3 January 2008

Kenya: Protest Rally Put Off

Nairobi — The Orange Democratic Movement has put off its protest rally to tomorrow after hours of running battles with the police in Nairobi.

Three people have been reported dead, a church and two petrol stations set ablaze and five cars torched in the chaos visited on the capital city.

A team of top leaders from the party aborted their march to the rally planned for Uhuru Park after a contingent of riot police blocked their way at Hurlingham area, about two kilometres away.

The party had earlier announced that their next protest rally will be on Tuesday next week, but later changed the date to tomorrow.

The leaders in the march included Musalia Mudavadi, William Ruto, Najib Balala, Charity Ngilu, Anyang' Nyong'o among others. Their presidential candidate, Mr Raila Odinga was not in the march.

The AIC church in Kibera was torched while a petrol station and five cars have been set ablaze along the city's Juja road. Another petrol station was set ablaze near Adams Arcade. Key highways into the central business district remain more or less closed as police battle protestors.

Uhuru Park, the venue of the rally called by Mr Odinga, was cordoned off by hundreds of paramilitary policemen at the crack of dawn.

Virtually no business is taking place in the city as offices and premises that had opened earlier have now closed.

Scores of youths who attempted to get into the city from Kibera slums through Ngong road and Mbagathi Way were repulsed. A similar group was blocked along Thika road and Waiyaki Way. A stand-off between police and protestors has been reported along Jogoo road while on Mombasa road motorists are being blocked by police from driving into the city.

The ODM leaders met with South Africa's Bishop Desmond Tutu in the morning and the cleric is later expected to meet with President Kibaki.

Bishop Tutu is in Kenya in help arbitrate between President Kibaki and Mr Odinga's teams.

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