Kenya plunged headfirst into a political face-off yesterday as opposition leaders swore to disregard a government ban on protests in main downtown regions and take to the streets again on Friday, and every day starting Monday.
Kenya’s opposition has stated the upcoming Oct. 26 presidential election even more uncertain than the ballot in August, which the country’s Supreme Court ruled invalid.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who lost to President Uhuru Kenyatta in the Aug. 8 poll, announced he was withdrawing from the fresh election because the ballot couldn’t be deemed reliable, but IEBC said that the election will be held anyway.
Onlookers including the U.S. State Department are now articulating their concern that mounting anxiety between Kenya’s two leading national political camps could lead to fresh clash. A decade ago, extensive violence blew up after contested elections in 2007, in which 1,200 were killed and 600,000 displaced.
Some warned that the new ban on protests, announced yesterday, may itself become the milieu for violence.
“This ban, announced just two weeks ahead of a burdened repeat presidential election, is prone to become a source for ham-fisted police crackdowns,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for East Africa.
Kenya has already brimmed with periodic political violence during this election cycle. At least 17 protesters were hospitalized on Wednesday with bullet wounds and other injuries, said medical workers in Kisumu, an opposition stronghold. A new report by an independent human rights group established that 37 people were killed in protests instantaneously following the Aug. 8 poll.
Odinga traveled to the UK on Wednesday night, where he is anticipated to speak to a political forum called “Kenya’s Next Test; Democracy, Elections and the Rule of Law Research.” He is expected to return to Kenya on Saturday.