Kenya Bans Electoral Protests After Rallies Turn Violent

Updated on
  • At least two people were killed in protests on Monday
  • Opposition demanding resignation of electoral officials

Kenya banned protests to demand electoral reforms after two people were killed in opposition-led marches on Monday, Interior Secretary Joseph Nkaissery said, a day after the High Court ruled that the demonstrations were legal.

The authorities will crack down on protests until negotiations resolve differences over electoral reforms. The opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy party has staged protests in the capital, Nairobi, and other cities since April to demand the resignation of officials at the electoral agency over alleged corruption. Eighteen civilians and 32 police officers were injured in protests across the country on Monday, Nkaissery said.

“The government has banned demonstrations beginning today whether it’s CORD or anybody else,” Nkaissery told reporters in Nairobi flanked by Attorney General Githu Muigai and Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet. “It is extremely dangerous for anybody to challenge the government’s decision. The consequences are grave.”

President Elections

With presidential elections scheduled for August 2017, the clashes have evoked memories of the political and ethnic conflict that erupted after a disputed vote in 2007 and claimed at least 1,100 lives. The 71-year-old former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, who heads CORD, poses the biggest political challenge to President Uhuru Kenyatta, 54. Odinga disputed his loss in the last presidential vote in 2013.

Kenya’s constitution says “every person has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, and to present petitions to public authorities.”

The ban contravenes the country’s charter, which was rewritten in 2010 to allow greater freedoms in East Africa’s biggest economy, Gitobu Imanyara, a lawyer, said by phone from Nairobi, calling the decision “nonsensical.”

“What the government is doing is pushing the country to the brink,” Imanyara said.

High-Level Talks

CORD, which has said it will intensify its protests to two marches every week, withdrew its members from a parliamentary committee on electoral reforms on Tuesday, saying it preferred instead talks at the “highest level.”

Kenyatta’s government hasn’t agreed to hold discussions on reforming the Independent and Electoral and Boundaries Commission ahead of next year’s vote.

Ongoing political turmoil threatens to derail Kenya’s economy, one of a handful in sub-Saharan Africa that’s booming as it benefits from low oil prices, a stable exchange rate and slowing inflation. Dennis Awori, chairman of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, a business lobby group, warned last month that the protests were damaging the country’s image and scaring tourists away.

The U.K. government on Tuesday updated its travel advice for Kenya, warning its citizens to “take care in public places” in major urban centers in the lead up to the next elections because of the planned protests.

The International Monetary Fund expects Kenya’s economy to expand 6 percent this year and 6.1 percent in 2017, which would make it one of sub-Saharan Africa’s top five performers. The economy, East Africa’s largest, grew 5.6 percent last year, as an expansion of agriculture, manufacturing and construction offset a slowdown in tourism. Kenya is the world’s biggest exporter of black tea.

— With assistance by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura, and Adelaide Changole

(Updates with lawyer’s comment in sixth paragraph.)
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