Accessibility links

Breaking News

Odinga Supporters Say They Were Blocked From Protesting by Kenyan Riot Police

FILE - Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga speaks next to one of his vehicles he says was struck by a teargas canister fired by riot police, at his home in Nairobi, Kenya, March 31, 2023.

After a brief hiatus, anti-government demonstrations organized by opposition leader Raila Odinga resumed Tuesday in some parts of Kenya, including the capital, Nairobi.

Odinga and his supporters say they had hoped President William Ruto’s government would let them express their opinions through peaceful protests.

Instead, "at the crack of dawn, police got stationed in all parts of [the] Nairobi metropolis and the city center to prevent us from proceeding with our peaceful protests as we had planned," Martha Karua said.

It wasn't only the police that were unleashed, Karua noted at a press conference held later in the day. Karua is a former justice minister who was also Odinga’s running mate.

"As we have earlier warned, hooligans hired by the Kenya Kwanza illegitimate regime were unleashed to cause mayhem and destroy property and blame it on our peaceful protests," Karua said.

Odinga doesn't recognize Ruto's recent election victory, even after legal challenges by the veteran leader ended up with the supreme court deciding Ruto had won.

Karua said, because of today’s conditions, the Odinga camp was not able to present critical petitions to certain offices as planned.

"We intended to present petitions to the IEBC, showing that the results that were announced last August were doctored, and demand an audit of the servers," Karua said.

"We also intended to petition the office of the president, I am saying this very deliberately, the office of the president with evidence the cost of food, fuel, electricity fees remain unacceptably high. The third office we were to visit was the National Treasury, where we wanted to petition for the immediate release of all funds owed to counties and for the timely payments of salaries to all civil servants."

There was heavy police presence in many parts of the city, including in the central business district. Local reports show police firing tear gas to disperse a small crowd of protesters. Also, a minibus was set on fire.

On Monday, during a speech on International Workers’ Day, Ruto said he respects the opposition and acknowledged its right to protest, "but we also know what democracy looks like. We also know what human rights are. It is nothing to do with violence. It’s nothing to do with anarchy. It’s nothing to do with destruction of property and destruction of livelihoods and destruction of people’s businesses. That is not democracy. That is not human rights."

Odinga had suspended protests last month, agreeing to dialogue with Ruto’s camp. But he later said the government was not negotiating in good faith. Odinga supporters say they’ll protest again on Thursday.