Some Kenyans are reportedly hoping a compromise could soon be reached to end the post-election violence that has plunged the country into a political crisis. This comes after police again fired live bullets yesterday at protesters. Today (Friday) is the last of three nationwide rallies called by the main opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) to protest the results of the December 27 elections. The opposition has accused President Mwai Kibaki of rigging those elections. ODM leader Raila Odinga Thursday accused the police of turning the country into killing fields of the innocent during the opposition’s organized protest marches. The police have denied the charge.
Paul Mbatia is a Kenyan political science professor at the University of Nairobi. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that both the government and the opposition have failed to come to a compromise.
“The latest development is that the stalemate is still on. The ODM and PNU (ruling Party for National Unity) have not come to agree on how to resolve the stalemate. And ODM a few days ago, announced they would have three consecutive days of protest marches in Nairobi, and in other selected towns including Kisumu, Eldoret, Mombassa and many others. Security has been beefed up in all these towns, so eventually we had confrontation between the police and the crowd as the police tried to disperse the crowd. In some places it became very confrontational, and out of that I think about three people died. And that explains why Honorable Odinga was complaining that the police used lie bullets and not the rubber bullets,” Mbatia pointed out.
He said the police used force after they accused the protesters of turning the rallies into violence.
“The media reported that some people died, and that they were shot by the police. It was very clear that in some situations it was very dangerous confrontation because some youths were also stoning the police, but you cannot rule out the fact that at some point the police might have been provoked beyond any patience to actually shoot in defense of themselves or to just chase away the youths who are actually charging on them,” he noted.
Mbatia said although the protesters have a right to march to express their displeasure with the elections results, they should not go about destroying the people’s property.
“We know the law is the law and people have the right to mount a protest march. But again, that has to be done with an assurance that as they do that they don’t interfere with the lives of others, and they also don’t destroy properties of other people,” Mbatia said.
He said it was unfortunate that the recent protests have turned violent.
“This time around, all the protest marches that we have witnessed, we have also seen some hooligans destroy peoples property. Most people are nearly convinced that such protest marches would be eventually lead to looting and destruction of properties,” he said.
Mbatia said he would not support the idea of charging the organizers of the protest marches, as that could potentially worsen the current tensions in the country.
“At the normal circumstances, they would be held accountable. But don’t also forget that we have also having a very explosive political situation. So if we start blaming and even taking these political leaders to court, then we would be blowing out a very volatile situation rather tan trying to cool down the temperatures. So legally, yes one would think about that, but I don’t think this is the right time to start taking such action. It would actually make the situation worse,” Mbatia pointed out.