The Kenyan police have used tear gas and arrested several senior opposition politicians as hundreds of people protested against President William Ruto, the high cost of living and claims of cheating in last year’s election.
Veteran political figure Raila Odinga, who lost to Ruto in August’s poll, has urged nationwide protests as he attempts to harness dissatisfaction with the president.
The discontented include some who voted for Ruto and feel he has not delivered on pledges to help the country’s forgotten “hustlers”, or working-class Kenyans.
Police officers in riot gear fired tear gas at hundreds of rock-throwing protesters in the capital Nairobi’s vast Kibera slum, who chanted: “Ruto must go.”
They also used tear gas to disperse demonstrators trying to gather in the Central Business District, from where Odinga has called for a march towards the president’s State House residence, Reuters reporters said.
Kenyan police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters in Nairobi after opposition leader Raila Odinga called for protests against the rising costs of living and what he calls the “stolen” election he lost in 2022 ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/5zygDDL1oH
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) March 20, 2023
In the western city of Kisumu, an Odinga stronghold, police fired barrages of tear gas in the direction of protesters who had started fires in the road, footage on Citizen TV showed.
At least four members of parliament were arrested during protests in Nairobi, including the minority leaders of the National Assembly and Senate, Odinga’s spokesman, Dennis Onyango, said.
Nairobi police chief Adamson Bungei told reporters he would have details about the arrests later in the day.
Despite Ruto’s promises to bring down living costs since taking power in September, inflation has remained high in East Africa’s economic powerhouse, rising to 9.2 percent in February.
Ruto has said his government is laying the foundations of a healthier economy, including by cutting reliance on borrowing.
Odinga, who has lost five presidential elections, has cast the demonstration as an opportunity to protest against the August vote, which he says was tainted by fraud.
He challenged the results in the Supreme Court last year, but the court affirmed Ruto’s win and there was little of the violence that marred elections in 2007 and 2017.
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