Conflicts & War

2 Dead in Kenya protests

Nairobi, Jul 19 (EFE).- At least two people were killed Wednesday as Kenyan police fired live rounds to break up protests called by the opposition amid tax hikes and growing tensions over the violent repression of previous demonstrations that left dozens dead.

The deaths occurred in the western city of Kisumu, a traditional bastion of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who contends that his loss to William Ruto in last August’s presidential election was the result of fraud.

“We have two bodies recorded at the mortuary with gunshot wounds, and 14 other people are admitted with gunshot wounds,” George Rae, head of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Hospital, told reporters.

Shootings by police were also reported here in Nairobi and in other parts of Kenya on the first day of a planned three-day mobilization that authorities outlawed despite the constitutionally protected right to protest.

Odinga’s coalition, Azimio La Umoja (Aspiration to Unity), said that some prominent members had been seized by security forces.

“We condemn in the strongest terms possible the arrests and/or abductions of Azimio leaders and close associates of leaders without any color of right of the slightest justification,” Odinga’s top deputy, Martha Karua, said in a statement.

Nairobi’s main roads were deserted on Wednesday morning and many stores and businesses remained closed amid the threat of unrest, while authorities ordered school closures in several parts of the country for the rest of the week.

Despite a heavy police deployment and the liberal use of tear gas, hundreds of Kenyans protested in Nairobi and other cities, including Mombasa and Nakuru.

“While Article 37 of the Constitution gives the right to assemble, demonstrate and picket, lessons from recent similar demonstrations that left trails of destruction of property, injuries and loss of lives, clearly indicate that such demonstrations are nothing but a threat to national security,” Kenyan Police Inspector General Japhet Koome said in a statement Tuesday.

Last week at least 23 people were killed and dozens were injured during widespread protests, according to the United Nations Human Rights Office.

And the Media Council of Kenya said Wednesday that police were carrying out arrests while pretending to be reporters covering the protests.

“Impersonation of journalists by the police is a grave unprofessional misconduct and endangers the lives of journalists,” the council said.

Discontent has been on the rise in recent weeks after Ruto approved on June 26 a new law that, among other measures, would raise fuel taxes to 16% even as Kenyans struggle to cope with raging inflation.

The Kenyan Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an appeal Wednesday for dialogue and non-violence, while also urging Ruto to repeal the unpopular Finance Act and asking Odinga to call off the protests.

EFE lbc-pm/ch/ks/dr

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