1. Let me thank the leadership and members of the International Press Association of East Africa (IPAEA) for honoring our request to meet today and exchange views.

We meet at a time of great fluidity in Kenya and much of the region. From your incisive reporting, which we very much appreciate, it is clear you are in touch with the developments.

2. I am here to speak to you about the on-going tax protests in Kenya, which will continue. We will also talk about a problem we never anticipated; the unprecedented horrors of police brutality against protesters. With constitutional guarantee for protests, we never imagined that police would outlaw protests, confront protestors and kill so many as is the case now. We never expected the State-sponsored genocide that is taking place.

3. My intention therefore is to jumpstart a candid discussion about these developments, share our fears and perspectives and listen to yours too.

4. The most important discussion in our country today is the high taxes, rising cost of living and the ensuing protests.

5. Although the Tax Protest had been initiated by Azimio, it has since gone beyond the party. After the passage of the Finance Act, Kenyans have defied party, political and regional divides and united to resist punitive taxation and demand the lowering of the cost of basic commodities. That the tax burden is unbearable is no longer a party issue; it is a Kenyan issue.

6. The response by the State to the protests has given way to something that now looks even more ominous than the high cost of living that the protests were initially about. We are witnessing unprecedented police brutality. We are also witnessing an unprecedented phenomenon of the State resorting to armed militia to quell protests.

7. We have visited hospitals and morgues and we have established that police and hired gangs have shot and killed or wounded scores of people at close range. Some have been shot from the back as they fled or in a position of surrender.

8. The shots have been aimed at the vital organs and delicate parts of the victims like the stomach, the spine, the heart, the chest and the head. All the victims have been unarmed.

9. These protests were about cost of living and excessive taxation and they will continue as such. But we are now forced to deal with the question of policing in a supposedly democratic state like Kenya. Police being deployed to break the protests have failed to act in accordance with the Constitution and the law.

10. First, there is no legal backing for police breaking up protests. The protests are protected by Section 37 of the Constitution. We are left wondering whether the constitution has been suspended or the constitution itself is a lie.

11. Even if we were to assume that police have a right to break up protests, which they don’t have, there is no justification whatsoever for the use of live bullets against unarmed civilians. If the aim is to break up protests, then what is the justification for police to pull people out of their homes and shoot or clobber and kill them as is happening in parts of the country particularly in Kisumu and the slums of Nairobi? When police follow you into your house and start clobbering or shooting, what are you supposed to do?

12. We expect security forces to carry out their duties and responsibilities with complete impartiality and without regard to ethnicity, political persuasion, or other partisan consideration. In these protests, the police are partisan, they have ethnic formations and they are pursuing an ethnic agenda. That is why we believe we are in the formative stages of genocide and political persecution, sanctioned by the State.

13. The deployment of the police officers in parts of the country including Nairobi depict a determination by the state to perpetuate ethnic cleansing.

14. Going back to the Finance Act and the wider question of high taxes, the question we are struggling with as a nation is, what are citizens supposed to do when the government ignores their feelings, views and circumstances? In the run up to the vote on what is now the Finance Act, polls showed that more than 90 percent of Kenyans rejected it. Even after MPs voted in favour of the Act, polls still showed that majority of Kenyans did not like it. But the Executive proceeded and imposed punitive taxes.

15. We are aware that the rising cost of living is not limited to Kenya. We also know the country has debts to pay. But we know no country that responded to high cost of living by raising taxes the way Kenya did. Nearly all other countries embraced policies that eased the pain. Kenya embraced policies that worsened the pain.

16. The government had the option to request for debt relief in the form of highly concessional rescheduling of external and domestic public debt, including debt owed to China. Kenya could have pursued comparable treatment of commercial debt. It chose to burden citizens with taxes. What are citizens supposed to do in such circumstances?

17. In Kenya, we long embraced the idea that in a democracy, few individuals cannot use government as their tool against the people. In the case of the Finance Act, the people were ignored. What are people supposed to do?

18. Some have argued that we should have stopped the proposals during the vote in Parliament. But we could not. One of the first steps this regime embarked on upon coming to office was to lure some of our MPs to its side to give itself an artificial majority. Those MPs teamed up with the Executive to defeat the wishes of the people. Which is why protection and respect for the independence and autonomy of political parties in the spirit of multiparty democracy is also a core issue we are prosecuting against this regime. If the regime did not lure our MPs to its side and if it stopped interfering in the affairs of our constituent parties, the unpopular Finance Act would have been rejected. The Executive would have been forced to negotiate.

19. We therefore resorted to the timeless principle that in a democratic country that is founded upon the sovereignty of the people, whenever the arms of government, whether the Executive, the Legislature or the Judiciary, fall into the hands of men and women who use their delegated sovereign power to oppress the people and benefit themselves, then it becomes a right and a duty of the people, in pursuit of the common good and to assert their Sovereignty, to disobey those men and women, and their laws.

20. That is when we took refuge in article 37 of the constitution which gives every person the right, peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities. Unfortunately, that is what the police are killing people for.

21. People are being arrested in most uncivil way. Many have been abducted commando style and held incommunicado way past the stipulated period of 24 hours within which they must be presented in court.

22. Both police and hired goons are trailing, arresting and shooting people from unmarked vehicles and those with foreign number plates raising the question whether these are police or thugs.

23. Police have also taken over the corridors of justice in our courts. They have attacked families of people seeking justice in court. Hon. Babu Owino was abducted and ferried from court corridors after being released on bail. Police have attacked journalists and chased them from court corridors.

24. Protesters, including Azimio leaders are being put under house arrest and constant surveillance and persistent threat of being arrested. If leaders, including myself, have committed a crime, the State should issue arrest warrants or ask them to present themselves to a police station.

25. In this regard, we very much appreciate the UN Human Rights Office for calling out the Kenya police for failing to facilitate peaceful assemblies and failing the tests of legality, necessity, proportionality and non-discrimination in use of force. Firearms should never be used to disperse protests. But police are doing it here.

26. Which is why we are currently assembling more evidence which we will shortly present to the International Criminal Court with an appeal to the court to open a file on State-sanctioned police atrocities in Kenya.

27. We have also seen constant verbal attacks on President Uhuru Kenyatta, the fourth president of the Republic of Kenya, the withdrawal of security of his mother Mama Ngina Kenyatta, the attack on his son Jomo by ununiformed people claiming to be police and the attack and vandalization of the Kenyatta family Northlands farm.

28. These developments are alien to this country. As a country, we adopted the unwritten rule that for the sake of stability and dignity of our nation, we shall as much as possible let retired presidents live in peace. We left President Moi and President Kibaki in peace. We appreciate the good they did and learn from their mistakes. This is pretty much the case in virtually all countries unless a retired president is actively involved in undermining the state.

29. The developments here are therefore very worrying. I fear for my country. I have lived in a dictatorship before. I fear a new dictatorship is taking roots here and our work is cut out for us.

30. We therefore see this as a time of great fluidity for Kenya and the region. If Kenya goes off the rails, it will take down with it huge chunks of the EAC, the Horn and the Great Lakes Region.

31. We feel it is important to keep the world well informed on these developments. We need the understanding of the world in our endeavors to ensure a peaceful and prosperous future in this region.

32. We have long prided ourselves as the buffer for democracy, the anchor state and the biggest economy in this region. These features are under serious threat.

33. Because of high taxes, weak currency, high cost of power, corruption and nepotism, investors are fleeing and our currency is forever falling.

34. Ethnic division and tensions are building up especially after the regime declared that the country is a company limited by shares, pegged on how one voted. That policy is actually being implemented. Which is why only one ethnic community is being hired to strategic positions in the public service. That is why we are prosecuting the need for inclusivity. As things stand, I fear we are marching down a very slippery path.

35. Even on matters in which we were absolutely clear and we were seen to be providing leadership, we are beginning to fumble and send mixed signals. Take the case of Climate Change. Kenya has been a clear leader here; investing in clean green growth and raising forest cover.

36. Now the country is busy clearing its forests while at the same time hosting climate change negotiations and accusing the international community of failing to provide funds to mitigate Climate Change.

37. On matters of critical significance to global community like Climate Change, food security and Russia-Ukraine war, we have become entirely transactional; no ideology, no policy, just transactions.

38. As a country, we are paying a steep price for Russia-Ukraine war. When Russia invaded Ukraine, Kenya took a principled stand at the UN that won international applause. We supported multilateralism against unilateralism. We rejected expansionist tendencies and use of force in settling disputes. We also rejected any new forms of domination and oppression. That clarity no longer exists. Today, we act with little regard for multilateralism and global opinion. We are in Belarus, Russia, Iran, and Middle East. That is hardly a way to run a country.

39. We know where all these knee jack reactions and reincarnation of dictatorship is coming from. We have a regime that suffers legitimacy deficit.

40. We believe the current administration rigged itself into power and does not enjoy popular mandate. To put this matter of legitimacy to rest, we have been pushing for the complete audit of the 2022 elections.

41. As a party, we believe the machinations that sneaked Kenya Kwanza to power are the reason behind the regime’s determination to single handedly reconstitute the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, an attempt we are vehemently opposed to. We believe that in the absence of a professional audit of the 2022 elections and a bipartisan reconstitution of the IEBC, the result of the 2027 elections is a foregone conclusion.

42. This is the struggle we are currently engaged in as a party. It is the struggle we wish the world to understand us clearly on.

43. We believe Kenya is on a wrong path that could impact many countries in the region and lead to major instability. As patriots, we are doing our best to stop the slide.

I welcome questions and comments.

Thank you.

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