Police cancel Ruto allies’ rally in Mumias
In what will possibly raise questions on freedom of assembly and the government’s heavy-handedness in dealing with critics of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), police have cancelled a parallel rally that was to be held in Mumias to counter a BBI meeting in Kakamega on Saturday.
Citing likelihood of violence, the government has cancelled permits issued to some political leaders from western Kenya.
The leaders, mainly MPs allied to Deputy President William Ruto, had been granted a permit to conduct five different processions from the five sub-counties that neighbour Mumias Sugar Company to protest over the collapse of the giant miller, which was the region’s economic lifeline.
In a letter to the organisers, the officer commanding Mumias Police Station Albert Chebii cancelled the processions that were to converge on the gates of the factory, citing security reasons.
“You are advised to inform your participants of the changes and comply accordingly. Any person contravening this directive will be held criminally responsible,” Mr Chebii said.
And in an act of defiance, former Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa said their meeting will proceed.
“The meeting will go on because we have the permit duly given to us by the police in Mumias. We have no communication on the cancellation and our meeting is well on course,” Mr Echesa said.
He said the organisers of the processions had complied with the provisions of the law.
“The law requires we notify the police. We did and were given the permit. The law says once you notify them, the only thing the police are supposed to do is to provide security and not to cancel. We are on.”
The processions had been organised by the Regional Development Consultative Forum and the Butere Mumias Farmers Association to protest over the fall of Mumias.
The processions were to converge on the Nabongo Grounds in Mumias town where Dr Ruto’s allies were to address the demonstrators.
The cancellation was announced after Cotu secretary-general Francis Atwoli and Kakamega senator Cleophas Malala had earlier in the day declared the Mumias meeting would not be allowed to go on because its aim was to discredit President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“I want to assure the public that the Mumias meeting will not take place. That is a scheme of political brokers to undermine the Luhya community’s political plans,” Mr Atwoli said.
He was speaking in Kakamega after he led local leaders and officials from the BBI secretariat to inspect the stadium, which will be the venue of the Saturday meeting.
Besides Mr Malala, others who accompanied Mr Atwoli were Ms Elsie Muhanda (Kakamega woman rep) and Mr Godfrey Osotsi (nominated MP). The BBI team was led by Mr Nabii Nabwera.
The Saturday meeting has caused a major political storm in the region, with a section of leaders led by ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi accusing the organisers of using the meeting to divide the Luhya community.
Mr Mudavadi and his ANC party have disowned the meeting, saying it is a scheme by Mr Atwoli to anoint Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya as the Luhya spokesman.
Mr Atwoli and Mr Oparanya have denied the claims.
Mr Atwoli insisted the meeting was for the good of the community. “I want to warn leaders planning a parallel meeting in Mumias that they should not even think about it because we shall not allow it. We have the names of the planners and we shall ensure they don’t leave their houses on that day. They will only leave their houses after the Bukhungu rally is over.”
Mr Atwoli told Mr Mudavadi and his allies the Luhya community is tired of being spectators in national politics. “You cannot sit on the fence and expect to be endorsed for the presidency. Prepare yourself and fight it out with other men. The Luhya community must be active an participant in the BBI.”
He added: “There are only two political formations in Kenya today. You are either in BBI or Tangatanga. Those who are telling us they are independent are lying.”
Mr Malala dared the pro-Ruto team to go ahead with their meeting. “I will not allow the Mumias meeting to proceed in my capacity as the senator of Kakamega County,” he said.