Kenya police

Despite the illegal protests ban by Kenya police, supporters from the opposition defied and demonstrated in many parts of the country. Image by

Kenya police use tear gas to disperse protesters who defied ban

Despite the illegal protests ban by Kenya police, supporters from the opposition defied and demonstrated in many parts of the country.

Kenya police

Despite the illegal protests ban by Kenya police, supporters from the opposition defied and demonstrated in many parts of the country. Image by

Kenyan officers on Wednesday, 12 July 2023 fired tear gas on protesters who defied a police ban to join an anti-government demonstration called by opposition leader Raila Odinga against tax hikes.

Major roads in several cities in western Kenya, where Odinga commands significant support, were deserted as protesters took to the streets. Shops were shut, and security was tight in the capital Nairobi, where police deployed tear gas against stone-throwing demonstrators in the slums of Mathare and Kibera.

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Kenya police use tear gas to disperse crowds

Tear gas was also used to disperse crowds vandalising a highway connecting Nairobi to the port city of Mombasa. The clashes followed rallies in several cities last week that saw six people killed, according to the interior ministry, and rights campaigners accuse police of being heavy-handed.

Odinga told reporters that the police were responsible for protesters’ deaths. “We have always said that these meetings remain peaceful until the police decide to break them up with bullets and teargas,” the 78-year-old said.

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“Police have shot, injured and killed protesters in various parts of the country, including here in Nairobi.” The veteran politician said he was calling off plans to address supporters in the capital on Wednesday, citing fears for their safety.

Did the police warn the opposition?

Late Tuesday, Kenya’s police chief warned opposition supporters against holding “illegal demonstrations”, saying organisers had not provided the authorities with any “notifications” about rallies this week.

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“In this regard, no such demonstrations/gatherings/protests will be allowed tomorrow… All lawful means will be used to disperse such demonstrations,” Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome said.

The ban follows protests last Friday, when police fired tear gas in Nairobi, targeting Odinga’s convoy, AFP reporters reported. They took similar steps against demonstrations in the cities of Mombasa and Kisumu.

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On Saturday, campaigners said police used tear gas on civil society representatives, demanding the release of dozens of people arrested during the protests.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has called for “a thorough investigation into all reported incidents of police brutality”, adding to the chorus of condemnation from rights groups, including Amnesty International, against “arbitrary arrests”.

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Odinga’s Azimio alliance has vowed to stage protests every week against the policies of President William Ruto’s government. Odinga, who lost the August 2022 election to Ruto, claims the poll was “stolen” and has held a string of anti-government rallies this year.

Kenya police make things worse

But as soaring prices pile pressure on households, many Kenyans said they could not afford the disruption caused by the protests. “I used to look forward to the protests, I felt it was the only way our voices were being heard, but nothing is changing,” housekeeper Ruth Nyakundi told AFP on the eve of the demonstrations.

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“Life is just getting worse,” the 41-year-old said. Shopkeeper Lameck Mwangi, 34, told AFP he had decided to close his electronics store in downtown Nairobi for the day. “We all know where it ends when we see deserted streets like this and police patrolling town.

Let me just go home and watch what will unfold on TV,” he said. Ruto last month signed into law a finance bill expected to generate more than $2.1 billion for the government’s depleted coffers.

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The Finance Act provides for new taxes or increases on basic goods such as fuel and food and mobile money transfers, as well as a levy on all taxpayers to fund a housing scheme. The government says the taxes will help create jobs and reduce public borrowing.

The Nairobi high court halted implementation of the legislation after a senator filed a case challenging its constitutional legality. The government has appealed the suspension. But Kenya’s energy regulator announced a hike in pump prices after the doubling of VAT to 16 per cent as stipulated in the law.


© Agence France-Presse