Kenya opposition suspends reform protests after killings
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Opposition leader Raila Odinga on Tuesday suspended protests intended to press for reforms to Kenya’s electoral commission ahead of the second attempt at a presidential election being held Oct. 26.
Odinga, whose legal challenge to the first presidential ballot in August led to the Supreme Court ordering a new vote, cited killings of his supporters by police for his decision to call off the daily protests he had urged for this week.
Separately, a court lifted a government ban on opposition demonstrations in the business districts of the countries three largest cities, Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.
Human rights groups have accused police of being used by Kenya’s president to crush dissent. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reported 67 opposition supporters have been killed in protests since the Aug. 11 announcement that President Uhuru Kenyatta had been re-elected in the first election.
According to the government’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Report of 2013, the Kenyan police force of today largely resembles “the Kenya Police Force of the colonial period (under British colonialists): narrow in outlook, unclear in mission and violent in tendency.”
“It is therefore not surprising that the use of excessive and fatal force by security agents, especially by the police, against citizens has been a recurring theme throughout Kenya’s post-independence,” the report said.
Odinga, whose allegations of vote-rigging led the country’s Supreme Court to nullify the first election, later withdrew his candidacy for the new vote. Odinga said he pulled because the electoral commission ignored his calls for reforms despite the Supreme Court finding serious irregularities and illegalities in the August vote.
He has said that without reforms the new election may be worse than the first one.
Also on Tuesday, police obtained warrants to search the home of one of Odinga’s backers for illegal guns, a move the opposition claimed was meant to intimidate the foes of President Uhuru Kenyatta. Police were seen on TV breaking doors with axes and metal cutters at the man’s home in Nairobi after obtaining the warrants.
The supporter, businessman Jimmy Wanjigi, had obtained a court order preventing police from arresting him after five rifles and bullets were found in a villa that officials said he owns on the coast. In court, lawyer James Orengo said that Wanjigi denied knowledge of the firearms and ammunition and that the property was not in his name. The lawyer said threats to detain Wanjigi stemmed from his affiliation with the opposition.