Gunshots rent the air and teargas was lobbed as NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga was forced to abandon his rally and flee Thika town yesterday.
Residents, armed with stones and rungus, heckled Raila before they started throwing stones at him and his entourage.
Police in Thika town were forced to lob teargas canisters to disperse a rowdy crowd that had started pelting stones at Raila’s car, forcing the NASA leader to leave the town, where he had just started to make his address.
This was the second time Raila was forced to cut short his address. The previous day he was forced to abandon his rally in Kabarnet after Jubilee supporters heckled him and his colleagues.
The Kabarnet JP supporters said they were doing so because Raila’s supporters disrupted Uhuru’s gathering in Kisumu on Wednesday.
In Githurai, Raila was forced to abruptly leave after facing hostility from Jubilee supporters, who pelted stones at his motorcade.
cops, bodyguards shoot in the air
Bodyguards of some of the leaders accompanying him shot in the air to scare off the crowd.
Police also shot in the air to disperse the crowd.
Last evening, Raila condemned the emerging culture of intolerance and violence at political rallies.
“Such violence has not been witnessed in this campaign season, and Odinga condemns it in the strongest terms. Peaceful protesting is a legitimate expression that people can employ to air their views to political leaders,” his adviser Salim Lone said.
“But it is another matter altogether when people come to a rally armed and prepared to disrupt it or cause violence.”
Urging his supporters to shun violence, Raila claimed that there was evidence that local Jubilee associates orchestrated the heckling that disrupted Uhuru’s rally in Kisumu.
call for probe
“We urge the police to speedily investigate the information and the names of people mentioned on social media today. They should do the same with all other incidents of this kind,” he said in a statement.
“That is the only way to enable voters to make informed political choices that will help them meet their goals of a decent life in which food and other essentials are not taken for granted.”
In the Thika rally, Raila had just started addressing supporters who had turned up when a section of the crowd started shouting Jubilee slogans and engaged NASA supporters in a shouting match, forcing the ODM leader to cut short his speech.
As the shouting escalated, the youth, who were shouting Jubilee slogans, left the venue only to start throwing stones and all sorts of misiles at Raila’s supporters.
It was at this point that police lobbed tear gas and shot in the air to disperse the rowdy youth who were surging toward’s Raila’s supporters.
Attempts by Raila to calm down the situation fell on deaf ears as the youths stepped up stone throwing and shouting.
“We want a peaceful meeting. If you are in Jubilee and feel that you don’t want to be here you can leave. You can actually hold your meeting somewhere else, but leave us to conduct ours peacefully,” he said.
Raila, Musalia Mudavadi and other NASA leaders, including Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama and Nairobi woman representative candidate Esther Passaris, hurriedly left the town under tight security.
Before the disruption, Raila told the Kikuyu community that he is not its enemy as it has been painted.
“I’m here as a friend and to debunk propaganda that I’m an enemy of the Kikuyu community. I can’t be an enemy of the Kikuyu, I’m a friend,” he said.
“I have worked with them before and I’m still working with them. I also said ‘Kibaki tosha’ and I was even called a hero. How come I have changed to a mad man?”
Raila told residents that a NASA administration will revive the collapsing industries in Thika town to ensure the youth get jobs.
“Thika is the country’s industrial hub and many factories have already collapsed due to bad leadership. We will come to their rescue and revive them,” he said.
“We are aware of the tribulations the youth in Central face, including unemployment despite the fact that the Jubilee administration is in power. On August 8, we are bringing a solution.”
Residents who spoke to the Star after the meeting condemned those who disrupted the meeting, terming it a show of political immaturity.
“We totally condemn it. They should have given Raila a chance and space to sell the NASA manifesto to Thika people. Thika is a cosmopolitan region and they should know that there are NASA supporters here,” a resident said.
tit for tat
Others, however, said it was an act of retaliation after Uhuru and DP William Ruto were heckled in Kisumu during the launch of EABL.
“They did the same to Jubilee leaders in Kisumu. They are the ones who started this. They are to blame. It’s tit for tat,” one resident said.
But another resident said he will petition the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to halt the ongoing campaigns because “if the trend continues, chaos might erupt in the country”.
He also wants politicians to rein in their supporters to ensure they do not disturb the peace.