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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Peaceful protests to go on, says Raila

This I was supposed to post yesterday, but due to unforeseeable circumstances... namely internet being down.

Kenyan opposition leaders attempting to launch a rally in Nairobi have been chased from the city centre by police firing tear gas. ODM leader Raila Odinga today said that they will continue peaceful demonstrations across the country until they get “justice” over the stolen presidential election. He was among a group of party leaders and activists who attempted to make their way to Uhuru Park, where they planned to hold a rally, but police fired tear gas to stop their approach. Raila was in a car, surrounded outside by several high-ranking ODM leaders and young supporters. As the canisters landed, they all fled and were pursued by police down side streets. As the tension heightened at the entrance to Uhuru Park, anti-riot police, some riding on horses, charged at journalists and lobbed tear gas canisters to disperse them. Uhuru Park has been cordoned for the past two weeks since Kivuitu declared Kibaki the winner of the contested presidential elections, guarded round the clock by a combined team of armed riot squad, Administration Policemen and the para-military General Service Unit, using horses and guard dogs.

Raila said they would not be cowed by the heavy presence of armed security personnel at Uhuru Park and the other 40 venues in major towns. He also told journalists that he had received information from party officials and supporters across the country that mass action had taken off in all venues. In Bungoma, former university student leader, Wafula Buke, was among scores of ODM supporters who had been arrested for leading demonstrators, Raila said.

Addressing a Press conference together with the party’s leading lights William Ruto, Najib Balala, Charity Ngilu and Joseph Nyaga shortly before they joined over 30 MPs in yet another attempt to gain entry into Uhuru Park, Raila said “This [Kibaki's] government has no international credibility, that is why it has deployed a big number of armed policemen throughout the country to stop our peaceful rallies.” He added that “Yesterday’s victory by ODM in Parliament in the election of Speaker Kenneth Marende and his deputy, Farah Maalim, shows that it will not be business as usual in Parliament.”

As the protests began across the country, Raila said through "peaceful people power" and international mediation, ODM would ensure that the political stalemate in the country was resolved. Attempts at outside mediation between have failed with the latest, a bid by Kofi Annan, postponed when the former United Nations chief fell ill. Kibaki insider Michuki has been in the press recently saying that they won the election and therefore see no need for mediation, and have not invited any outside mediators.

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