Why police were pulled from Uhuru park
The withdrawal of police officers from Uhuru Park yesterday was no surprise, at least for security agencies.
Word that the police would allow yesterday’s swearing-in of National Super Alliance (NASA) leader Raila Odinga at Uhuru Park to go ahead had been on the streets since Monday afternoon.
This followed what insiders said was pressure from various quarters to allow the event go on to avoid chaos similar to what was experienced in November 2017, when Raila returned to the country from a trip to the US and hundreds of his supporters attempted to gain entry into the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to welcome him.
This led to violent confrontations between them and anti-riot police that left several people injured and property destroyed.
“It was a decision made to ensure peace and stability at large,” said a senior police boss yesterday, on why they pulled officers out of the park.
A series of meetings had been ongoing at various Government levels that agreed on a last-minute total withdrawal of police.
This followed a series of events that other insiders said were meant to discourage NASA supporters from going to the park.
At about 6am yesterday, police contingents that had arrived at the grounds aboard three lorries were ordered to leave.
“It has been decided to withdraw all officers from the park and other areas. It is not clear why,” said an officer aware of the operations.
The order to withdraw was issued by Nairobi Police Commander Japheth Koome.
He however told other officers to keep patrolling the city streets to ensure that there was no form of lawlessness.
This was contrary to what he had said on Sunday, when he declared they would not allow the event to go on.
More plainclothes police officers were deployed in Nairobi ahead of the planned swearing-in event.
Sources said the plainclothes officers had been asked to enhance patrols in the city and major informal settlements to gather intelligence on the plans ahead of yesterday’s event.
Select police squads had been rehearsing how to stage operations in Nairobi and other major cities.
Officials said there were plans to seal off the park and stop anyone from accessing it from dawn yesterday.
Other officers were meant to be on the streets to disperse “suspicious” groups as part of efforts to stop the event.
On Sunday, Mr Koome said his office had not received notification from the event organisers and maintained they would not allow anyone in Uhuru Park.
He said he had been reading in the press that up to three groups had planned to hold their events at Uhuru Park, which could have led to confrontation and anarchy.
“I will be accused of omission if I fail to stop the meetings. I will therefore ensure no breach of peace,” he said.
It is understood President Uhuru Kenyatta met a number of foreign envoys at State House on Friday and informed them that the Governoment would not allow the event to go.
According to some of those who attended the briefing, the President is said to have told the diplomats the planned swearing-in event amounted to “a coup”.