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Kenya opposition continues with weekly protests despite tension

by Chris Mgidu, Chrispinus Omar and Robert Manyara NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s opposition has again begun its weekly nationwide protests against the country’s electoral body, despite being outlawed by police.

The protests, which are the sixth held on Monday in the past weeks, saw key roads in the capital Nairobi and other towns blocked by protesters who lit tyres.

The opposition called the protests to demand the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) be dissolved.

Several schools in Kibera, a large slum in Nairobi, were closed as tension rose over the protests.

Nairobi County Police Commander Japheth Koome | Coastweek

  Business premises in the Nairobi city center also closed as residents feared possible violence stemming from the protests.

A contingent of anti-riot police officers was deployed to major roads in Nairobi, ready to handle protesters defying police directive. In the western city of Kisumu, there was similar situation with schools and businesses closed.

The demonstrations kicked off earlier than usual in Migori, western Kenya, with opposition supporters blocking part of the Migori-Sirare highway by setting hills of tyres on fire.

Police on Friday rejected a request from the opposition coalition, Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD), to proceed with the demonstrations despite that the High court had declined to declare the protests lawful.

"We wish to inform that the notification cannot be honoured on account of valid orders issued by the High Court on April 29 with two extensions of May 6, barring any demonstrations against the IEBC," said Inspector General of Police, Joseph Boinnet.

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Nairobi County Police Commander Japheth Koome addresses journalists at his office in Nairobi. Japheth Koome said that the police would use full force, including lethal means if necessary, during the opposition party Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD) demonstration to maintain public order. XINHUA PHOTO - JOHN OKOYO
However, the opposition under the leadership of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, insists the protests are legal and are being conducted under the constitutional rights of citizen sovereignty.

CORD’s lead counsel, senator James Orengo, argued that the court order didn’t bar them from holding protests against IEBC commissioners, as claimed by the police, but restricted them from storming IEBC offices and forcefully evicting the commissioners.

"There is no court order that prevents any Kenyan from holding demonstrations, what the order prevents is storming IEBC offices,"Orengo said.

Orengo said their protests had so far adhered to the court ruling and maintained peaceful.

Kenya’s opposition coalition initially suspended the weekly demonstrations against the IEBC to allow for formal negotiations with the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta on the terms of creating a new electoral body to run general elections due in August 2017.

IEBC chairman, Isaac Hassan, however insists that none of the commissioners would be forced to resign from office on account of the opposition push.

On Monday, there was a standoff between police and protesters in Kibera as anti-riot police attempted to prevent them from entering Nairobi’s central business district.

Police used teargas to disperse the protesters, though they eventually managed to make their way into the city center.

The High Court on Monday allowed the opposition to continue with their protests and assemblies in certain places and directed the police to provide security.

CORD has vowed to defy police orders barring them from holding anti-IEBC protests saying they would continue with the protests until the commissioners leave office.

The police have been using teargas and high-powered water cannon, in most cases violently dispersing demonstrators in protests in the past weeks.

There has been criticism of police brutality as four opposition supporters have been shot dead in protests in the past weeks in Siaya and Kisumu in western Kenya and a policeman was caught on camera beating a demonstrator with heavy batons and kicks.

Protests in previous weeks resulted in looting and destruction of property in some areas, a situation that forced many businesses to close for fear of further violence.


Police outlaw opposition protests against Kenyan poll officials

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