Kenya Main Opposition Calls Off Protests Planned on Thursday

Updated on
  • Demonstrations could resume June 20 if no progress on talks
  • At least five people killed in past marches since April

Kenya’s opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy called off protests planned for Thursday to demand an overhaul of the country’s electoral body.

The coalition set a deadline of June 23 for progress on talks to end its dispute with the ruling Jubilee Alliance Party, CORD said in a statement handed to reporters Wednesday in the capital, Nairobi.

“Since our last update, we see progress has been made, we see political will has been created,” CORD said. While the party decided to call off Thursday’s march, demonstrations may resume June 20 if the issues remain unresolved, it said.

CORD began weekly protests in the capital and other cities in April to demand the resignation of electoral officials over alleged corruption and bias. Kenya is preparing for elections in August 2017 in which President Uhuru Kenyatta will seek a second term in office. He’s likely to be challenged by Raila Odinga, the leader of CORD.

Some of the coalition’s politicians are being held by police in an investigation into alleged hate speech, a move CORD says shows double standards. Kenya’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations has vowed to probe any alleged incitement by politicians, regardless of their affiliations.

At least five people have died in the demonstrations, which have resulted in clashes with the police and evoked memories of ethnic violence that followed a disputed poll in 2007. More than 1,100 people were killed in that fighting.

While the recent violence has not yet sullied Kenya’s image in foreign investors’ eyes, it might start to hurt the economy if sustained, according to Armando Morales, the International Monetary Fund representative to the country.

“Political risk is always a factor,” Morales said in an interview in Nairobi on Thursday. “Until Kenya has a better track record in terms of consecutive peaceful elections, that is always going to be a question mark.”