Pressure grows on Kenya’s Raila Odinga to calm supporters amid post-election violence
Friday’s announcement that President Kenyatta had been re-elected sparked two days of violent protests that has left as many as 24 people dead. But as of Sunday calm appears to have returned to the East African country.
Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga appeared to heed growing calls for post-election calm on Sunday as he called for his supporters to protest the recent election results by boycotting work on Monday.
His announcement comes after two days of bloody protests by Odinga supporters that left two dozen people dead.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson were among those urging Odinga to push for calm.
On Sunday Guterres urged Odinga to “send a clear message to his supporters urging them to refrain from violence.”
Police were blamed for shooting and killing at least 11 people in the capital Nairobi, including a young child, on August 12 as part of the latest bout of post-election violence in Kenya. Security forces reportedly fired “sporadic shots” at protesters in a bid to break up demonstrations against Kenyatta’s re-election. The government denied that police used live ammunition to quell protesters.
Rioting continued Saturday after the incumbent president was officially declared the winner of the August 8 vote. There were reports of blocked roads and burning barricades in the capital, Nairobi.
In Kisumu, about 200 miles (325 kilometers) northwest of the capital, another man was reportedly shot dead by police, while at least five more were injured, according to an unnamed regional police commander.
Meanwhile in Mathare, a slum area in Nairobi, police were seen charging at demonstrators firing live rounds and tear gas.
Election monitors, meanwhile, voiced support for the election results as opposition parties maintained the notion that the vote must have been rigged. President Uhuru Kenyatta was officially declared the winner of the election despite ongoing accusations of fraud from Odinga, who called the election a “sham” and a “charade,” claiming that already 100 people had been killed in post-election clashes.
Assaults on journalists
Witnesses speaking on the condition of anonymity told The Associated Press news agency that Kenyan police officers had harassed and physically assaulted at least four journalists covering protests over Kenyatta’s re-election. The journalists in question were allegedly tear-gassed and hit with batons, and their equipment was confiscated or they were ordered to delete content.
Kenya Television Network’s political reporter Duncan Khaemba was reportedly arrested and held for hours at a police station because he had not been carrying a required permit for wearing his bulletproof vest and helmet. He was later released.
Ethnic and economic divisions
The unrest appears to expose growing divisions across Kenya, where corruption at top levels of government has angered many voters, including those who regard Odinga as a viable alternative to voice their grievances. Tribal loyalty was also seen as a major contributor to these growing social rifts with Kenyatta widely seen as the representative of the Kikuyu people, the country’s largest ethnic group, while Odinga is associated with the Luo tribe.
Catholic leaders meanwhile appealed for calm and asked security forces to exercise caution during protests.
“We appeal to them to restrain themselves from using excessive force in handling crowds,” said John Oballa Owaa, vice chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops. “No life should be lost because of an election.”
Election fraud unlikely
The main elections monitoring group, ELOG, announced that its own tally closely resembled the official results. ELOG had posted 8,300 observers on the ground during Tuesday’s vote, concluding that Kenyatta had garnered 54 percent, compared with the official figure of 54.3 percent.
“We did not find anything deliberately manipulated,” Regina Opondo, the chairwoman of ELOG’s steering committee, told a news conference.
Tensions remain high, as the aftermath of the 2007 election remains a vivid memory for many where widespread protests left more than 1,100 people dead amid suggestions that the vote may have been manipulated.