By Elias Biryabarema
NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s opposition said late on Tuesday it would defy a ban imposed by the government on its protests against the electoral commission after an escalation of deadly violence at rallies held every Monday since early April.
Kenya is not due to hold its next presidential election until August 2017 but clashes are becoming more frequent between security forces and opposition leaders and their supporters who say senior officials of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) favour President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The opposition coalition for reform and democracy (CORD), led by Raila Odinga, Kenyatta’s main rival, says the IEBC is also incompetent, citing failure of voter verification equipment in the last poll.
In a statement on Tuesday, the government said demonstrators had destroyed both private and public property worth millions during the protests.
“To avert further violence, destruction of property and loss of life, from today the government prohibits all unlawful demonstrations in the country,” the statement, issued by the interior ministry, said.
On Monday, security forces clashed with opposition supporters who were trying to march on the offices of the IEBC in the opposition stronghold of Kisumu in western Kenya.
In those riots, two people were killed and 50 people, including both civilians and security personnel, were injured, the statement said.
Dennis Onyango, CORD’s spokesman told Reuters the ban meant “nothing” to them and that “protests, picketing and petitions will go on as they are protected by the Constitution”.
“Kenya is … governed by the constitution. If the Government has suspended the constitution, it is yet to make that public,” he said.
Government critics and Western ambassadors have accused the police of using excessive force and have called for dialogue.
Businesses have also called for swift resolution to the row, saying the upheaval was taking a toll on an economy which was hit hard by the post-2007 election violence and tensions in the build up to the 2013 vote.
(Editing by Louise Ireland)