13 August 2017

Kenyan Govt Says Country Is Safe; Opposition Urges Calm

Photo: DW
Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga rally in Nairobi

After a long campaign season, most Kenyans are returning to "normal" life following the announcement made Friday night that President Uhuru Kenyatta had been re-elected to a second term. He defeated longtime opposition candidate Raila Odinga.

Both celebrations and protests ensued, some lasting into Saturday.

Not all of them were without incident. Nine young men were reported shot and killed in Nairobi's Mathare slum overnight.

A father told The Associated Press that his daughter was killed by a stray bullet in Mathare while playing with her friends. Two people were shot and killed by police during riots on the outskirts of the opposition stronghold of Kisumu, a city in the western part of the country.

Opposition criticism

"So this violence, this state terror, is being executed following very meticulous preparation. It's like they knew what they were going to do. They knew they were going to steal an election, they knew the people would be unhappy, and therefore, all the instruments of violence were put in place," said James Orengo, an opposition NASA coalition member and Siaya senator.

"All we can say is remain calm, keep out of harm's way," Orengo emphasized Saturday.

However, Fred Matiangi, Kenya's acting cabinet secretary for the interior, told Kenyans that police "always act according to the law," and he said that peaceful demonstrations were legal.

"But individuals or gangs that are looting shops, that want to endanger lives, that are breaking into people's businesses, those are not demonstrators," Matiangi said. "They are criminals. And you expect the police to deal with criminals how criminals should be dealt with."

He went on to reassure Kenyans that overall, the country was peaceful.

"Our country is safe, our country is secure, except for the places I have mentioned — Kisumu, parts of Nairobi, like Mathare and Kibera. The rest of the country is completely safe and Kenyans are moving on with their businesses," Matiangi said.

Security forces were in place throughout several of Nairobi's slums and in Kisumu, firing bullets and tear gas to disperse demonstrators, some of whom were armed with rocks and sticks. Kenyan police were reported to have opened fire on opposition protesters who had set up burning barricades in a Nairobi slum.

Protests

Kibera resident Hockins Odhiambo, 37, described some of the events, saying, "From last night when they announced the election at the Bomas of Kenya [a cultural center serving as the site of the national vote tally operation], there was a lot of tear gas being thrown. In fact, a lot of children ... were suffocating down there, at Kamukunji.

"We have rumors that some two people were killed. We can't have facts to prove, but there was a lot of shooting in the air, there was a lot of tear gas being thrown. All night there were running battles, up until this morning," Odhiambo said.

Alex Mwangi, a 28-year-old electronics technician who works in Mathare, said he didn't have a preferred political party because he is a Kenyan first and supports whoever is in power. He said he witnessed protests in Mathare on Saturday morning and thought police acted responsibly.

"There was no abuse by police. They were there and the police were OK," Mwangi said.

He argued that the police needed to use tear gas to disperse people because some of them were taking advantage of the situation. "They are usually targeting the supermarket, and they were using their violence so that they can rob them some things," he said.

However, rights group Amnesty International released a statement Saturday demanding that Kenyan authorities investigate reports that police had killed demonstrators.

Call for independent probe

Muthoni Wanyeki, the group's regional director for East Africa, said that Kenya's Independent Policing and Oversight Authority "must immediately launch an independent and effective investigation into reported killings, and where there is credible evidence of crimes, those responsible must be brought to justice."

The Kenya Red Cross Society said Saturday that "parts of Nairobi and Nyanza experienced a breakout of violence, where young rioters engaged the police in running battles. As a result, the Kenya Red Cross Society responded to a total of 93 casualties that sustained various injuries and who received pre-hospital medical care and medical evacuations."

The Kenya Red Cross Society also said it encountered roadblocks set up by protesters as it responded to some emergencies, prompting the issuance of a statement urging the public to help the organization get access to areas of unrest to "enable the smooth execution of our mandate of alleviating human suffering."

The opposition has rejected the results, stating it would accept them only if it was given access to data from the IEBC website; it stood by its claims that the electoral commission's computer networks had been hacked. On Thursday, the electoral commission chief confirmed that there was an attempt to hack the system after the vote, but he said that attempt failed.

Electoral commission results showed a roughly 79 percent voter turnout, with more than 15 million Kenyans participating out of 19.6 million registered voters.

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