KISUMU, KENYA: Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga was on Saturday heckled for the first time in Kisumu.
Raila who had gone to quell tension that followed erection of an Indian Sculpture (Sikh Statute) in the town, was forced to cut short his speech. Amid booing and jeering, the residents shouted Mr Odinga, accusing him of being compromised by the Hindu community to endorse the idol. ‘‘We cannot allow an idol to be put in our town. All we want, is to see it struck down immediately,’’ shouted the residents. The residents accused him (Odinga) of using the region’s overwhelming support for his personal gain. ‘‘We will not accept to be used as rubber stamps to endorse other gods in our community. This time round, we say no! We don’t want it!’’ they shouted. Efforts by religious leaders to quell the crowd who turned out in hundreds proved futile, forcing the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader to leave the venue in disappointment. The residents threatened to pull down the sculpture, saying it is a god which they don’t subscribe to. They said sculptures of Kenyan heroes are welcomed in the town. Earlier before the rally, Mr Odinga held a closed door meeting with religious leaders in a Temple to avert looming religious conflict in the town. The ODM leader said religious leaders will hold a meeting on Monday with the Governor Jack Ranguma to quell the tension.
The executive Member of planning Vincent Kodera said in earlier interviews that the County Government had approved construction of a water fountain in the area, but the Hindu community decided to put an idol. For the past two days, Kisumu has witnessed demonstration by the locals and religious leaders over the idol.
On Friday, police had a rough time to quell angry demonstrators, forcing them to fire several rounds of canisters to disperse the crowd who wanted to demolish the idol. Minutes after Odinga who was accompanied by Ranguma and Nyando MP Fred Outa had left the venue; residents pelted the statute with stones forcing the police to intervene. Religious leaders have termed erection of the idol, which was constructed in the night as abomination and unacceptable before God. ‘‘We want the people to know that we will not allow the statue to be here. Kisumu is a Christian town. We respect our Indian community. Our people have no peace and we want it pulled down,’’ said Bishop Mark Kegohi of Jesus Celebration Centre. Helen Ochieng of Ministry of Repentance and Holiness who first raised alarm and conducted prayers and fasting in protest of the god, also demanded its removal, saying Kisumu belongs to God. The Muslim clerics said the idol is not a good thing and augers-ill for region’s stability, and called on the Hindu community to restrict their gods to the Temples. ‘‘We know there is freedom of worship, but that that doesn’t allow us to infringe on others rights by doing such abominable act,’’ said Sheik Suleiman Julu of Dunga Mosque.