Kenya bans op­po­si­tion protests as elec­tion cri­sis deep­ens

The Guardian Australia - - World News -

Kenya’s gov­ern­ment has banned protests in three city cen­tres, cit­ing law­less­ness dur­ing op­po­si­tion ral­lies against the elec­toral com­mis­sion be­fore a sched­uled pres­i­den­tial vote re­run.

The op­po­si­tion leader, Raila Odinga, has called for daily protests next week to keep up pres­sure on elec­tion of­fi­cials, af­ter his re­fusal to take part in the 26 Oc­to­ber poll plunged the coun­try into un­cer­tainty.

“Due to the clear, present and im­mi­nent dan­ger of breach of peace, the gov­ern­ment no­ti­fies the pub­lic that, for the time be­ing, we will not al­low demon­stra­tions within the cen­tral busi­ness dis­tricts of Nairobi, Mom­basa and Kisumu,” said the se­cu­rity min­is­ter, Fred Ma­tiangi. “The in­spec­tor gen­eral of po­lice has been ad­vised ac­cord­ingly.”

Hun­dreds of op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers have marched in re­cent weeks, some­times burn­ing tyres and clash­ing with po­lice who have used tear­gas to dis­perse crowds.

Though rel­a­tively small, the protests have been dis­rup­tive, forc­ing shops to close and de­ter­ring some peo­ple from vis­it­ing city cen­tres on demon­stra­tion days. There have also been in­ci­dents of pick­pock­et­ing and mug­gings on the edges of the protests.

Ma­tiangi said the protests had re­sulted in “at­tacks on po­lice sta­tions, at­tacks on po­lice of­fi­cers oc­ca­sion­ing griev­ous bod­ily harm, se­ri­ous dis­rup­tion of nor­mal busi­ness, as­sault on in­no­cent civil­ians, de­struc­tion and loot­ing of prop­erty”, and threat­ened le­gal ac­tion.

“It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the or­gan­iser that all par­tic­i­pants re­main peace­ful. The or­gan­is­ers shall be held per­son­ally li­able for any breach of law dur­ing the demon­stra­tions,” he said.

Odinga said this week that he was with­draw­ing from the sched­uled re­run against the pres­i­dent, Uhuru Keny­atta, whose vic­tory in the orig­i­nal vote in Au­gust was an­nulled in Septem­ber by the supreme court on the ba­sis of wide­spread ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.

Odinga said that with­out fun­da­men­tal re­forms to the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral and Bound­aries Com­mis­sion (IEBC) the vote would not be free and fair.

“All in­di­ca­tions are that the elec­tion sched­uled for 26 Oc­to­ber will be worse than the pre­vi­ous one,” he said on Tues­day, an­nounc­ing his with­drawal.

The IEBC has dis­missed most of Odinga’s de­mands and said on Wed­nes­day that he had not filled in the ap­pro­pri­ate form with­draw­ing from the re­run and there­fore was still a can­di­date along­side Keny­atta.

The com­mis­sion also agreed to add six can­di­dates who con­tested the orig­i­nal poll af­ter the high court ruled they should not be ex­cluded.

In the most re­cent protests on Wed­nes­day sev­eral peo­ple were in­jured in the western city of Kisumu, an op­po­si­tion strong­hold, where pro­test­ers clashed with po­lice.

The ban­ning of demon­stra­tions paves the way for more vi­o­lence if lead­ers of the Na­tional Su­per Al­liance (Nasa) push ahead with their threat to stage protests, with the next one promised on Fri­day.

Vi­o­lence in the days af­ter Au­gust’s vote left at least 37 peo­ple dead, al­most all them killed by po­lice, ac­cord­ing to a hu­man rights group.

Pho­to­graph: Ya­suyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Im­ages

Op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers hold up bricks as they block streets and burn tyres dur­ing a protest on Wed­nes­day in Kisumu, where demon­stra­tions are now pro­hib­ited.

Pho­to­graph: Khalil Senosi/AP

Riot po­lice fire tear­gas against op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers dur­ing a demon­stra­tion in Nairobi on Wed­nes­day.

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