Kenya is sliding deeper into bloodshed


Kenyans protest. File photo by AFP

from MARIA MACHARIA in Nairobi, Kenya
Kenya Bureau
NAIROBI, (CAJ News) – POLICE are adamant the planned action is unlawful and they will descend heavily on instigators.

The opposition alliance remains defiant and insists the anti-government protests will continue.

Kenya thus appears headed for more bloodshed on Wednesday (today) as the struggling economy further drives a wedge between political rivals.

The protests are the latest planned by the Azimio la Umoja–One Kenya Coalition Party in the wake of the party’s defeat in the August 22 elections, where the coalition alleged vote rigging.

The opposition accuses the government of President William Ruto of worsening the plight of Kenyans amid the economic challenges East Africa’s largest country (eight in the continent overall) by gross domestic product (GDP).

Weekly protests have left several people dead in the capital Nairobi and other major cities. Dialogue between the ruling Kenya Kwanza coalition and the opposition alliance have collapsed. The rift is ever widening.

On Tuesday, the Kenya Police Service (KPS) issued a stern warning on organizers of the protests and members of the public that might participate in the civil action.

Japhet Koome, Inspector General of Police, said the organisers of the protest, whose focal point would be the Kamukunji neighbourhood of Nairobi, never notified police of the protest. Law enforcement had read such plans through the media, he said.

The police commander pointed out it is a prerequisite that aggrieved parties alerted the force of their plans.

“Consequently, and in the interest of national security, the National Police Service wishes to inform the public that in the absence of notifications by planners of any demonstrators as a legal prerequisite to enable police provide adequate security to demonstrators and the public, police have no other option but to take necessary measures to disperse all illegal demonstrations,” Koome advised.

He added, “In this regard, no such demonstrations/protests will be allowed since no notification has been presented to any police station. All lawful means will be used to disperse demonstrations.”

The police chief said while the Constitutional Provision under Article 37 guaranteed freedom of assembly, picketing and petitioning, “our statistics this year has clearly shown that such demonstrations have not only left behind a trail of massive destruction of property worth millions of Shillings, but also led to the death of innocent members of the public and law enforcement officers.”

Kenya Kwanza hailed the position by the police.

Anwar Sadaat, the analyst, differed.

He argued while police appeared to be abiding by the Constitution, they were flouting it.

“Police breaking demonstrations is actually breaking the law. You cannot use national security as a pretext to commit an illegality,” the expert argued.

“Provide security to those demonstrating as required by law. Anything else is acting outside the law, for which you should be held responsible,” Sadaat advocated.

The latest spat is over the Finance Act 2023. The legislation is a culmination of a number of amendments to the Finance Bill 2023.

Some of the amendments included a plan to tax content creators, influencers and crypto traders.

The High Court on Tuesday indefinitely extended a previous suspension on the Finance Act 2023.

Last week, Azimio la Umoja launched an online digital platform – the Citizens Initiative – to collect 15 million signatures in protest against the government.

The opposition said the exercise was to express people’s displeasure with Ruto and the “raft of punitive, unfair and unjust taxes that he has decided to impose on the people, without the people’s consent.”

“This is part of the campaign of resistance, the civil disobedience and citizens’ actions that we have decided to pursue to force Ruto and his regime to respect and listen to the people,” the opposition alliance stated.

“Both the legislature and the executive have ganged up against the people, and the people have been left on their own. In return, the people have decided, rightly, to gang up against the executive and the legislature.”

Raila Odinga, former Prime Minister and the losing candidate to Ruto in the presidential poll, on the eve of the protests was mobilizing Kenyans to attend the “meeting” Kamkunji as well as similar ones across the country.

He spoke at the Kenyatta Market.

“It was painful to hear in detail about the hardship our people face daily due to the inept and illegitimate regime’s actions,” Odinga said.

His running mate in the failed presidential bid, Martha Karua, has appended her signature on the Citizens Initiative to express her dissatisfaction with the Kenya Kwanza administration.

Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, the former Vice President, also endorsed the initiative.

This week, human rights and civil society organisations reported that last Friday, state agents killed seven civilians and arrested 70 others during protests.

Kenya, a country of 57 million people, is thus losing its revered standing as a model of peace and stability in the continent.

– CAJ News


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