Kenyan Capital Maintains Uneasy Calm After Election Protests
After a night of protests against a disputed election, an uneasy calm prevailed across most of the Kenyan capital on Saturday, as residents stayed home, shops and markets remained shut and the police and paramilitary forces maintained a heavy presence.
President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner late Friday of an Aug. 8 vote the electoral commission said was free and fair. The main opposition National Super Alliance said the commission’s computer system was hacked to rig the results and warned that its supporters would rise up in response.
Protesters spilled onto the streets of several of Nairobi’s slums, including the southwestern areas of Kibera and Kawangware, soon after the outcome was announced, setting dwellings alight and looting shops, as police used teargas to disperse them. There were also protests in Kisumu, an opposition stronghold in western Kenya, where the Associated Press reported two people were killed.
The unrest had abated in Kawangware by Saturday morning, residents said.
“We are expecting peace,” said Gilbert Githinji, 58, who sells hardware and electrical goods from a stall in the area. “We are not worried. The government is ready to deal with this. I think things will be back to normal on Monday.”
The situation remained tense in Kibera, Nairobi’s biggest slum, where small groups of demonstrators used rocks and burning tires to barricade a road before being dispersed by the paramilitary. The sound of several shots being fired could be heard.
“They have not delivered what we have voted for,” said Wycliffe Ochieng, a 20-year-old laborer from Kibera. “People are very angry. We have to protest, because they are going against our wishes. The police are using teargas and live bullets. We have not had any information of anyone being hurt.”
Fred Matiang’i, the acting interior secretary, said that apart from the flareups in Kibera and Kisumu, the country remained calm and peaceful.
“By and large, lives have returned to normal,” he told reporters in Nairobi. “There have been erratic incidents of lawlessness. The security forces have reported that they have responded appropriately and they have restored normalcy in most of these areas. Our country is safe, our country is secure. I do not know of any casualties as we speak right now. Police have not used any disproportionate force.”
Three civil-rights groups contradicted Matiang’i, saying they had received reports that excessive force had been used to break up post-election protests in at least 12 areas.
The security forces’ actions have “led to the loss of lives and destruction of property,” the Coalition for Constitution Implementation Kenya, the Coalition for Grassroots Human Rights Defenders Kenya and Bunge la Mwananchi said by email. “We call on the international community and other stakeholders to intervene to stop the situation from deteriorating further and to stem further injuries and loss of lives.”
Kenyatta, 55, won about 54 percent of the vote, while his main rival, Raila Odinga, 72, garnered almost 45 percent, tallies released by the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission showed. The opposition said the commission flouted counting procedures and failed to provide documents to back up its tallies.
“We are not in a hurry to say what we are going to do” to overturn the outcome, Kathleen Openda, a spokeswoman for the National Super Alliance, said by phone.
Kenya elections have routinely been marred by violence since the country became a multiparty democracy in 1991. At least 1,100 people died in the wake of a disputed 2007 vote that Odinga lost to Mwai Kibaki, and about 350,000 people were forced to flee their homes.
“The post-election environment will again center on the electoral commission and serious allegations of fraud by the opposition,” said Ahmed Salim, vice president at Teneo Strategy in Dubai. “Despite Kenyatta’s margin of victory, the president will not enjoy a honeymoon period and will have to make some tough decisions in government, while maintaining unity in a country that remains bitterly divided.”
Protracted turmoil could derail an economy that’s grown an average of 5.7 percent a year since Kenyatta took power in 2013, and threaten its reputation as a top African investment and tourist destination. The country is the world’s largest exporter of black tea and a regional hub for companies including Google Inc. and General Electric Co.
Kenyans are “focused on issues such as economic growth, unemployment and inequality,” Rachel Riedl, an associate professor of political science and African studies at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, said by email. “Citizens on the ground are highly conscious of the costs of violence, and the public conversations are about avoiding violence and having peaceful elections.” Read more at:https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-12/uneasy-calm-returns-t...
By Michael Cohen
and Samuel Gebre