27 January 2017

Kenya: Odinga Defiant in Wake of Kenyatta's Arrest Warning

Cord leader Raila Odinga dared President Uhuru Kenyatta to arrest him over allegations of inciting Kenyans to chaos as the political heat ahead of the August elections intensified.

But, unperturbed, President Kenyatta vowed to show the Cord leader "dust once more" in the next elections as Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi and his Wiper Party counterpart Kalonzo Musyoka joined the fray, accusing the President of attempting to intimidate his rivals through use of force.

Mr Odinga, while mobilising the public to register as voters in Igembe Central, Meru County, stated that he was not afraid of going to jail because he had spent nine years behind bars in the past.

"I have been in jail for nine years while Uhuru was born and raised in State House," Mr Odinga said at Maili Tatu Market.

"He cannot threaten me with a jail term."

The former Prime Minister accused Jubilee leaders of misleading the Ameru by painting him as a tribalist, arguing that they were mudslinging him in the hope of attracting sympathy votes.

"I am not an enemy of the Ameru. I have worked with Tigania East MP Mpuru Aburi and Senator Kiraitu Murungi for many years," he said.

Nonetheless, he still accused Mr Aburi of going behind his back to become a Jubilee "sycophant".

"I raised Mr Aburi from a mere councillor until he became an MP," said Mr Odinga. "He told me he wants to be in Jubilee because it has support here.

"Didn't the people of Meru know he was in ODM?"

In an effort to defend his performance record, he mentioned some of the works he accomplished while in government.

"When I was Roads minister, I brought the now Tanzania President John Magufuli to open the Meru-Maua road and I oversaw the designing of most of the roads now under construction here," he added.

Citing the doctors' and lecturers' strikes, Mr Odinga said Kenya is sick and only the Opposition had the cure.

Mr Odinga said Jubilee had failed to initiate substantial development and to contain cattle rustling along the Meru-Isiolo border.

He reiterated that the "faulty" 2016 KCSE results were nothing to celebrate about.

HATE MONGER

But, speaking in the neighbouring Tharaka-Nithi County, President Kenyatta said he was determined to defeat Mr Odinga in a free, fair and transparent election as he ruled out the possibility of rigging in the next polls.

He accused Mr Odinga of being fond of complaining of electoral malpractices, saying even when former president Mwai Kibaki "defeated" the Cord leader in 2007, Mr Odinga still disputed the results.

"I also beat him in 2013," President Kenyatta said amid applause from the crowd.

He said he is seeking support from Kenyans to defeat Mr Odinga once again in the August polls and urged Tharaka-Nithi residents to vote for him.

On Wednesday, speaking in Siakago, President Kenyatta warned that politicians who incite Kenya to violence risked being arrested, and in the same breath described his political nemesis, Mr Odinga, as a tribalist who hates peace.

"I will not allow anyone in Kenya to lose their lives or property because of elections again," President Kenyatta said.

"The government will legally deal with leaders planning to cause chaos."

On Thursday, Mr Mudavadi hit back at President Kenyatta's warning against Mr Odinga, saying Mr Kenyatta is deliberately misreading criticism in order to demonise the Opposition.

"I hope Uhuru's was a slip of the tongue and not a Jubilee plot to curtail constitutional freedoms and rights under the pretext of cracking down on hate speech," he said.

"If there are candidates for hate speech, the Jubilee brigade leads the herd and should be in jail."

OVERSTEPPING AUTHORITY

He accused the President of "over-reacting cowardly" to criticism, adding that there was "nothing in Raila's statement" that threatened violence.

The ANC leader said Mr Odinga only told the President to stop schemes to rig elections through issuance of single identification cards to multiple holders, a scheme that may cause discontent among Kenyans.

"Raila is merely being a Good Samaritan and a responsible citizen. Uhuru should instead thank him for sound advice," he added.

In Nairobi, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, speaking after chairing his party's National Executive Council meeting, said President Kenyatta had overstepped his mandate in threatening the arrests of opposition politicians.

"Let President Kenyatta appreciate that he is a candidate like any other for purposes of the electioneering process. It is not in his place to threaten the arrest of competitors," he said.

Reporting by David Muchui and Lucas Barasa in Meru, and Patrick Langat and Collins Omulo in Nairobi.

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