African Press International (API)

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ODM rally planned for Saturday hits the rocks – Cancelled due to security threat

Posted by African Press International on September 27, 2007

Story by DAVE OPIYO and LUCAS BARASA

ODM activist Tony Gachoka displays copies of documents which the party had recieved in connection with the Saturday rally at Uhuru Park in Nairobi. Yesterday, the police said they had cancelled the rally because the venue had been booked by another party. President Kibaki is expected to launch his re-election campaign in Nairobi on Sunday.
Photo/WILLIAM OERI

Police have cancelled the ODM rally scheduled for Saturday on grounds that Uhuru Park was already booked for two days.

But ODM officials protested the move and insisted that the Nairobi rally would go on since President Kibakis campaign launch was scheduled for Sunday, a day after their rally.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said they had evaluated the security situation among other factors and decided that the ODM rally would not take place a day before the presidential function.

He said: Police have evaluated other factors and decided it should not take place for security reasons. The venue had been booked because the President said he would be launching his campaign on Saturday.

Booked by group

ODM officials were also informed that the venue had been booked by another group.

But ODM secretary-general Anyang Nyongo and Eldoret North MP William Ruto argued that meetings of similar magnitude have taken place in Nairobi on the same day within a few kilometres of each other.

Mr Ruto, a member of the partys top grouping, the Pentagon, told police to keep out of politics, saying, they should not be taking sides.

He said police were only supposed to provide security during rallies and not issue permits or cancel any meeting.

Whoever says he has cancelled the rally does not understand the law. We are not supposed to get any permit. What we need is to notify police of our rally, he said. Mr Ruto read mischief in the cancellation, saying, even during referendum campaigns, two parallel rallies were held in Nairobi at Uhuru Park and at Nyayo Stadium.

Coming after he and MP Omingo Magara were injured and ejected from a rally in Kisii, Mr Ruto said the cancellation would send wrong signals in the country.

Prof Nyongo vowed that ODM would continue withthe rally as planned.

Speaking to the Nation on phone, Prof Nyongo said police had already licensed the rally, and that the reasons given for cancellation were invalid.

There will be no problem because the President will be having his a day after. Police had already given us a licence. We were to hold ours on Sunday, but police said President Kibaki will do his the same day. That is when we switched to Saturday, Prof Nyongo said.

The Kisumu Rural MP dismissed police explanations that the rally was cancelled for security reasons, asking: Why should the President fear his own people?

Hidden agenda

The secretary-general accused the Government of panicking and having hidden agenda. He asked if people would be barred from eating at a hotel in Nairobi if the President will be at the venue the following day.

In the past, Prof Nyongo said, many meetings were presided over by the President just hours or a day after Opposition held theirs at the same venue and never raised any eyebrows.

The Saturday ODM rally is a culmination of a three-day tour of Western, Rift Valley and Nyanza provinces by the party leaders after the September 1 presidential nominations. The tour started last Saturday following the return from a visit to US of Langata MP Raila Odinga the partys presidential candidate.

Police had said in a statement that the rally, which had been slated for this Saturday had not been approved as the venue had been booked for two days by another political party.

We have received two notices from the Government one giving us the approval to hold our rally and another cancelling it the same day as another political group had been granted the permission to hold their activities at the venue, said party activist Tony Gachoka.

Mr Gachoka showed the Nation copies of the letter from the City Council dated September 25, 2007, granting them authority to use the park.

The letter signed by Mr B. K. Njenga for the councils Director of Environment read in part: Authority is hereby granted to you to use Uhuru park grounds for your public rally on September 29 subject to the following conditions:-

–That the party pay a rental fee of Sh40,000 and a refundable deposit of Sh14,000;

–That erection of structures of any kind including a podium, tent or banners within the park shall attract separate charges and specific authority shall be sought;

–That the party obtain payment vouchers from the Parks superintendents office at City Park and make required payments at the City Hall.

The letter, however, adds that in the event of greater priority schedules for the venue on the same day, the convenors shall be informed soonest possible to make alternative arrangements.

Complied with conditions

Mr Gachoka said they complied with all of the conditions set by the council to secure the venue.

We have paid the fees as required, and even notified the police in advance to provide us with security during that day, but the Government appears to have panicked. They are now using arm-twisting tactics to frustrate our efforts. We shall not be cowed.

Yesterday, preparations were going on at Nyayo Stadium where the Presidents meeting is scheduled for Sunday.

Lifted and published by Korir, API*APN source.nation.ke

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