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In Kenya, Protests Against Electoral Commission Turn Deadly


Nairobi anti-riot police disperse small groups of protesters with tear gas ahead of anti-electoral commission demonstrations, May 23, 2016. (Jill Craig/VOA)

Protests against Kenya's electoral commission took place in several cities Monday, with local media reporting at least three demonstrators were killed in western Kenya.

In Nairobi, riot police formed a line around the commission headquarters, waiting much of the afternoon to deter the latest in what have become weekly protests.

The protesters never reached the compound because police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse about 100 demonstrators before they could get close.

Police in Nairobi Break Up Opposition Protests
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Smaller groups of protesters were also tear gassed earlier in the day, including a group from Kibera, a large Nairobi slum. Authorities say the demonstrations were illegal.

Protesters were able to march against offices of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, or IEBC, in the cities of Mombasa, Kakamega and Kisumu. A reporter for the Standard newspaper, Phillip Orwa, told VOA that one demonstrator in Kisumu was killed and four others hospitalized.

There were conflicting reports on whether the deceased protester was shot or trampled to death.

Local media also reported two fatalities in Siaya, a town northwest of Kisumu.

Riot police used tear gas to disperse small groups of protesters in Nairobi, May 23, 2016. (Jill Craig/VOA)
Riot police used tear gas to disperse small groups of protesters in Nairobi, May 23, 2016. (Jill Craig/VOA)

Police avoid clubbing, kicking

“Today it wasn’t as intense as it was before,” said Assa Nyakundi, a lawyer whose office is located near the electoral commission headquarters in Nairobi. “I think what the police seem to have done, they were under instructions not to let people gather in big groups or in any groups at all. So I think in that sense, they were able to thwart any big groups and therefore, the capacity to demonstrate.”

Many bystanders agreed that the police acted more professionally this week than last, when photos and videos of riot police clubbing and kicking protesters were shared widely on social media and sparked outrage.

The protesters, most of whom are supporters of the opposition CORD coalition, say the IEBC must be disbanded ahead of next year’s national elections. The opposition says the IEBC favors the ruling Jubilee coalition.

The opposition has held protests on four of the past five Mondays and vowed to continue until the government engages in meaningful dialogue about the electoral process.

“With IEBC, we see the elections will not be credible,” said Rufus Magaga, a CORD supporter and demonstrator. “The results will be doctored and all that, yes. They’ll favor the current government.”

Nyakundi warns that these protests do not represent the opinions of the entire electorate.

“I believe that what you’re seeing now is just partisan politics,” said Nyakundi. “There is a whole group of Kenyans who do not agree with this.”

Kenya is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in August 2017.

While the last elections in 2013 went off peacefully, Kenya is still haunted by the 2007 vote, when alleged rigging set off violence that killed an estimated 1,100 people and displaced 600,000 Kenyans.

Amos Wangwa contributed to this report from Nairobi.