NAIROBI - For the third Monday in a month, hundreds of protesters gathered in Nairobi to demand major reforms in the country’s electoral commission, starting with the resignation of the commission members. Protests also took place in western Kenya.
The protesters, most of whom are supporters of the opposition CORD coalition, accuse the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, IEBC, of favoring the ruling Jubilee coalition. They say the commission is unable to conduct free, fair, and transparent elections.
James Orengo, a Kenyan senator with CORD who led the crowd in chanting, “no reforms, no elections,” says a fair vote cannot be held with the current electoral commission in place.
“But, we are determined to make sure that if there’s going to be an election at all, then the elections must be held in terms set out by the Kenyan constitution, which says that the elections must be free and fair,” said Orengo. “An election where every vote counts, and [where] everybody has been given an opportunity to register as a voter.”
The demonstration Monday never proceeded to speeches, as police began using tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters.
Orengo says one demonstrator, whom he accompanied to a hospital, was shot by police with a live bullet.
Ali Hassan owns a restaurant in the building where the IEBC is based and says he was victimized by both protesters and the police.
“The protesters broke into my restaurant, they have vandalized everything,” Hassan said. “The police also have thrown live tear gas, into the restaurant, into the kitchen. “
Orengo disputes the protesters were unruly.
“No, that is propaganda, that is propaganda,” said Orengo. “All our protesters, all our people were carrying twigs, they were told to carry twigs or carry handkerchiefs.”
The protests will continue every Monday, said Orengo, until the government decides to sit down with the opposition and engage in meaningful dialogue about the electoral process.
Kenya is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in August 2017.