At least three Kenyans were reported dead yesterday following a deadly clash between Kenyan police and opposition protesters demanding for the dismissal of the country’s current electoral commission, IEBC, for what they say is gross misconduct of its commissioners.
The three deaths were reported in Western Kenya, the home turf of opposition leader and former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, who’s spearheading the demonstrations. Speaking to journalists in Nairobi after the protests, the opposition leaders frantically accused the police of using live ammunition on unarmed protesters.
“As a movement agitating for electoral reforms through the popular will of the people, we unreservedly condemn the senseless brutality meted out by the police on their fellow Kenyans during our peaceful protests held across the country from Mombasa, Kisumu, Nairobi, Siaya, Meru and Kakamega,” opposition leader Raila Odinga said.
However, it later emerged that one of the deceased in Kisumu did not die from gunshot wounds as earlier reported. Witnesses say the middle-aged man fell and hit the floor with the back of his head as he fled from the police.
The protests, which have previously been held in Nairobi’s CBD, took a different turn yesterday as opposition supporters from different regions – believed to be CORD’s strongholds – took to the streets, engaging police in running battles for the better part of the day.
In Kakamega, Western Kenya, the protests turned bloody, prompting arrest of the area’s Senator Dr. Boni Khalwalwe, who was later arraigned in court and released on bail.
Series of Protests
Yesterday’s protests were part of a series of protests that have been going on every Monday for the last three weeks as Kenya’s main opposition party, CORD, continues to push for the disbandment of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which is headed by the embattled chairman, Mr. Isaac Hassan.
The Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) has vowed to continue with the protests until the current electoral commission is sent home. The opposition leaders maintain that the electoral commission doesn’t have the capacity to hold a credible election as currently constituted.
Over the last two years, the incumbent chairman of Kenya’s electoral body has been facing allegations of corruption, where he and other commissioners are accused of receiving bribes from a UK-based printing firm, Smith & Ouzman, in order to award the company a printing tender.
Last week, a video showing several police officers brutally attacking a man suspected to be a protester caused uproar on social media, with most Kenyans calling for the arrest and prosecution of the pictured police officers.
Kenya’s Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) has already instituted investigations into claims of police brutality during last week’s protests and has promised to take the necessary legal action against any police officer that will be found culpable.
The international community, including the US, is calling on the Kenyan government and the opposition to hold talks with the IEBC so as to work out a practical solution to the current stalemate.
On his Twitter page, US ambassador to Kenya, Robert Godec, wrote earlier today:
Deeply concerned by violence around @IEBC demonstrations. Urge authorities to show restraint & all to be peaceful. Dialogue is needed now.
— Ambassador Bob Godec (@BobGodec) May 23, 2016
The Kenyan government maintains that the opposition must follow the laid down constitutional procedure for the disbandment of IEBC.