Uhuru Park is out of bounds for CORD, Church – Gov’t

Government spokesman Eric Kiraithe in a past press briefing. [Photo/Courtesy]

The government has barred Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) and Prayer Beyond Boundaries Ministries from holding a meeting at Uhuru Park on June 1, 2016.

Addressing the press on Monday, Police Spokesman Eric Kiraithe said that the decision to bar the two warring parties from using the venue was reached by the National Security Council following intelligence reports showing the meeting could cause security threats.

Kiraithe further noted that Nyayo Stadium will also be out of bounds to all members of the public with the government asking the Nairobi County Security Committee to advice on the alternative venue for Madaraka Day celebrations.

There has been a weekend-long tussle between CORD and the Church on who holds the right to hold their meeting at Uhuru Park on Madaraka Day.

While CORD insists that they were the first to book and get a licence to hold their rally at the venue, Nairobi Police Commander Japheth Koome has revealed a letter claiming the venue had already been booked for a four-day crusade by Prayer Boundaries Ministries.

The letter, dated May 27, 2016 was written in response to a corresponding letter from KANU Secretary General Nick Salat requesting to hold a rally at Uhuru Park.

“Please be informed that the venue, Uhuru Park, is already booked for three days by Prayers Beyond Boundaries Ministries,” read the letter in part.

“Your notification of participation on Madaraka Day at the same venue is, therefore, not approved.”

In a quick rejoinder, Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero stated that the allocation of venues is under his jurisdiction, noting that the county council had already reserved the venue for the CORD rally.

Kidero released a letter dated May 26, agreeing to CORD’s request to hold their rally at Uhuru Park on June 1.

“We are in receipt of your letter dated 22nd May on the above reference subject ‘request to hold a rally at Uhuru Park grounds’,” stated Kidero in the letter.

“We have directed the Director of Environment Water and Energy whose office is in charge of Uhuru Park to reserve the venue for your use on 1st June as per your request.”

CORD had made the request on May 22nd while the Church had made their request on May 26th, according to the letter seen by Citizen TV.

Interior Permanent Secretary Karanja Kibicho weighed in on the issue early Monday stating that the government has no powers to stop CORD’s planned rally, adding that the Constitution gives them a right to assemble regardless of the day or month of the year.

“From where we stand it is their (CORD) Constitutional right to assemble any day of the year. We have no problem with the opposition opting out of the sacred (Madaraka Day) celebrations and instead have a parallel arrangement elsewhere,” said Kibicho.

“As a government we are only sad that a segment of the society has gone this far in terms of how we approach national issues but in as far as the law in concerned there is no reason to stop them.”

Kibicho however stated that the government would move to ensure whoever booked Uhuru Park first holds their meeting without interruption.

His remarks were a sharp contrast to Interior CS Joseph Nkaissery’s statement on Sunday warning CORD against holding a parallel Madaraka Day rally.

Nkaissery said he would arrest CORD leaders if they go on with their plans since only the Head of State has the powers to convene public gatherings during holidays.

CORD leader Raila Odinga has however insisted that their rally will go on, noting that top of their agenda is to pray for peace and unity in the country.

Raila said that Article 37 of the Constitution gives the right to assemble, saying they will not engage in confrontation with government officials and the police over the matter.

While Nairobi has been the venue for all the major national celebrations, the government moved this year’s Madaraka Day celebrations to Afraha Stadium in Nakuru in the spirit of devolution. The event will be presided over by President Uhuru Kenyatta.


Additional reporting by Michael Njenga

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