Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Kenya News Update: Four Killed in Clashes With Police; ODM Vows to Continue Protests; Demonstrations in Eldoret

Four killed as police clash with ODM protesters

Published on January 17, 2008, 12:00 am
By Standard Team

Members of the ODM Pentagon were tear-gassed in central Nairobi, riot police killed four people including a 10-year-old boy in Kisumu, and several others were seriously injured as the three-day countrywide mass protests began on Wednesday.

In Nairobi, Bungoma, Kisumu, Migori and Eldoret, police used live bullets to break up crowds protesting against the declaration of President Kibaki as the winner of December 27 presidential elections, in rallies banned by the Government.

Journalists watched as a lone policeman pursued and shot two youths in the chest and shoulder at close range in the volatile Kondele area of Kisumu. The 10-year-old boy was shot dead at Arina Estate in Kisumu. One of the two victims died moments after being taken to the Nyanza Provincial Hospital, where his colleague was also admitted in critical condition.

The officer kicked one of his prostrate victims thrice on the ribs before casually walking away. TV footage captured the events.

Tension also reigned in Nairobi, where armed GSU personnel and riot police patrolled the streets. The armed men had sealed off Uhuru Park, the venue of ODM’s Nairobi protest rally as early as 5am, braving a chilly, rainy morning.

When the shooting began, it was again Kibera — the shattered battle-weary slum — where the first shots were fired.

Here, police shot three protesters. Three others were shot in Huruma and Mathare slums as demonstrators clashed with the law enforcers.

From Kibera slums, protesters had started marching to the city centre peacefully. But police reacted by lobbing several teargas canisters, forcing them to flee for dear life.

Organised by the Orange party to bring pressure to bear on President Kibaki over the disputed presidential vote, the protests quickly returned the country to the brink.

The protests started only hours after perhaps the most acrimonious session the country’s Parliament has ever witnessed.

Mercifully, the two protagonists won’t be coming face-to-face soon again after President Kibaki prorogued Parliament yesterday.

A special issue of the Kenya Gazette released yesterday stated: "In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 59 (1) of the Constitution of Kenya, the President has prorogued Parliament with effect from the 16th January, 2008".

This is a routine exercise, marking the end of the first session and prepares the stage for the official opening of the Tenth Parliament.

The full force of yesterday’s protests were felt in Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret, Kakamega, Bungoma, Nakuru, Kapsabet, Mumias, Homa-Bay and Busia.

Demanded justice and rights

In Eldoret, protesters carried placards, some of which read: "We voted Raila and you stole our vote. We demand justice and our rights. No Raila, no peace".

Where police kept off, the demonstrations went on peacefully, but violence reigned where police blocked, clobbered and tear-gassed the marchers.

"Mass action is on and will continue as scheduled," Mr Raila Odinga, the ODM leader and Lang’ata MP, said moments after he and Pentagon members Mr William Ruto, Mr Joe Nyagah, Mr Musalia Mudavadi, Mrs Charity Ngilu and Mr Najib Balala were tear-gassed and chased out of the city centre by riot police.

Kisauni MP Mr Ali Hassan Joho, his Hamisi counterpart Mr George Khaniri and veteran politician Mr Martin Shikuku were in the company of the ODM leaders when the entourage was tear-gassed.

Raila and the Pentagon, along with about 500 supporters, had gathered in front of The Stanley Hotel and started marching on Kenyatta Avenue towards Uhuru Park.

But as the crowd approached 680 Hotel some 400m from Uhuru Park, a convoy of riot policemen who were following them lobbed teargas canisters and charged at them.

Ahead at the Nyayo House roundabout were other armed policemen and GSU officers wielding batons ready for the protesters, who were now forced to disperse in different directions as police fired in the air.

At around 2pm, the leaders had driven into the city centre in separate cars to evade police roadblocks and later regrouped before attempting to force their way into Uhuru Park.

Few people were injured in the ensuing stampede.

After the melee, the leaders regrouped again at Serena Hotel, a stone-throw away from Uhuru Park where a contingent of over 2,000 GSU personnel stood guard with a water canon. They did not attempt to force their way to the grounds.

When police found that the Pentagon had made their way into town, a reinforcement of more GSU personnel in four lorries were dispatched to Kenyatta Avenue.

On Wednesday, Raila said he was aware of a silent shoot-to-kill order against demonstrators but vowed that nothing would stop them from fighting for justice.

"They are shooting at our supporters, but this will not intimidate us from carrying on with our protests. It is an illegal government using brute force on unarmed people," said Raila.

He added: "Wasifikirie kwamba simba akinyeshewa anakuwa paka (They should not mistake a rain-drenched lion for a cat)," he warned adding that mass action and support will not dry up and will instead build up from time to time.

Pentagon praise demos

Mudavadi and Ruto termed Wednesday’s protests in Nairobi a success despite the team failing to access Uhuru Park and address a rally as planned.

"Yesterday’s protests were a success and we expect a large turnout today. They thought they had blocked everybody in the estates. The fact that we managed to reach town despite the police cordon means Kenyans are determined to reclaim what rightfully belongs to them," said Ruto.

He said thousands of protesters went to the streets countrywide yesterday. He predicted that the number would double today.

Mudavadi said ODM had advised its supporters to be peaceful and accused police of trying to turn the mass protests into riots by employing unorthodox means.

"We know that police planned to turn the protests into riots so that we can be blamed but our supporters have been peaceful because what they want is justice. By the sheer number of police, one would imagine Kenya was in a state of emergency," he said.

Mudavadi said ODM was not after positions of leadership for the sake of it but the party advocated for a framework, through a mediator, that would see the establishment of a transitional Government.

The drama unfolded outside the Stanley Hotel, where the leaders had assembled shortly after 1pm.

Balala, Joho and Nyagah had earlier been tear-gassed outside the Hilton Hotel where they had met to strategise on the way forward. They then escaped towards Stanley Hotel where Raila and Ruto joined them. But minutes later, all hell broke loose.

Caught out of their vehicles, Balala and Joho fled on foot on Kenyatta Avenue with police in hot pursuit. But the politicians quickly regrouped near Teleposta Towers before driving to Serena Hotel, where they remained holed-in.

Shortly after the assault on the leaders, police started ordering businesses in the CBD to close. People were then ordered out of town. Hundreds had to walk several miles to the periphery of the city to catch means back home after public service vehicles were barred from entering town.

By 5pm, central Nairobi was a ghost town.

Effectively, the planned mass action rally scheduled for Uhuru Park, Nairobi, aborted. The rally was to start at 10am but rains that pounded the city kept supporters and organisers indoors.

The Pentagon, however, vowed to carry on with their planned three-day of peaceful mass protests terming yesterday’s protests a success.

Riots as Police Break ODM Protests

The Nation (Nairobi)
16 January 2008

Police have broken demonstrations in Mombasa, Kisumu and Migori as various other towns across the country remained tense following protest rallies called by the Orange Democratic Movement.

Riot police used teargas to disperse protestors in Mombasa who responded to ODM's calls for three days of demonstrations against President Kibaki's disputed re-election.

About 100 opposition supporters were scattered in the melee, but immediately began regrouping, locals said.

In Kisumu, police used tear gas to disperse a group of youths who were demonstrating at Kondele along the Kisumu-Kakamega Road.

There was a standoff between anti-riot police officers and the youths, who were carrying placards and twigs in the mid morning incident.

Police officers formed a cordon to prevent them from getting to the Jomo Kenyatta Grounds, the venue of a planned mass action rally.

It was only after the officers lobbed tear gas canisters in the air that they scampered for safety.

In Nairobi, paramilitary policemen braved early morning showers to cordon off the city's Uhuru Park, one of the key venues of today's mass protests called by the Orange Democratic Movement.

Police have insisted the rallies stand outlawed for security reasons. However, unlike the previously planned rallies where the police closed some roads leading to the central business district, flow of traffic so far is normal.

This included traffic along the main arteries such as Jogoo Road through Landhies Road, Thika Road through Pangani as well as Ngong Road and Mbagathi Way.

Along the city streets and especially in and around Uhuru Park police patrolled on foot and on horseback. ODM's earlier attempts to hold a rally at the park have been blocked by police forcing the party to change its strategy by calling 48 rallies across the country over three days.

In Migori, a man was seriously injured after riot police allegedly shot him during the demonstrations.

The victim was shot on the thigh in Oruba estate when a group of protestors took to the streets to denounce the re-election of President Kibaki.

Kenya Red Cross Society officials administered first aid on the man before taking him to Oruba Nursing Home where he is recuperating.

In Eldoret, the town remained tense with heavy police presence. Most residents avoided the centre of the town.

Human rights organisations have criticised the Government decision to outlaw the protests saying it infringed on the people's freedom of assembly and right to hold peaceful demonstrations.

But the police commissioner Major General Hussein Ali has argued that hooligans were likely to take advantage of the rallies to wreak havoc to businesses by engaging in looting and destruction of property.

Reporting by Samwel Kumba, Daniel Otieno, Elisha Otieno and Reuters.

Thousands of protestors dispersed in Eldoret

Published on January 17, 2008, 12:00 am
By Anderson Ojwang’ and Osinde Obare

Thousands of ODM supporters defied General Service Unit police officers and held a peaceful and successful demonstration in Eldoret town.

They took control of the town for more than three hours before police opened fire and dispersed them violently.

A demonstrator chanted: "We will continue to demonstrate until we get our rights. We will remain peaceful and no looting will take place during our protest. We voted for Raila Odinga but we were robbed."

Carrying placards and waving twigs, the demonstrators entered the town centre from three routes.

They converged near the district hospital on their way to the 64 Stadium, the venue of the planned rally.

Among the demonstrators were women with babies strapped on their backs, children, old women and men who walked from the outskirts of the town singing war songs and in praise of ODM leaders.

They marched on Uganda Road and other streets in the town centre under police escort and were addressed by their leader, former nominated councillor, Mr Faruk Teigut.

Speaking to the demonstrators, Faruk said they would remain peaceful and avoid looting.

Police kept vigil as the demonstrators marched for two kilometres to meet other protesters from Chepterit.

Before police dispersed them, traffic flow was normal and some businesses were operating.

Meanwhile, ODM supporters erected roadblocks on the Kapenguria-Lodwar road, a key route to Southern Sudan, and paralysed transport for several hours.

The group of about 800 members used logs and huge stones to block motorists heading to Lodwar and Lokichoggio.

Lorry drivers carrying relief supplies destined for the Kakuma Refugee Camp and Southern Sudan were stranded and only riot police rescued them.

Police later chased away the supporters and unblocked the road to allow free movement of vehicles.

More than 100 armed police officers sealed off Makutano Stadium in Kapenguria, a venue where a rally was to be held.

Opposition supporters demanded the resignation of President Kibaki. Carrying placards and twigs, the protesters chanted that ODM leader, Mr Raila Odinga, won the election.

Businesses remained closed and the streets were full of armed police officers to stop demonstrators from looting.

Riot police, led by the OCPD, Mr David Wambua, watched as the demonstrators marched and blocked them from entering the stadium.

In Kitale, police sealed off Kenyatta Stadium and blocked a handful of opposition supporters.

ODM vows to go on with protests

Publication Date: 1/16/2008

ODM leader Raila Odinga has today said that they will continue peaceful demonstrations across the country until they get “justice” over the disputed presidential election.

The protests took off in several towns with most exploding into riots after police broke the demonstrations. There have been reports of a man shot dead in Kisumu, while in Nairobi’s Kibera slums three people were rushed to hospital with gunshot wounds.

Nairobi’s city centre was peaceful until shortly after 2pm when riot police lobbed tear gas and shot in the air to eject some ODM leaders.

Mr Odinga said they would not be cowed by the heavy presence of armed security personnel at Nairobi’s historic Uhuru Park, where they had planned to hold a rally, and the other 40 venues in major towns.

The controversial rallies that has been banned by the Government citing security concerns.

The venue has been cordoned for the past two weeks since President Kibaki was declared the winner of the contested presidential elections by the chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya, Mr Samuel Kivuitu.

The Park been guarded round the clock by a combined team of armed riot squad, Administration Policemen and the para-military General Service Unit officers, using horses and guard dogs.

The ODM leader told journalists that he had received information from party officials and supporters across the country that mass action had taken off in all venues.

In Bungoma, a former university student leader, Mr Wafula Buke, was among scores of ODM supporters who had been arrested for leading demonstrators, Mr Odinga said.

Said Mr Odinga: “Yesterday’s victory by ODM in Parliament in the election of Speaker Kenneth Marende and his deputy, Mr Farah Maalim, shows that it will not be business as usual in Parliament.”

The ODM leader addressed a Press conference together with the party’s leading lights William Ruto, Najib Balala, Charity Ngilu and Joseph Nyaga shortly before they joined over 30 MPs in yet another attempt to gain entry into Uhuru Park.

Mr Odinga blamed the current political crisis in the country to the disputed presidential elections and accused President Kibaki, who had stood on a Party of National Unity ticket, of being in office illegally.

“This government has no international credibility, that is why it has deployed a big number of armed policemen throughout the country to stop our peaceful rallies,” the ODM leader said.

New Speaker pledges review of House rules

Publication Date: 1/16/2008

New Speaker Kenneth Marende has promised to introduce major reforms in Parliament which will include review of the rules and provision for live coverage.

Mr Marende also announced he would give Constitutional reforms priority during his five-year tenure.

Said the new Speaker in his acceptance speech: “The Tenth Parliament will have progressive reforms which will see the standing orders reviewed and modernised.”

Electronic voting

Mr Marende, who is the Emuhaya MP-elect on an ODM ticket, disclosed he would also ensure electronic voting was introduced in the august House.

The former member of the parliamentary committee on justice and legal affairs in the Ninth Parliament that was chaired by former Kabete MP Paul Muite said he will also ensure Kenyans get a new Constitution as soon as possible.

Turning to the 207 MPs who voted both for him and his major opponent Francis ole Kaparo, Mr Marende challenged them to ensure they hold the House in dignity at all times.

Mr Kaparo was the former Speaker and was backed by President Kibaki and his Party of National unity MPs and their colleagues in affiliate parties.

Marende got 105 votes while Mr Kaparo garnered 101.

Mr Marende told the MPs to make the rules and respect them so that the public would do likewise.

Most competitive

The new Speaker described the polls as most competitive.

On his vision, Mr Marende said “I will be dynamic, competent and an honest Speaker. I will also make sure that Parliament remains alert to the needs of the people. And I will ask you not to look at my lips but at my heart.”

The youthful Speaker told the attentive House that he would work with dignity and diligence to promote the image of the august House at all times.

“As your Speaker, I will defend all members rights because you are the true spokesmen of the people,” he said.

Quoting from former British Prime minister Winston Churchill, the Speaker told the members that they should register their aspirations and learn from the past.

Mr Marende said he was proud of winning honourably, saying that is how democracy should be carried out.

The Speaker expressed confidence in democracy saying it can work in Africa, contrary to some views by its critics.

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