Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga has urged his supporters to skip work on August 14 to protest what he charged were rigged elections that gave victory to President Uhuru Kenyatta. The government denounced violent demonstrations as unlawful and urged Kenyans to return to their jobs.
As reported by The Associated Press (AP), Odinga spoke on August 13 to a cheering crowd in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, an opposition stronghold and a frequent scene of clashes between stone-throwing protesters and police firing live ammunition and tear gas since the August 8 election in which President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner.
Odinga’s defiance fuelled continuing uncertainty in Kenya, an East African economic hub whose reputation for stability has been shaken by election violence and court challenges in the past.
“There is no work until Tuesday [August 15], when we will announce the next step,” said Odinga, who previously claimed that last week’s vote was rigged.
Kenya’s election commission said its process was fair, and international observers praised its handling of the election in this country of 45 million people.
Also on August 13, Odinga visited the mother of a 9-year-old daughter who was killed by a stray bullet during clashes between police and protesters in the Mathare slum on Saturday.
Police gunfire has killed at least 24 people since the election, according to the state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, which monitors government institutions. However, police denied the report on Sunday, saying police have killed six “criminals” who were looting, rioting and attacking police officers in the past two days.
As reported by AP, Odinga said there was “a plot to kill our supporters”. On Twitter, he said people should observe a day of mourning on August 14 for “fallen patriots.”
In a separate report, the Reuters news agency noted that its reporters have seen police repeatedly fire tear gas and bullets to disperse crowds of people in slums. Police have also detained and physically attacked journalists.
Around 1,200 people were killed then and 600,000 displaced after Odinga called for political protests that sparked ethnic violence. Regional trade was paralysed and Kenya’s economy – the region’s biggest – took years to recover.
Meanwhile, regional leaders have started congratulating Kenyatta, the 55-year-old son of the country’s first president, on winning a second term.
“Congratulations my brother @UKenyatta for a successful election and the trust Kenyans have placed in you!” tweeted Rwandan president Paul Kagame. Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda have also sent similar notes.