Kenyan opposition supporters demonstrate in Nairobi, July 19, 2023. LUIS TATO / AFP
Two people were killed in several towns in Kenya on Wednesday (July 19th) during protests against high prices and government policies called by the opposition; more than 300 people were arrested. “There are two bodies registered in the morgue with gunshot wounds”, George Rae, head of the Jaramogi-Oginga-Odinga hospital, in Kisimu (west), stronghold of opponent Raila Odinga, told AFP. Fourteen people were also hospitalized, he added, following clashes with the police.
Read also: In Kenya, six dead in banned anti-government protests
“More than 300 people have been arrested across the country and will be charged with a variety of crimes, including looting, malicious damage to property, arson, robbery and assault on law enforcement.”, Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki had earlier said. The mobilization seemed relatively calmer than in recent weeks. The previous day of protest, July 12, saw nine people killed and more than 300 arrested.
This protest movement launched in March by the opposition coalition Azimio, led by veteran Raila Odinga, has given rise in recent weeks to acts of vandalism, looting and violence which have left at least twenty dead. Deployed in large numbers on Wednesday, the security forces dispersed with tear gas small groups which harassed them with stone throwing, in particular in Kibera, a slum in Nairobi, and in the towns of Kisumu, Homa Bay, Kisii and Migori, pro-Odinga strongholds in the west of the country.
« Chaos »
Greeting a day “extremely successful”Azimio called “Kenyans to come out even stronger” Thursday, the second of three days of action planned until Friday against the policy of the government of William Ruto. Elected in August 2022 by promising to support the most disadvantaged, the president faces growing opposition, especially since the promulgation, at the beginning of July, of a law introducing new taxes which add to the daily difficulties of Kenyans.
Read also: In Kenya, Raila Odinga, the opponent in permanent revolt
Traveling to the city of Kericho, the head of state denounced the attitude of his rival during the last presidential election in August 2022, which he accuses of inciting « chaos ». “We do not want a country of violence, fighting or destruction of property […] The police need to make sure they are tough on criminals, gangs, anarchists and anyone who wants to cause chaos”did he declare.
The government, considering that these demonstrations are not “nothing but a threat to national security”, had placed the cities of Nairobi, Mombasa (southwest) and Kisumu under heavy police surveillance. He had also ordered the closure of public schools in these three cities – schools were to reopen on Thursday. In the capital, the usually busy streets were quiet and many businesses had kept their curtains down, AFP journalists noted.
This movement divides the population of Kenya, the economic locomotive of East Africa which is fighting against continuous inflation (8% over one year in June) but also finds itself paralyzed with each day of mobilization. Unemployed 47-year-old Fred Onzere supports the protest because, he believes, Kenya “going in the wrong direction”. Monica Njoki wants these gatherings “cease”. “The protests have greatly affected my life, I cannot go to work freely”explains this 45-year-old shopkeeper, believing that it is necessary “give the president time to keep his promises”.
Read also: Kenya: William Ruto sworn in as president of a deeply divided country
This is the third time since the beginning of July that the opposition has organized such days of action. The police were strongly criticized for their repression, including live ammunition, after the July 12 mobilization. The NGO Human Rights Watch had urged the Kenyan authorities to protect the right of citizens to demonstrate peacefully. Thirteen countries
western countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, expressed in a joint statement on Tuesday their concern about the “high levels of violence” during the latest demonstrations, urging the various parties to “peacefully resolve their differences”.
“The Africa World”
Every Saturday, find a week of news and debates, by the editorial staff of “Monde Afrique”
According to an association of private sector organizations (Kepsa), each day of mobilization causes the country’s economy to lose the equivalent of 3 billion shillings (about 19 million euros).