes.

In a significant move, the government has already drawn the security details of prominent leaders affiliated with the Azimio coalition, including Governors Simba Arati (Kisii), James Orengo (Kisii), Anyang Nyon’go (Kisumu), Achillo Ayacko (Migori), and others.

Surprisingly, the state also withdrew the security detail of Mama Ngina Kenyatta, the mother of retired President Uhuru Kenyatta, who serves as the Chairman of the Azimio coalition.

– Tip –

But amidst the grandstanding, religious leaders have been at the forefront in calling for a truce which presently appears unheeded by President Ruto and Raila with both leaders charring their own paths.

“We all have an obligation to pursue peace. we have no other country to run to,” said Nyeri Archbishop Anthony Muheria who was in the company of other bishops on Wednesday.

The bishops also urged President Ruto to repeal the suspended Finance Act 2023, stating that he had acted as a catalyst for the ongoing demonstrations, which they expressed regret had escalated into chaos and violence.

“We, therefore, ask the president to repeal the Finance Act and seek to institute a process that will achieve the same goal within the context of the current economic situation,” said Muheria.

The clerics asserted that the implementation of the Finance Act 2023 would burden Kenyans who are already struggling to afford essential goods and secure stable employment, further exacerbating their financial hardships.