Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga engage Kenyan security forces in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, Saturday Aug. 12, 2017. Violent demonstrations have erupted in some areas after President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared victorious of the presidential election.(AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

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Kenyan police disperse protests against election commission

NAIROBI, September 26 – Kenyan police used tear gas and batons on Tuesday to disperse protesters who say election officials should be sacked before the re-run of a presidential vote because they favour President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Several volleys of tear gas were fired near the election commission headquarters in central Nairobi, a Reuters witness said. When protestors regrouped, officers fired more tear gas and beat some with batons. By mid-afternoon calm had returned.

Raila Odinga, who lost his presidential bid on Aug. 8, will get another chance after the Supreme Court annulled the election citing irregularities and ordered a fresh vote within 60 days.

However, Odinga has accused the election commission, known as the IEBC, of being a puppet of Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee party and said he will not participate in the Oct. 26 re-run if election officials are not sacked and prosecuted.

The court did not find any individual responsible but said institutional failings had led to irregularities and
illegalities in the transmission of election results.

The election commission has asked the opposition to call off protests until the IEBC has explained the various measures being taken to “enhance the credibility and integrity” of the vote.

“IEBC cannot begin the process of an honest election as long as those responsible for the irregularities and illegalities are still lurking in its corridors,” Odinga told reporters.

“IEBC has refused to dismiss or suspend them. That is why we are today beginning these peaceful campaigns to force them out by public pressure so the process of a fair election can at last begin,” he added.

Last week Kenya’s chief prosecutor ordered investigations into 11 election board officials including its chief executive, Ezra Chiloba, as well as a lawyer and campaigner who worked for Odinga.

Speaking as protestors gathered outside his office, Chiloba said he would not resign. “I have (a) responsibility before me and I have to discharge that responsibility,” he told Kenya’s KTN television network.

Some Kenyatta supporters also took to the streets in Nairobi but there were no clashes between the two sides.

In the port city of Mombasa, a crowd gathered at local election office, chanting: “No reforms no elections. Chiloba
must go!”

The Kenyan government in a statement accused “mobs of hooligans” of taking advantage of the protests to destroy
property and said “a number of criminals” had been arrested and would be taken to court.

CHARGE OF SUBVERSION

Underscoring the rising tensions, a newly elected opposition lawmaker was charged with subversion at a court hearing in Nairobi on Tuesday.

Paul Ongili Owino was arrested after a video clip of him speaking while campaigning for Odinga emerged on social media in which he called Kenyatta a son of a dog.

The prosecution said those words were “calculated to excite disaffection against the presidency”.

Ahead of Tuesday’s demonstrations by the opposition National Super Alliance coalition, Kenyatta had said violence would not be tolerated.

“People are free to demonstrate but they must ensure that they do not destroy other people’s property,” he said.

“Let them not think that they will break into other people’s shops and interfere with the daily routine of other Kenyans.

That, we shall not allow,” he said.

In the western city of Kisumu, an Odinga stronghold where some 3,000 protestors gathered, one protestor, vegetable market vendor Hellen Aketch said: “I will support anything that assures me of the validity and the safety of my vote in the upcoming elections.”

“I have closed (my) business today and I am ready to do it again so long as some sanity is realised among those who hold public office.”

Kenyan police used tear gas and batons on Tuesday to disperse protesters calling for election officials to be sacked before the re-run of a contested presidential vote.

Several volleys of tear gas were fired near the election commission headquarters in central Nairobi, a Reuters witness said. When they regrouped, officers fired more tear gas and beat some of them with batons.

Raila Odinga, who lost his presidential bid on Aug. 8 will get another chance, after the Supreme Court annulled President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election, citing irregularities, and ordered a fresh vote to happen within 60 days.

Odinga has said he would not participate in the re-run scheduled for Oct. 26 if election officials are not sacked and prosecuted.

The court did not find any individual responsible but said institutional failings had led to irregularities and
illegalities in the transmission of election results.

Last week Kenya’s chief prosecutor ordered investigations into 11 election board officials including its chief executive, Ezra Chiloba, as well as a lawyer and campaigner who worked for Odinga.

Some Kenyatta supporters also took to the streets in Nairobi but there were no clashes between the two sides.

In the port city of Mombasa, a crowd gathered at local election office, chanting: “No reforms no elections. Chiloba
must go!”

Underscoring the rising tensions, a newly elected opposition lawmaker was charged with subversion at a court hearing in Nairobi on Tuesday.

Paul Ongili Owino was arrested after a video clip of him speaking while campaigning for Odinga emerged on social media.

“If (former Libyan leader Muammar) Gaddafi was removed by the citizens, if (former Gambian president) Yahya Jammeh was removed by citizens. Who are you? You are a son of a dog,” Owino said.

The prosecution said those words were “calculated to excite disaffection against the presidency”.

Ahead of Tuesday’s demonstrations by the opposition National Super Alliance coalition, President Kenyatta said violence would not be tolerated.

“People are free to demonstrate but they must ensure that they do not destroy other people’s property,” he said.

“Let them not think that they will break into other people’s shops and interfere with the daily routine of other Kenyans. That, we shall not allow.”

In the western city of Kisumu, an Odinga stronghold where some 3,000 protestors gathered, one protestor, vegetable market vendor Hellen Aketch said: “I will support anything that assures me of the validity and the safety of my vote in the upcoming elections.”

“I have closed business today and I am ready to do it again so long as some sanity is realised among those who hold public office.”

KENYAN authorities have dragged more than 200 suspects, including political leaders, for hate speech in the wake of
disputed elections and rising ethnic tensions.

Irene Wanyoike, vice chairperson of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) said most of the suspects were fanning hatred through social media.

Some 273 suspects, including administrators of social media platforms as Whatsapp, have been brought to court and probes are ongoing.

“The rising cases of hate speech by senior politicians could sink the country into anarchy,” Wanyoike warned.

She was speaking during an awareness campaign in the central Naivasha, which is one of violence hotspots.

Culprits could be imprisoned for at least five years.

Government established the NCIC through the National Cohesion and Integration Act following the 2007- 2008 post-election crisis.

During the period, more than 1 000 civilians were killed and 600 000 displaced after disputed elections.

The violence characterising Kenyan polls was also experienced in August when over 20 people were killed during clashes between police and opposition supporters.

The Supreme Court has annulled the outcome of the presidential election which opposition leader, Raila Odinga, argued had been rigged in favour of incumbent, President Uhuru Kenyatta.

New polls are scheduled for late October.

Reuters

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