Kenya rocked by electoral reforms protests | Africa | DW | 02.10.2017
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Kenya rocked by electoral reforms protests

At least one person has died during protests in major towns in Kenya. Opposition leader Raila Odinga called for the demonstrations, aimed at forcing out key officials at the electoral commission.

The major cities of Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu witnessed violent confrontations on Monday as police engaged opposition supporters in running battles in a bid to disperse them. The protests happened following a directive from presidential candidate Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance (NASA) conglomeration of opposition groups.

Read more: Raila Odinga: 'No electoral changes, no election in Kenya'

Red Cross officials released a statement in Siaya County, an opposition stronghold, confirming the death of a 41-year-old man. The statement says he died of shock during the protests after a teargas canister exploded next him.

 Raila Odinga (picture alliance/AP Photo/B. Curtis)

Opposition leader Raila Odinga says electoral reforms must come before an election re-run

Odinga urged NASA supporters to storm the streets in a bid to force several commissioners on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to resign. He accuses Ezra Chiloba, the IEBC's chief electoral officer, of enabling what he considers to be the fraudulent results of August's election which gave incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta victory. 

That result was subsequently annulled; Kenyatta and Odinga are currently scheduled to compete a re-run of the election in October.

Read morePresident Uhuru Kenyatta decries 'coup' as Kenya delays election

Kenya facing political test

Opposition supporters hurled stones at unsuspecting motorists injuring some who were later rushed to the hospital, one protester told DW they would keep on demonstrating. "Protests are not protests without teargas, we have to fight for our rights. We have done nothing wrong we are just demanding for our rights." Another said the police officers should ensure that the protests were safe. "Kenya's unity is under political test, it is our right to demonstrate without fear."

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Kenya's Raila Odinga rejects new election date

Meanwhile, foreign envoys in Kenya issued a statement urging both sides of Kenyan politics to stop undermining the IEBC. 

"We are deeply concerned by the deterioration in the political atmosphere and the impact this has had on preparations for the election," the statement said. "Do not paralyze the IEBC. It would be impossible to remake the IEBC in a way that satisfies all political demands."

US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec criticized a move by Jubilee lawmakers to change electoral laws at a time of tension.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (Getty Images/AFP/T. Karumba)

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has accused the opposition of holding the nation to ransom

"Well-established international best practice is to avoid changes to electoral rules just prior to an election," Godec said. He said if IEBC personnel were to be removed, it should only be done by the appropriate authorities and should be consistent with the laws and relevant regulations.

Read more: Kenya: Election re-run in doubt amid technology issues and high court hearings

"If and when appropriate, we will take steps under US law to hold people accountable, I will say that obviously visa bans and other travel measures are one possibility."

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