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Kenyan Opposition Leaders Teargassed in Protest


FILE - A riot policeman fires a teargas canister to disperse demonstrators during protests in Narok, Kenya, January 26, 2015.

FILE - A riot policeman fires a teargas canister to disperse demonstrators during protests in Narok, Kenya, January 26, 2015.

Kenyan police fired tear gas on opposition leaders and supporters marching Monday on the electoral commission in Nairobi. The opposition is demanding the commission be dissolved.

Riot police surrounded the offices of Kenya's electoral commission in central Nairobi, blocking opposition leaders and supporters from approaching the building.

When the opposition groups and their members tried pressing forward, police moved in and tear-gassed the crowd. Running battles ensued along a busy highway in the capital for half an hour.

Among those teargassed was former prime minister Raila Odinga.

Opposition parties are demanding electoral commission members leave office before the next general election in 2017.

The politicians accuse the commission of favoring the ruling Jubilee alliance in the last election, and undercounting signatures calling for a referendum on proposed land and electoral reforms.

Opposition lawmaker Opiyo Wandayi joined the march to the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission.

“We have spoken time and again and we have said IEBC as currently constituted has lost the confidence and the trust of the majority of Kenyans," said Wandayi. "Therefore, to pretend that such a body can supervise something as serious as the general election is to push our luck too far.”

Earlier, Nairobi's police chief said the opposition leaders should look for other means if they want to remove the electoral body.

In a statement issued Sunday, the IEBC called on opposition leaders to embrace dialogue.

But Wandayi says marches will continue until their demands are met.

“This is going to happen weekly, for now, it will happen every Monday, but later on we shall change tactics, depending on how the situation unfolds it's going to be a concerted effort, and there is no relenting ," said Wandayi.

The National Council of Churches of Kenya and the country's top labor federation have also called for the commission to be disbanded.

The clerics said the commission has lost credibility and cannot organize a fair and free election.

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