DP Ruto becomes first casualty of new NSAC rules
The police move saw Ruto eventually call off the event which was meant to raise funds for boda boda riders in Nyamira County. He rescheduled it for Thursday next week.
The DP tweeted: “After consultations with MPs Kemosi, Mose, Nyamoko, the Bodaboda Sacco and church leadership who had invited us, we have postponed the two functions in Nyamira County to Thursday next week.
The disruptive dispersal by police of Kenyans engaged in economic empowerment is unnecessary.”
A contingent of security officers, led by Nyamira County Commissioner Amos Mariba and comprising an anti-riot squad from the General Service Unit was deployed at the Kebirigo Primary School grounds in West Mugirango constituency, the venue of the fundraiser.
Ironically, the DP had earlier attended a Cabinet meeting in Nairobi which endorsed the new NSAC measures meant to tame hate speech and incitement.
In Nyamira, the officers first dismantled the tents and dais the DP was to use to address the riders before tear gassing members of the public who had gathered at the school grounds early in the morning.
New security directives issued by Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua on Wednesday require a person to notify authorities in advance of their intention to hold a public gathering.
Kinyua said the decision to regulate public meetings was agreed upon by the National Security Advisory Council (NSAC) owing to recent political violence reported in parts of the country.
The State in particular cited last Sunday’s incident in Murang’a County where two people were killed after two warring groups clashed at a function which was to be presided over by the DP.
During yesterday’s fracas in Nyamira, youths who defied the police order were clobbered.
In retaliation, the group pelted police with stones as they engaged the law enforcers in running battles for the better part of the day.
Members of the press were not spared as the officers chased them out of the venue by tear gassing them.
The anti-riot police squad led by Nyamira County Deputy Commander Isaiah Odhiambo told the press they were under instructions to disperse the gathering as the organisers had not notified the area OCS.
Also, the crowd had violated the Covid-19 rules and guidelines.
“Gentlemen you have no business being here because this meeting is illegal and we are not going to allow anyone including members of the press to attend it,” he warned journalists.
All this time, the DP was held up in Nairobi where he was attending a Cabinet meeting at State House but his advance party including his media crew was already on the ground.
“The DP is still in Nairobi waiting to attend a Cabinet meeting, but he will fly to Nyamira immediately it ends,” said Ruto’s spokesman Emmanuel Talam.
At 11am, MPs Joash Nyamoko (North Mugirango), Shadarak Mose (Kitutu Masaba), Silvanus Osoro (South Mugirango), Vincent Kemosi (West Mugirango) and Kisii deputy governor Joash Maangi stormed the venue to protest the police action.
Kemosi, who was the host, confronted Odhiambo demanding to know why they were disrupting the meeting and yet he had notified them as required by the law.
“You officer, I met you together with the County Commissioner (Mariba) in his office last week and notified you about this meeting.
Why didn’t you tell me that this meeting was not going to take place after spending a lot of money to organise it,” Kemosi protested.
The MP accused Odhiambo and Mariba, who was monitoring the events from his office, of allowing police officers to be used by Ruto’s political enemies to undermine his 2022 bid.
He said the bid was unstoppable, no matter what force the police use to disrupt his functions. Nyamoko termed the police action as primitive.
He said the funds to be raised at the event were intended to assist poor riders in the constituency and questioned why some leaders were against it.
Nyamoko, who is the chairman of the Gusii parliamentary caucus, said that Ruto’s support in Gusiiland was strong.
Maangi said it was wrong for the government, which Ruto helped to bring to power, to start undermining him.
He asked the DP’s supporters to remain steadfast behind him despite the challenges he was facing.
The angry youths and members of the public later moved to Kebirigo market, 300 metres away from the venue and held demos in support of Ruto’s bid for the presidency.
The directives issued by the NSAC to the law enforcement agencies will see violators slapped with a fine of up to Sh1 million or jailed for up to five years.
The directive will also affect meetings held in residences. According to the Public Order Act, a ‘meeting’ is any gathering of persons convened and held for any purpose, including political purpose.
Even in cases where the meeting was authorised, the regulating officer or any police officer of or above the rank of an Inspector may stop or prevent the holding of such meetings when there is clear, present or imminent danger of breach of peace or public order.
The law not only targets the organisers of such meetings but also criminalises attendance.
Any person who attends a meeting that has been cancelled will be deemed to have taken part in an unlawful assembly and will be charged under the Penal code.
Those found guilty will be imprisoned for one year, according to the Penal Code.
Depending on the situation, officers are allowed to use force in either dispersing the people or securing the venue.
Despite the country having laws on hate speech, politicians have been accused of propagating the vice. Very few of them have been charged in court.
Hate speech, under Section of the 13 of the National Cohesion and Integration Act, is punishable by a fine not exceeding Sh1 million or a jail term not exceeding three years, or both.
If the words uttered are intended to incite feelings of contempt, hatred, or violence against any person or group on the basis of ethnicity or race, a person faces a jail term of five years or a fine of Sh1 million.