Riots in Kenya as opposition protests ‘cost of living’
NAIROBI: Kenyan riot police fired tear gas on opposition MPs on Tuesday as sporadic violence erupted during fresh anti-government demonstrations over a cost-of-living crisis and last year’s disputed election.
Tear gas canisters were launched at members of opposition leader Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja (One Kenya) coalition near President William Ruto’s office in downtown Nairobi, according to footage of the incident.
Kenya’s Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki said there had been several acts of violence, arson and looting in the capital and in western Kenya by “hordes of criminals masquerading as political protesters” and insisted they would not be tolerated.
He also confirmed the arrest of 46 people over various criminal acts.
Odinga’s side had last month announced a halt to demonstrations to allow bipartisan talks to try to resolve its dispute with the Ruto government. But it later said it was resuming protest action as dialogue stalled, with Azimio insisting it should not be a parliamentary process as demanded by Ruto’s side. Protesters also set fires and used rocks to block roads in and out of Odinga’s lakeside stronghold of Kisumu in western Kenya, they said.
The March unrest had drawn international calls for restraint after police fired tear gas on demonstrators, including Odinga’s motorcade, and gangs went on the rampage, attacking people and property.
The violence had raised fears of a repeat of the 2007/08 post-election ethnic fighting that claimed the lives of more than 1,100 people in Kenya, now considered an anchor of democracy in a turbulent region.
Odinga lost to Ruto — his fifth presidential election defeat — and continues to insist that the poll was fraudulent and that victory was “stolen”.
Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2023