Litmus Test

Kenya: Dozens arrested over stoning of Raila’s convoy and helicopter in Ruto’s backyard

By Victor Abuso

Posted on April 5, 2022 06:51

Kenyan opposition leader Odinga to unveil 2022 presidential race candidature in Nairobi
Kenya’s Opposition leader Raila Odinga waves as he leaves the Azimio la Umoja rally to unveil his August 2022 Presidential race candidature at the Moi International Sports centre in Kasarani, Nairobi, Kenya December 10, 2021. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

After a convoy and private helicopter belonging to Raila Odinga were stoned in Kebenes, Soy Constituency, Uasin Gishu County last Friday, 17 people were arrested and arraigned in court on Monday to face charges of attempted murder.

The court in Eldoret has ordered that all the suspects, including three prominent politicians – Oscar Sudi,  Caleb Kositany and David Kiplagat (allies of Raila’s opponent Deputy President William Ruto), be detained for another seven days to allow for more investigations.

Uasin Gishu is Ruto’s political stronghold. Raila had attended the burial of Jackson Kibor, a prominent politician and businessman, and was scheduled to address mourners when the incident happened. The county commissioner, Steven Kihara, said police believe the incident was planned and that youths were paid to attack the former prime minister. “Senior politicians were involved. No one will be spared,” he said.

Raila has accused area politicians, including the county governor Jackson Mandago and area MP Caleb Kositany, of being the masterminds. “They [youths] wanted to kill us. They threw a big rock in front of the helicopter just after I had boarded,” he told a political gathering in West Pokot County.

I apologise to Honourable Raila Odinga for the unfortunate incident.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has thrown his weight behind Raila’s presidential bid, strongly condemned the attack, warning that if the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader had been injured, it would have led to chaos in the country. “Why [did] you attack the helicopter? If a stone could have touched the old man [Raila] the country would be in flames now,” he said during a political rally in Nairobi on Sunday.

Ruto has since addressed the matter saying: “I apologise to Honourable Raila Odinga for the unfortunate incident.”

Political intolerance?

However, Oscar Sudi, one of the deputy president’s close allies who was summoned by the police, claims that they are being targeted unfairly. “This is a political witch hunt I was not involved in,” he said after he was summoned by the police in Nakuru County.

The incident is now raising questions on how to deal with political intolerance – an issue that presents itself during every election cycle when presidential candidates face backlash every time they try to seek votes from their opponent’s backyard.

In November 2021, youths attacked the deputy president’s convoy during a campaign in Kondele, Kisumu County, which happens to be Raila’s political stronghold.

“When Ruto’s motorcade was stoned in Kisumu, no one was arrested. This is unfair,” says George Maina, a Ruto supporters in Nairobi, who is questioning the neutrality of authorities when dealing with such matters.

If you don’t like a certain politician, don’t listen to him, walk away.

Hillary Ingati, a Raila supporter, wants all perpetrators charged in court. “They wanted to kill Baba (Raila). We can’t accept that,” she says.

Religious leaders and civil society leaders have urged Kenyans to refrain from violence. “If you don’t like a certain politician, don’t listen to him, walk away,” says Sammy Wainaina, a priest at the Anglican Church.

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