Demonstrations in Kenya against an electoral oversight body accused of being corrupt have resulted in two people being shot dead by the police. The opposition says it will go on staging these protests every Monday.
The protests, which have been held every Monday for the past four weeks, are organized by Kenya's main opposition group, the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD). In Siaya County, in western Kenya, two demonstrators were shot dead by the police on Monday, May 23, according to local authorities. Police teargassed demonstrators in opposition strongholds in Mombasa and Kisumu, Kenya's second and third largest cities. They also used tear gas to disperse protesters in the Kibera slum of Nairobi. Demonstrators there responded by throwing stones.
Authorities announced the arrest of seven people in Mombasa, where businesses stayed closed for fear of looting. According to unconfirmed media reports, Senator Bonny Khalwale was arrested by police as he led a demonstration in Kakamega town.
The protests have been met with growing violence by the police. Dozens of people were injured in the past four weeks, prompting the Kenya National Commission of Human Rights to accuse the police of using "gruesome violence" to break up demonstrations against the IEBC. CORD believes the commission is biased against the opposition.
Kenya's next presidential and parliamentary polls are not due until August 2017, but politicians are already trying to mobilize their supporters. Kenya went through a deadly wave of violence in the aftermath of elections in 2007. While violence was averted in 2013, the outcome of the elections was hotly contested by the opposition.
CORD is led by Raila Odinga, who lost the 2013 vote to President Uhuru Kenyatta and went on to unsuccessfully challenge the results in court. He has been very vocal in calling for the members of the IEBC to quit. The commission's officials reject all accusations of bias and say they will not step down.
No solution in sight
President Uhuru Kenyatta has called on the opposition to stop the violence. His deputy, Vice President William Ruto, accused the protests' organizers of attempting to destabilize and bring violence to the country. "The demonstrations will only lead to destruction and division among Kenyans. They will bring death and Kenyans will spill innocent blood. This will be of no use to any Kenyan," Ruto warned.
But CORD has vowed to keep up the protests, insisting in a statement issued on Sunday, on Kenyans' right "to assemble peaceably and to direct the widest possible attention to a great national issue."
Deputy opposition leader Kalonzo Musyoka, a former vice president, said that his supporters will continue to stage demonstrations every Monday until the Kenyan government agrees to address their grievances via dialogue or any other means possible. "All we are saying is that we want to call this nation to serious dialogue, and dialogue can never be harmful to a person who wields the executive authority over the affairs of this nation," Kalonzo said.
Independent analysts believe the opposition has a point concerning the IEBC. Ambrose Weda said that the credibility of the IEBC commissioners has been tarnished when it became known that President Kenyatta played a major role in appointing its members. "The only way out for them is to get out, and that is inevitable," this political analyst believes. Nevertheless, he maintains that demonstrations are not the way to solve the issue, and that "CORD should just follow the due process," Weda told DW.
Andrew Wasike in Nairobi contributed to this report.