27 March 2023

Kenyan anti-government protesters march in Nairobi

27 March 2023

Thousands of anti-government protesters have marched on the streets of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, despite the government’s declaration that the demonstrations are illegal.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga joined protesters on the western side of the capital where his convoy attracted thousands of supporters and he addressed them at various stops, calling for electoral justice and reduced prices for food items.

Police used water cannon and teargas to disperse supporters. Police chief Japheth Koome insists that the protests are illegal, but Mr Odinga said Kenyans have a right to demonstrate.

Mr Odinga and his party, Azimio la Umoja–One Kenya Coalition, are leading the protests against the rising cost of living and calling for President William Ruto’s resignation, saying his election last year was invalid.

More than a dozen civil society groups issued a joint statement expressing concern over police declaring Monday’s protests illegal, and urged authorities to uphold people’s constitutional right to peaceful demonstrations.

Over the weekend, Mr Ruto urged Odinga to face him directly and “stop terrorising the country”.

Mr Odinga last week said the protests would be held twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays.

His plan in last week’s protests was to march to the president’s offices at State House but police erected barriers to prevent public access and motorists were directed to alternative routes.

Mr Ruto is currently out of the country visiting Germany.

Deputy president Rigathi Gachagua shared photos of himself at his office early Monday morning and urged Kenyans to report to work.

Nairobi’s central business district remained calm but most businesses were closed on Monday morning due to the uncertainty over demonstrations and if there would be violence.

There were reports of some violence directed at Mr Odinga and his supporters. Some people raided a farm in the outskirts of the capital owned by the family of the former president Uhuru Kenyatta, cutting trees and taking away sheep, according to local media reports.

The former president supported Mr Odinga in 2022 elections.

Mr Odinga’s gas cylinder manufacturing business near the central business district was pelted with stones.

There was a heavy police presence within the capital and surrounding neighbourhoods on Monday. Police have dispersed crowds that gathered in Kibera and Mathare, poor areas of Nairobi.

A resident on Kibera, Emily Atieno, told the Associated Press she would continue to protest until the “price of cooking flour is reduced”. Another protester Mario Omari said protests would continue until Mr Ruto resigns from office.

Local media have been warned against broadcasting Monday’s protests. The Communication Authority of Kenya said the airing of last week’s demonstrations caused panic, incited the public and threatened the peace.

The high court, however, ruled that the authority’s notice was unconstitutional and upheld media freedom in response to a petition filed by a civil society group, a journalists’ union and the Law Society.

In 2018, Kenya’s main television stations were taken off air for one week by the regulator after airing Mr Odinga’s “mock” swearing in ceremony where he claimed to be the people’s president”.

Mr Odinga had rejected the 2017 election results and organized anti-government protests.

Police last week threatened to take action against those pictured hurling stones at officers.

They released photos of people who they said were wanted for crimes committed during the protests but were criticised by local media outlets for using old photos and others that were taken during protests in Burundi.

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