Kenya outlawed opposition protests in its three largest cities on Thursday, just two days after presidential challenger Raila Odinga decided to withdraw from the country’s upcoming election. That presidential election was scheduled to take place on Oct. 26.
The opposition has vowed to ignore the ban and continue protesting on a weekly basis.
“The protests are covered by the bill of rights in the constitution. We do not hold the protests as a favor by the State,” said Dennis Onyango, spokesperson for opposition leader Raila Odinga.
The protests and rallies taking place in Kenya are a backlash against the country’s Independent and Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the Jubilee Party, which supports the incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta and has been accused of using a “defectors fund” to steal support from Odinga’s coalition. On Tuesday, five senior opposition leaders defected to the ruling party, pledging to support the Jubilee Party in the upcoming election. The opposition has asserted that these defections are the result of bribes.
Fred Matiangi, acting internal security minister, announced a ban on all rallies in the central area of the capital Nairobi, and in Mombasa and Kisumu, two cities with strong oppositional support.
“Protecting the lives and properties of the people of Kenya is not negotiable,” Matiangi said in a press conference in Nairobi on Thursday. “We have noted with great concern the escalation of lawlessness, breach of peace and public order during demonstrations organised by NASA,” said Matiangi.
NASA is an acronym for the National Super Alliance, which is the main opposition coalition to incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta. NASA had backed Raila Odinga’s presidential campaign since it was announced in April.
— Raila Odinga (@RailaOdinga) October 13, 2017
“Our view is that the directive is unlawful,” opposition legislator Otiende Amollo told ABC News. According to Amollo, demonstrations will continue to go forward because Fred Matiangi does not have the power to ban, or even regulate, demonstrations. On Friday, two were shot dead in a clash between the opposition and police in Bondo, Odinga’s hometown. Just 30 miles away in Kisumu, 20 people were hospitalized. 4 were reported with gunshot wounds, and one man is in critical condition following a shot to his neck. In the Nyalenda slum, several young children were admitted to the hospital after police launched tear gas into Mt. Carmel Academy. Despite this toll, the opposition still plans to hold daily rallies next week.
Kenya’s largest cities have been overrun by protests ever since incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner of the first election on Aug. 8. Following that vote, however, Raila Odinga appealed to the country’s Supreme Court, who later ruled that the election had not been “conducted in accordance with the constitution,” and should be re-run. Suddenly, Raila Odinga had a second chance, with a month until the second presidential election.
However, Odinga pulled out of the race this week. While announcing his withdrawal on Tuesday, Odinga said: “All indications are that the election scheduled for 26 October will be worse than the previous one.”
Kenya’s parliament amended election law on Wednesday making it so that if one candidate withdrew from the rerun vote, the remaining candidate would win. The opposition legislators boycotted the vote.
People sympathetic to the government assert that there was no choice in excluding the protests from major commercial centers, due to the risk to property.
“The government had to put in place everything to ensure the properties and the people of Kenya are safe. It appears they are handling the situation based on the Constitution. And I believe in the next few days everything will be in order and back to normal,” said Philip Zeal Chebunet, a political communication expert at the University of Eldore.
[Title Photo: Anti-riot policemen beat a protester in Nairobi on August 9th. (Photo: Thomas Mukoya)]
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