Kenyan police fire tear gas to disperse opposition supporters
Kenyan police have lobbed tear gas and fired shots in the air to disperse opposition supporters demanding the sacking of officials they blame for last month’s botched presidential election.
The protests, called by the opposition group National Super Alliance (NASA), took place on Monday in the capital Nairobi and the opposition stronghold of Kisumu in western Kenya as well as in the coastal city of Mombasa.
In the capital, police fired rounds of tear gas at small groups of demonstrators in at least three locations in the business district downtown.
In Kisumu, hundreds of protesters broke a police barrier and forced their way into the center of the city. They waved placards and twigs and chanted slogans against the current Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), a regulatory agency responsible for conducting and supervising elections in Kenya.
Opposition leaders say the panel, in its present form, should be barred from managing a re-run after the Supreme Court in August annulled President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election on September 1, citing irregularities and illegalities in the vote counting.
The top court also said the election commission had failed to verify the results. The re-run is scheduled for October 26.
The protesters on Monday chanted “Chiloba must go,” referring to the chairman of the electoral commission.
Celestine Owuor, a protester in Kisumu, said that “Chiloba stole the elections. We cannot let him stay in office.”
Chiloba is one of the electoral commission officials the opposition party says must go before the re-run vote is held.
The latest protest rallies come as NASA’s leader Raila Odinga faces Kenyatta in the re-run of the presidential vote.
Odinga has said he will not participate in the fresh poll without major reforms to the electoral commission. Kenyatta has said he does not want any changes.
Speaking at a forum with women leaders at his official residence, State House, Kenyatta said Monday that the protesters’ demands were “unrealistic.”
“It is very clear they (the opposition) don’t want elections. But I want to tell them today that elections will be held as ordered by the Supreme Court, and the date has been set,” he said.
Odinga has contested the last three presidential polls and lost all of them. After each election, he has claimed the votes were rigged.
At least 28 people were killed in unrest following last month’s vote.
In 2007, Kenya witnessed weeks of bloodshed that claimed the lives of 1,200 people, after Odinga challenged the vote results. In 2013 elections, the Supreme Court dismissed his petition.