Nairobi — On Thursday, Kenya banned demonstrations in the business districts of Nairobi and other cities amid a stand-off between the ruling party and the opposition over a repeat presidential election.
Internal security minister Fred Matiang’i said the ban applied to the central business districts of the capital, the western city of Kisumu and the coastal city of Mombasa. The organisers of protests would be held personally liable for any damage, he said.
Mombasa and Kisumu are strongholds of opposition support, and opposition leader, Raila Odinga, also has strong backing in parts of Nairobi. All three have seen repeated clashes between riot police and opposition supporters in recent weeks.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Odinga were due to go to the polls in a repeat presidential election on October 26, after the supreme court nullified Kenyatta’s win in August 8 polls over procedural irregularities. But this week, Odinga announced he was withdrawing from the race, throwing the East African nation into political turmoil.
Kenya is the region’s richest economy, a transport and trade gateway and a Western ally in a region roiled by conflict.
Odinga’s opposition alliance says the new elections are invalid. They have called for demonstrations demanding electoral reforms, including the replacement of some staff at the election board, and new elections. The promise of more protests has raised fears of further clashes between Odinga’s supporters and police.
On Wednesday, the election board said the polls would be held anyway. All eight of the original presidential candidates will be on the ballot, after a court decision forced the board to reverse their previous position that only Odinga and Kenyatta would be on the ballot.
In August, only Odinga and Kenyatta polled more than 1%. Of the six other candidates, one has since been declared bankrupt, disqualifying him from office under Kenyan law. Three others told Reuters they intended to run: Abduba Dida, Japheth Kavinga and Ekuru Aukot.
"The political battle in this country has been between the Odingas and the Kenyattas for the longest time," said Aukot. "Voters will be looking for a neutral person who can pacify the country."
A Kenya rights group said this week that at least 37 people were killed in protests immediately following the August 8 poll. Most were killed by police.