Kenya bans opposition protests as election crisis deepens
Nairobi (AFP) - Kenya's government on Thursday banned protests in main city centres, citing lawlessness during opposition rallies against the electoral commission ahead of a scheduled presidential poll re-run.
The move comes as opposition leader Raila Odinga called for daily protests next week to keep up pressure on election officials to reform, after his refusal to take part in the October 26 vote 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 Security Minister Fred Matiangi.
"The inspector general of police has been advised accordingly."
Opposition MPs said they would defy the order and continue the protests which have seen hundreds of opposition supporters march through the streets, sometimes burning tyres and clashing with police who have used tear gas to disperse crowds.
Though relatively small, the protests have caused outsized disruption, forcing shops to close up and deterring some 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.
Stage set for clashes?
Odinga said this week that he was withdrawing from the scheduled re-run, against President Uhuru Kenyatta whose victory in the original August poll was annulled last month by the Supreme Court citing 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, announcing his withdrawal Tuesday.
The IEBC has dismissed most of Odinga's demands and on Wednesday said that he had not filled in the appropriate form withdrawing from the re-run 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 sets the stage for more violence if NASA leaders push ahead with their threat to protest, with the next one promised on Friday.
Violence in the days following August's vote left at least 37 dead, according to a rights group, with almost all of the victims killed by police, according to a local human rights group.