As Kenya’s opposition groups vowed to go ahead with protests against perceived government failure to tame escalating cost of living, some Western diplomats broke their silence; asking parties to embrace dialogue over the issue.
Some 13 ambassadors and high commissioners representing Australia, Denmark, Germany, United States, Netherlands, Sweden, Ukraine, Canada, Ireland, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom expressed their concern over loss of life and high levels of violence and the destruction of property.
“We recognise the daily hardship faced by many Kenyans and urge all parties to table their concerns through a meaningful dialogue and resolve their differences peacefully to build the nation together, ensuring no further loss of life.
“We stand ready to support the parties in their efforts to find constructive and peaceful solutions,” the statement reads.
Kenya’s main opposition 'Azimio One Kenya' Alliance has vowed to hold a three-day protest against the government of President William Ruto, who was elected last year on the promise to support ‘hustlers’, tame reckless government wastage and improve the standards of living.
But his opponents led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, have taken advantage of Ruto’s recent bid to raise taxes to criticise him for failing to honour his promises. A recent Finance Act that had detailed tax increases is now being fought in Court after Senator Okiya Omtatah of Busia County challenged the law’s constitutionality.
Yet even after the High Court suspended the law’s implementation, opposition groups have gone ahead to call for protests. On Tuesday, Azimio said they won’t stop but accused the government of unloading ‘death squads’ on protesters. Last week, the protests turned deadly after nine people were killed.
Some rights groups have criticised the police for use of excessive force while containing the protests and a section of leaders in government for use of hostile rhetoric and threats against protestors which they say only heightens political tension.
A statement by Human Rights Watch released ahead of tomorrow’s planned three-day round of continuous protests urged political leaders to stop the labelling of protesters as terrorists and respect the human rights to assembly and peaceful protest and called out the police for responding to the protests with excessive force, “including the use of live bullets against protesters, possibly killing scores of people and injuring hundreds”.
“Kenyan authorities are obligated under Kenyan and international human rights law to protect citizens’ right to freely assemble and to peacefully protest. Police should adhere to the principles of necessity and proportionality in response to any violence during the demonstrations,” said Mr Otsieno Namwaya, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“In May, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Kenya documented the killing of at least 16 people, most of whom were either shot or beaten to death by police during demonstrations between March and May. Kenyan authorities failed to investigate these violations,” the statement said.
The watchdog called on security agencies to investigate claims by the opposition and some human rights groups that some senior government officials hired armed gangs that attacked protesters and destroyed property, including the Nairobi farm of former president Uhuru Kenyatta.