An alleged assassination attempt against Prime Minister Raila Odinga has been greeted with scepticism by a cross section of Kenyans.
Observers say the assassination claims are an attempt to mobilize public sympathy. Raila is currently facing dwindling popularity, a rebellious parliament and a controversial legacy marked by corruption among close allies and family members.
According to the Daily Nation, police in Nairobi have been put on high alert over an alleged terrorist threat against Raila. The Prime Minister is allegedly being targeted because of Kenya’s continued cooperation with the US in the campaign against terror.
In a memo titled “Situation Report” dated February 6, Nairobi provincial police officer Njue Njagi instructs the nine city-based police division bosses to take all precautionary measures “to ensure that security is high and investigate the report”.
“Prime Minister Raila Odinga is allegedly targeted in a planned terrorist attack where the planners intend to sabotage a helicopter he would be using to facilitate a crash. This is out of annoyance that Kenya continues to cooperate with the US in the campaign against terror. Precautionary measures are necessary,” the memo says.
The Standard newspaper reports the Prime Minister’s spokesman Dennis Onyango saying that Raila is aware of the reported threat and is taking it seriously. He said the PM had received a threatening SMS on his cell phone.
“The PM has seen the police situation report and he was concerned when he took off to Kitale (Western Kenya). He shared it with some of his colleagues telling them they needed to know there could be danger in the air even as they accompanied him,” said Onyango.
Onyango added that the PM plans to record a statement with police regarding the SMS he received. Though public figures often get similar messages from pranksters, it was not clear if this one was such.
Coming at a time when parliament rebelled against him and President Mwai Kibaki last week, and facing accusations of condoning corruption among his allies and family, the threats against Raila are being interpreted as an attempt to rally public support.
This is not the first time Raila is claiming that his life is in danger. Throughout his political career, Raila has always seen himself as a victim of conservative forces in Kenya. However, none of the previous assassination claims have become a reality.
After the disputed presidential polls of 2007, Raila’s ODM party claimed that the government of President Kibaki was planning to assassinate top party leaders. ODM insists it was the actual winner of the poll.