Monday, June 14, 2010

A BLAST IN A NO COMPAIGN MEETING LEAVE 5 DEAD AND 70 OTHERS SERIOUSLY INJURED


Five people died and more than 70 others were on Sunday hurt after two explosions caused a stampede at a ‘No’ rally in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park.

The explosions took place as a Nairobi preacher was conducting prayers after the main rally, which was otherwise peaceful.

The well-attended rally-cum religious crusade was addressed by religious leaders and politicians who are leading the campaign to have the draft constitution rejected.

Permitted in law

The rally had ended and people had left, but one of the pastors had continued with prayers well beyond the 6pm permitted in law. It was not clear what caused the explosions that occurred 30 minutes apart as pastor James Ng’ang’a was conducting prayers after the end of the rally.

A witness, Ms Stella Wanjiku from Kiambu, said:“One person was brought to the dais. Pastor Ng’ang’a said he should be rushed to hospital but asked us not to fear but continue with the prayers.

The man had head and chest injuries.” “When the second bang happened people started to scamper. That is when many were injured. Others, including me, lost valuables. We thought it was a landmine planted by some people against our meeting ,” she said.

The first explosion occurred metres away from the crowd while the second closer to the main dais. The Daily Nation saw blood and a woman’s shoe at the scene of the second explosion. In the poor light, the Nation saw no burn marks or evidence of fragmentation. At the spot where the first explosion took place, there was a small hole.

A police officer, who did not wish to be named discussing the incident at that stage, said bomb experts thought the explosions were caused by home made devices, possibly assembled from party crackers. Higher Education Minister William Ruto was among the first leaders to go back to the venue of the rally on learning of the incident.

He said scores were injured and rushed to hospital by assistant minister Margaret Wanjiru and several ambulances. “This is a sign some people want to force the constitution on Kenyans,” Mr Ruto who was accompanied by Belgut MP Charles Keter said.

Mr Ruto said the explosions hit two people. “They occurred as final prayers were being conducted,” Mr Ruto said. He regretted that the No rally, which termed as highly successful had ended tragically. He also took issue with little presence of security personnel, adding that half an hour later police were yet to start investigations.

The Co-convener of the ‘Yes’ campaign Secretariat, Prof Peter Anyang Nyong’o said the incident was unfortunate but wondered whether it could be a ploy by the No team to get public sympathy. ‘“It could be a ploy to attract sympathy from the country because why would anyone do that to people who are only expressing their opinion?” said the Medical Services Minister.

“We don’t see why anybody in their right senses could go there and cause a blast,” he said. However, he also wondered why the ‘No’ team dragged on their meeting late into the night without proper security. Earlier, the No team insisted that the proposed constitution should be amended before the referendum.

Mr Ruto said the country could still achieve a new constitution by Christmas if the Yes team agreed to amendments ahead of the August 4 vote.

Can pass it

“Both the Yes and No teams agree that the country needs a new constitution. The only difference is that we want the amendments done before we can pass it,” Mr Ruto said. He said the changes that the Red camp was pushing for could fundamentally alter the meaning of the proposed law, which he said favoured a few individuals.

The minister was speaking in Nyeri Town during a No campaign organised by various church leaders. Leaders who spoke at the meeting drew comparisons between the current constitution and the proposed one, saying that some of the provisions in the new law took the nation a step back.

Mr Ruto claimed that the proposed law offers a leeway for international treaties and general agreements in international law to fundamentally alter the contents of the constitution. The law on lifting of the immunity of an elected president, he said, was a provision of treaties made abroad and which could be enacted without reference to Parliament.

The Eldoret North MP said such provisions would allow foreigners to change Kenyan laws to suit their interests. Mr Ruto, who was taking the No campaign to President Kibaki’s back yard for the first time, said the country should not be held hostage by western powers such as the United States.

In Nairobi, thousands of supporters of the No campaign thronged Uhuru Park in what could be their largest crowd yet. Sunday’s event was headlined by 10 televangelists and a host of preachers. In television advertisements, they had asked two million Christians to show up at the prayer rally.

Although they did not make that number, they were certainly happy with the turn-out. They were also joined by four MPs in the No camp, William Ruto, Kiema Kilonzo, Julius Kilonzo and Victor Munyaka, in addition to Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, who is also the Starehe MP.

Deputy secretary-general of the National Council of Churches of Kenya Oliver Kisaka said the proposed constitution was in contravention of the ten commandments and should, therefore, be rejected at the referendum. The message was echoed by all who rose to speak and to pray, rallied by the roaring crowd, amid blowing of whistles and fervent song.

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