World Bulletin / News Desk
The Kenya High Court on Friday sternly warned that legal action would be taken against leaders of the country's main opposition party if violence erupted at a public rally to be held next Monday in Nairobi.
"In the event that Coalition for Reforms and Democracy [CORD] leaders defy the court order and call for mass action that may lead to violence during the rally, they will be personally held liable for the consequences," Judge Isaac Lenaola said in a Friday ruling.
The verdict followed a case filed by Nairobi County Senator Mike Sonko seeking to ban the rally, which will mark the anniversary of the killing of some 30 people in 1990 during a protest held to demand that the government of retired president Daniel Arap Moi introduce a multiparty political system.
But the judge dismissed Sonko's plea that the Monday rally be banned.
"The public meeting organized by the coalition on July 7 shall proceed as planned, during which they shall exercise their rights to assemble peacefully without being armed and without any defamatory rhetoric or disturbing activities of those not attending the rally," Judge Lenaola said in his ruling.
The judge, however, did not reveal the penalties the CORD leaders might face if they defied the court order, but said he would make a decision in the event that happened.
The rally is set to be addressed by CORD leader Raila Odinga and his colleagues, Moses Wetangula, senator for Bungoma, and former vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka.
Sonko, represented by Nairobi-based lawyer Harrison Kinyanjui, had sought to stop the rally, contending that CORD politicians could use it to incite ethnic violence.
"The threats of inciting citizens to abandon their work and stage mass action on July 7, and the declaration that the day would be a public holiday, is a violation of the constitution, which prohibits any other person from exercising state authority," Kinyanjui said during the session.
He further asserted that incitement and hate speech had been made at past CORD rallies, which had created "ethnic tension that has resulted in loss of life, destruction of property and the eviction of certain communities from some places."
Odinga had unilaterally announced that the day would be a public holiday. But Judge Lenaola ruled against the decision.
"As such a call by the opposition to declare July 7 a public holiday is null and void," the judge said in his ruling.
Since Odinga returned from a three-month sabbatical in the United States, which he used to deliver lectures at various universities, he has held a series of rallies in various parts of Kenya aimed at pressuring the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta to hold a round of national dialogue to discuss pressing national issues.
The nation's primary woes, according to Odinga, include insecurity, unemployment, corruption, tribalism in public appointments, nepotism, high costs of living and the restructuring of Kenya's Independent Electoral Commission.
But President Kenyatta and his ruling Jubilee Coalition have repeatedly ruled out dialogue with the opposition, arguing that their grievances could only be addressed by established institutions such as parliament.
Kenya opposition leader protests court's ruling
Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga has written a letter to Chief Judge Willy Mutunga to protest against Friday’s High Court ruling, warning him that legal action would be taken against him if violence erupts at a public rally he is expected to lead next Monday in Nairobi.
In his letter to Mutunga, Odinga referred to a constitutional article, stating that “every person has the right, peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities.”
"The CORD fraternity is dumbfounded by news that a court of the Kenya judiciary has issued an order against the principals of the coalition ordering them not to convene any mass action in Kenya on July 7," Odinga’s letter to the Chief Judge said.
Odinga told the judge that every Kenyan has the right to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities.
"Mass action is just a common phrase to describe the exercise of this constitutional right and is not a legal principle that can rend itself to interpretation of the court outside the confines of Article 37,” Odinga asserted.
Referring to the ruling, Odinga said: ”In what we now call the dark days, the judiciary became an ally of the executive in the abuse of the rights of people, particularly those who fought for greater democratic space."
"Rulings like the one issued against CORD today only fortify our concern that Kenya is marching backwards to the dark era, instead of forward to a happier, freer society that we long desired and fought for,” he added.
Odinga went on to tell Mutunga that Kenyans "have put their faith in this Judiciary and in you as its Chief Justice to restore the constitutionalism that was abused in the years past and to restore, preserve and protect their liberties against all threats from the State."
"You must not let Kenyans down,” he added. “We hope that this matter will receive your urgent attention and intervention."
For their part, Odinga said, the CORD would "ignore this attempt at unconstitutionally delimiting our rights and shall continue with our planned assembly and demonstration as was intended by the people of Kenya when they promulgated the constitution."
"The Constitution is on our side," Odinga concluded in his letter to the chief judge.Last Mod: 05 Temmuz 2014, 10:05