The National Intelligence Service (NIS) on Friday, January 24, advised top security chiefs and organisers of the BBI consultative forum to change the Mombasa meeting venue from Tononoka Grounds to Mama Ngina Waterfront Park, K24 Digital has learnt.
The NIS gave the advisory, predicting possible chaos that would be difficult to manage at the Tononoka Grounds compared to the Mama Ngina Waterfront.
Impeccable sources told K24 Digital that the intelligence report was delivered to top security chiefs early Friday.
ODM leader Raila Odinga was the first public figure to announce the planned change Friday mid-morning, citing a “need to accommodate more people” as the main reason for venue relocation.
“We are moving to a bigger, more spacious ground so as to accommodate everyone. The [Mama Ngina] park is bigger and there is enough space for everyone,” said Odinga.
“The organisers of the meeting, were directed to change the venue to Mama Ngina Waterfront, where police can have full control on who enters the arena,” said our informant, who spoke in confidence.
Coast Regional Commander, Rashid Yakub, however, played down reports of police being involved in the venue-change plans.
Yakub, nonetheless, told K24 Digital on phone that the change of venue “will help law-enforcement agents manage the crowd well”.
"We are happy they [organisers] have moved it [BBI meeting] there [to Mama Ngina Waterfront]. Tononoka is not easy to manage in terms of security control. Mama Ngina Waterfront Park, on the other hand, does not pose a lot of challenges when it comes to security control and crowd management,” said Yakub.
K24 Digital has established that organisers of the Saturday event had expressed their concerns that the rally at Tononoka Grounds would be chaotic, especially after DP William Ruto’s allies vowed to attend the meeting steered by leaders affiliated to the camps of President Uhuru Kenyatta and ex-premier Raila Odinga.
Grounds has gained notoriety for being a venue where chaotic political rallies
are held, and the organisers feared many Mombasa residents would keep away to
avoid getting caught up in potential skirmishes,” said another of our
A spot-check by K24 Digital at the Tononoka Grounds on Friday evening (January 24), where the Saturday meeting was to be held initially, showed little activity, with the dais, that had been erected ahead of the rally, dismantled and moved to Mama Ngina Waterfront.
Security officers that had been surveying the Tononoka Grounds in the last few days, were nowhere to be seen.
“They [police officers] have since been deployed to the Mama Ngina Park,” said a police insider.
These arrangements come on the back of a heated war of words between leaders allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga and those affiliated to DP Ruto’s wing.
Lotus Hotel chaos
Meanwhile, three people were on Friday afternoon arrested for disrupting an earlier media briefing by four MPs allied to DP Ruto.
Coast regional police boss, Rashid Yakub, said the three were taken to Central Police Station, where they are detained ahead of their arraignment Monday.
A group of rowdy youths disrupted a press briefing convened by MPs Aisha Jumwa (Malindi), Mohammed Ali (Nyali), Athman Ali Sharrif (Lamu East) and Kilifi Nominated Senator Christine Zawadi at Lotus hotel.
"One of those in our custody is MP Aisha Jumwa’s supporter. The Friday morning chaos were organised by politicians, and we believe those in our custody took part," said Yakub.
The goons ambushed the MPs moments after they started addressing the media at around 10am. The rowdy group also hurled stones at journalists.
Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho distanced himself from the attack on the MPs and journalists, saying it was wrong for anyone to disrupt the press briefing.
“We have to exercise political tolerance; every one’s view is important. We don’t want any disruptions or interference [when leaders hold meetings]. We want every voice to be heard, every opinion is important. We condemn those who sponsored the chaos witnessed at Lotus Hotel,” Joho said.
More police officers deployed
On Thursday, January 23, Yakub said more policemen were transported from Kwale and Kilifi counties to Mombasa to reinforce security at the BBI rally venue.
“We want to warn those planning to cause chaos that we are ready for them. We want this meeting to be peaceful. No one should dare cause or incite violence,” said Yakub.
Yakub asked youths not to allow themselves to be used by any of the political camps to engage in any acts of lawlessness.
"We will deploy GSU, anti-riot police, plain clothe and uniformed officers to record every speaker. So, any leader planning to engage in hate speech, be warned. Peace must prevail," he said.