Azimio calls for a ‘People’s Dialogue Forum’ as a way of putting the nascent Wiliam Ruto administration in check has raised political temperatures in the country months after the August 2022 General Election.
The opposition outfit led by Raila Odinga which lost in the bitterly contested election whose dispute went all the way to the Supreme Court, held the first of the planned protest rallies at the Kamukunji grounds in Kibra on Wednesday, December 3. It however called off the parallel Jamhuri Day rally that was to be held at Jacaranda grounds in Embakasi citing the busy schedule of the outfit’s leaders but with a disclaimer that the forums would continue in the new year.
With President Ruto’s first 100 days in office ending on December 22, Azimio seeks to rally the public to seek answers from the government on the implementation of its election promises. In addition to the rallies dubbed public consultative forums, the Daily Nation reports that Azimio will execute its protest through a multi-pronged approach — parliamentary initiatives, judicial actions, as well as through the court of public opinion.
Among the issues that Azimio is said to be seeking to engage the public about are: the high cost of living, importation of genetically modified maize, lack of ethnic balance in appointments, disregard of Chapter Six of the Constitution in appointments, as well as ejection of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) commissioners.
Speaking at different events, President Ruto has on one hand assured the opposition leaders of provision of enough security to hold as many rallies as possible as long as there is no destruction of property while on the other, has asked the poll losers to let him govern and instead present their disputes to court or Parliament.
Under Article 37 of the Kenyan Constitution, “Every person has the right, peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities”. Additionally, Article 1 of the 2010 Constitution states that “All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya and shall be exercised only in accordance with this Constitution”.
So in law, Azimio, which has billed the proposed public rallies as public consultative forums and not a call to public protest, has the right to hold the protest rallies and engage the public on matters of national importance. The catch is that historically in Kenya, protests have a tendency to turn violent, lead to loss of lives and destruction of property as well as just create an all-round sense of heightened anxiety.
The calls for mass action have evoked flashbacks to 2016 when the opposition CORD coalition, led by Raila, agitated for the dissolution of the IEBC on claims that it was biased. This resulted in protests which went on for several weeks eventually becoming known as ‘Tear Gas Mondays’ that would bring the country and specifically Nairobi’s Central Business District to a standstill as protests and riot police clashed.