Migori Governor Okoth Obado (centre) scampers for safety as his bodyguards shoot in the air at Posta Grounds in Migori town on April 03, 2017. Photo: Denish Ochieng/ Standard
Shots were fired and scores of people injured when an Opposition leader’s campaign launch turned violent.
Among those injured was a bodyguard of Mombasa Governor and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Deputy Leader Hassan Joho.
Joho, senators James Orengo (Siaya), Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu), and several officials and aspirants were in Migori to attend a campaign launch for Suna East MP Junet Mohamed when the violence broke out.
The leaders suffered bruises in the melee that paralysed the busy town for close to five hours.
During the fracas, police and the politicians’ bodyguard fired dozens of shots in the air and used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Hundreds of those who had attended the rally hid under vehicles, in kiosks, and in toilets as gunfire rocked the border town.
After calm returned, Joho claimed the bullet that injured his bodyguard during the melee was meant for him.
“This was an assassination attempt. I was the target, look at my vehicle, it will demonstrate to you what happened in Migori today” he told journalists.
Joho rushed the bodyguard, only identified as Salim, to Rongo sub-county hospital, where he was treated and discharged.
The Mombasa governor together with Mr Orengo and Dr Nyong’o later flew with the bodyguard to Nairobi.
Later in the day, MPs Mohamed, his Mbita counterpart Millie Odhiambo, former Minister Ochillo Ayacko, and Migori ODM chairman, Philip Makabongo, also claimed that the violence was aimed at harming Joho.
The leaders claimed that both Joho’s vehicle and that of Ayacko were shot at.
But Migori County CID boss Benedict Kigen denied the leader’s claims, saying police were not to blame for the chaos.
“It was the personal security of the politicians that started shooting. Police only moved in to quell the situation,” he said.
Mr Kigen said he had advised Migori Governor Okoth Obado not to attend the rally because of the ensuing tension, but the governor went ahead to attend the meeting.
And in what could put Obado on the spot ahead of the ODM primaries, the party leaders accused him of being behind the violence.
“Everything was going well until Obado stormed in with his bodyguards and youths,” said Orengo after being spirited away from the scene by his aides.
Mohamed and Makabongo, claimed the Migori governor was behind the violence, adding that he had earlier in the day used his county’s workers to block ODM leaders from holding a rally at the Migori stadium.
They claimed that Obado’s supporters also attempted to petrol-bomb a newly-built ODM office that Joho was supposed to officially open.
“We ask Obado to tell Kenyans his role in the chaos. He blocked us from accessing the stadium. When we relocated to an open ground in the town, he followed us with his youths and bodyguards. It was a clear provocation,” said Mohamed.
The Suna East MP, who is also the ODM director of elections, claimed Obado was opposed to the meeting because he feared it would give mileage to Ayacko, his political rival.
Joho and other party officials were set to open ODM offices in Uriri, Kegonga, and a county office in Migori town.
Obado has denied having a hand in the chaos.
Through his spokesman, Nicholas Anyuor, Obado said that although it was wrong for the ODM officials to organise Joho’s visit without involving him, he had nothing to do with the violence.
“It was the governor who stopped them (the youth) from more violence,” he said.
The violence was a culmination of growing political tension between Obado, Mohamed, and the local ODM branch officials.