NAIROBI: Two people have been shot dead in Kenya in angry opposition protests which flared up again Saturday after the hotly disputed election victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Protests and running battles with police broke out in Nairobi slums after a night of anger in opposition strongholds against an election that losing candidate Raila Odinga claims was massively rigged. East Africa’s richest economy was gripped by uncertainty a decade after a disputed 2007 election which led to two months of ethno-political violence that left 1,100 dead and 600,000 displaced.
All eyes will now turn to Odinga, and his reaction to the loss which he claimed was a result of massive rigging of Tuesday’s election, which his party denounced as a “charade” and a “disaster”.
Odinga has yet to speak after the results were announced, but almost immediate protests erupted Friday night in his strongholds in western Kisumu county and poor areas of Nairobi, with gunshots ringing out and fires lit in the streets.
“We have one person killed and four others admitted in hospital with gunshot injuries,” said Dr Ojwang Lusi, the regional health chief in western Kisumu county.
“My brother was shot and yet he was just standing outside our house where people were demonstrating now he has a bullet injury on the hip,” said Truphena Achieng, at a Kisumu hospital.
In the southwestern town of Siaya, a police officer speaking on condition of anonymity said a man had been shot dead in protests, but “we have not managed to collect the body… because of resistance from protesters.”
Meanwhile protests flared up again Saturday morning, with police firing teargas and engaging in running battles with demonstrators in the capital’s Mathare and Kibera slums, according to AFP reporters. In Kisumu protesters blocked major highways around the city.
Human Rights Watch on Saturday urged police to show restraint in the face of protests.
“With growing reports of demonstrations and heavy gunfire in some areas, it is important for security forces to work to deescalate – not escalate – the violence,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at HRW.
“The police should not use teargas or live ammunition simply because they consider a gathering unlawful.”
Odinga, 72, is a veteran opposition politician seen as having taken his last shot at the presidency after four unsuccessful runs. He believes elections in 2007, 2013 and now 2017 were snatched away from him.
Politics in Kenya is largely divided along tribal lines, and the winner takes-all nature of elections has long stoked communal tensions. Odinga’s ethnic Luo supporters – and their allies from other groups – believe they have been denied political power by elites from the Kikuyus, the same ethnic group as Kenyatta, the country’s biggest community.
“President Kenyatta, unlike his first term, must include everyone in his government,” wrote the Daily Nation in an editorial, warning that limiting power to his tribal allies was “exacerbating exclusion and creating resentment and disillusionment.”
Amid the anxiety over how the situation would unfold, there was also much joy in Kenyatta’s strongholds after he was declared the victor with 54.27 percent to Odinga’s 44.74. In his acceptance speech Kenyatta reached out to Odinga and his supporters, to “work together… so that we can build this nation together”.
“Let us be peaceful… We have seen the results of political violence. And I am certain that there is no single Kenyan who would wish for us to go back to this.”
The latest death toll takes the number of people killed in election-related violence since Tuesday to eight. Another four people died after being hit by vehicles during celebrations in separate incidents Friday night around the country, said a senior traffic police officer.
Foreign observers praised a peaceful, credible voting process – which saw turnout of 78 percent – but the mood quickly turned sour when Odinga rejected the results after only a few hours of counting. The main opposition coalition, the National Super Alliance (NASA), has claimed both that the results were manipulated by a massive hacking attack, and that it is in possession of results being concealed on IEBC servers that show Odinga to be the rightful winner.
On Thursday it demanded Odinga be declared president on these grounds. In 2013 Odinga took his grievances to court and lost.
“We have been there before. Court is not an alternative,” said top NASA official James Orengo.
In his first term, Kenyatta, 55, was credited with a massive infrastructure drive, however his new government will face the rising debt as a result, and a predicted slowdown in growth from an average of more than five percent in recent years.
A major issue on the campaign trail was a spike in food prices and shortage of the staple maize meal due to a prolonged drought, which has hit the country’s poorest hard. Kenyatta’s administration has been dogged by several graft scandals, with the country dropping six points in Transparency International’s corruption index in 2016.
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