At least two shot dead as Kenya opposition defies protest ban

  • 13 Oct 2017

Confusion reigns over upcoming election rerun after opposition leader Odinga refuses to take part, citing lack of electoral reforms. More protests are expected.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga withdrew from the presidential race this week, saying the election board had failed to institute reforms to ensure a free and fair election. ( Reuters )

Two protesters were shot dead on Friday as opposition supporters clashed with police in western Kenya, with hundreds defying a ban on rallies to express their anger over an increasingly uncertain presidential election.

In the town of Bondo, the rural home of opposition leader Raila Odinga, a large crowd confronted officers outside the police station, scattering as live shots were fired.

Witnesses said two were shot dead. "One person had his head shattered by a bullet while the other was hit on the chest," said eyewitness Sam Oguma.

"One of them has a large injury on the head and another on the chest. They are all lying there in a pool of blood," said another witness Charleston Okelo.

The situation remained chaotic as police tried to disperse the angry crowd.

The protests come as Kenya is mired in confusion over a presidential election that is due to take place in less than two weeks, on October 26.

A new election?

The country's Supreme Court annulled the results of an August 8 election – won by President Uhuru Kenyatta – citing irregularities in the counting process and mismanagement by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

However, Odinga on Tuesday announced he would not take part, accusing the IEBC of failing to make fundamental reforms.

Odinga has argued that his withdrawal from the race forces the IEBC to cancel the election and begin the whole process from scratch – allowing more time for his reforms.

But the IEBC appears to be pushing forward with plans for the vote, saying only that Odinga had yet to submit the required form to officially pull out of the race.

Kenyatta on Friday signed a supplementary budget allocating $116 million (12 billion shillings) for the new election.

A supporter of Kenyan opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, lies on the ground after a police truck hit his motorbike during a protest along a street in Nairobi, October 11, 2017.(Reuters)

Chaos in Kisumu 

The government ban on protests has further angered the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition.

Security Minister Fred Matiangi on Thursday banned rallies in the centre of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, accusing opposition supporters of lawlessness after property was destroyed, passers-by robbed or assaulted, and businesses disrupted.

However, the opposition pushed ahead with protests on Friday, and plans to stage daily rallies next week.

In Kisumu, the main city in the west which is Odinga's stronghold, there were chaotic scenes as police fired teargas and gunshots rang out as protesters pelted them with stones.

Kisumu is just 50 km away from Bondo

Burning tyres blocked main roads in the city, bringing business to a standstill.

"We have the report of one person shot and he has been taken to hospital," a senior police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Worst crisis in a decade

In Nairobi, opposition leaders tried to stage a march but when police fired teargas, the protesters dispersed. A second attempt elsewhere in the city also ended in a cloud of teargas.

"We are not intimidated," insisted James Orengo, a vocal NASA official.

The protests have raised fears of drawn out instability as Kenya faces its worst political crisis since a disputed 2007 election led to months of politically-motivated tribal violence that left more than 1,100 dead.

Violence in the days after this year's election left 37 dead, according to a local human rights group which said these were mostly at the hands of police.

During protests on Wednesday, several were treated for gunshot wounds in Kisumu, according to a doctor at the local hospital.