Kenya bans opposition protests as election crisis deepens
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.
Opposition supporters hold up bricks as they block streets and burn tyres during a protest on Wednesday in Kisumu, where demonstrations are now prohibited.
Riot police fire teargas against opposition supporters during a demonstration in Nairobi on Wednesday.