Authorities in Kenya have prohibited protest rallies after police reportedly killed two demonstrators and injured several more. The government warned of "grave" consequences for those challenging the ban.
The Nairobi government accused the protesters of causing millions in property damage during their marches.
"To avert further violence, destruction of property and loss of life, from today the government prohibits all unlawful demonstrations in the country," the Interior Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
For the last six weeks, government critics have been staging protests against the Kenyan electoral commission, which they accuse of being biased towards the ruling coalition of President Uhuru Kenyatta. The opposition also claims that the regulators are too corrupt and incompetent to monitor the next election in August 2017.
High Court backs rallies
Kenyan police had already banned the protests and warned that they were prepared to use force. On Monday, however, the nation's High Court said that the rallies were legal and ordered the police to protect the protesters.
On the same day, the police allegedly killed two people in the opposition stronghold of Kisumu, with witnesses reporting at least six more injured during the march to electoral commission offices in the city. A 6-year-old boy was reportedly hit in the back by a police bullet.
While announcing the new ban on Tuesday, Internal Security Minister Joseph Nkaissery said chaos was not within the parameters set by the constitutional court and warned against disobedience.
"It is extremely dangerous for anybody to challenge the government decision. The consequences are grave," he said.
Ban to be 'treated with contempt'
The Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) said that the right to demonstrate was guaranteed by the constitution.
"Clearly ... Nkaissery is living in the past. His utterances smack of an old colonial order that is laden with the impunity of the past," said CORD representative Norman Magaya.
The opposition would organize new rallies on Monday and Thursday next week, he added.
"Unlawful orders must be treated with contempt," Magaya said.
Western ambassadors in the African country have criticized the police for using too much force and called for political dialogue between the government and its critics.
dj/kms (AP, Reuters)