More protests in Kenya as authorities vow to 'halt the descent'

Thursday March 30 2023
Kenyan anti-riot police officers patrol in Kibera

Kenyan anti-riot police officers patrol on the highway next to Kibera slum in Nairobi on March 30, 2023 during a protest called by the opposition leader Raila Odinga. PHOTO | YASUYOSHI CHIBA | AFP



Police in Kenya’s capital Nairobi Thursday afternoon threw tear gas at crowds demonstrating in protests called by opposition leader Raila Odinga seeking to force the government to deal with the rising cost of living, among other issues.

The anti-government protesters set tyres ablaze in Nairobi and the western city of Kisumu on Thursday in a third round of demonstrations organised by opponents of President William Ruto.

In Mathare, a low-income settlement in Nairobi, protesters used improvised catapults to launch stones at police in riot gear, footage on Kenyan television showed.

The police were out in force after the last protest led by Mr Odinga on Monday descended into apparent tit-for-tat attacks by both sides.

On Monday night, a church and a mosque were set ablaze in Nairobi's low-income Kibera district and properties belonging to Odinga's family and former president Uhuru Kenyatta, who supported Odinga in the election, were vandalised.

Protesters roll tyres towards a barricade in Kibera, Nairobi

Protesters roll tyres towards a barricade in Kibera, Nairobi on March 30, 2023 during a protest called by the opposition coalition Azimio la Umoja. PHOTO | YASUYOSHI CHIBA | AFP

Call for calm

Religious leaders and human rights groups called for calm in the aftermath, warning against the kind of ethnic fighting that killed more than 1,000 people following the disputed 2007 election.

Kenya’s Interior minister Kithure Kindiki echoed those concerns in a statement on Wednesday, referring to "ethnically-laced arson" in Kibera, a multi-ethnic district that saw some of the worst violence in 2007.

He vowed that no more violent protests would be tolerated.

"We must halt the descent," he said.

Local television stations on Thursday showed tires ablaze in Kibera and in Kisumu, near Odinga's ancestral home. In Kisumu, crowds shouted "Baba", a nickname for Odinga, as they marched.

The Kenyan government said two civilians have been killed and more than 130 people, including 51 police officers, injured in the protests since last week.

Odinga, who has run for president five times, says the demonstrations are over the high cost of living in the country and alleged rigging in last year's election.

Odinga challenged President Ruto's victory, but the Supreme Court upheld the result in a unanimous decision.