Kenyan riot police fired tear gas at demonstrators gathered in Nairobi on Monday for a day of action called by the opposition to protest the country’s punishing cost of living crisis.
The government of President William Ruto has vowed to take a tough stance on the protests, which opposition leader Raila Odinga has said will take place despite the lack of police authorization.
Demonstrators also threw rocks at anti-riot police outside government offices in the capital, and about two dozen people were arrested, including two opposition MPs, according to witnesses.
We will be here until they run out of tear gas,” said Markings Nyamweya, a 27-year-old protester. Demonstrators also set fire to tyres in Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum, according to AFP journalists.
“I want Kenyans to come out in large numbers and express their dissatisfaction with what is happening in our country,” Odinga, who narrowly lost the election to Ruto last year, told supporters on Sunday.
Kenyans are suffering from rising food prices, a sharp drop in the local shilling against the US dollar, and a record drought that has left millions hungry.
“We came here peacefully, but they tear-gassed us,” said 21-year-old Charles Oduor. “Every day, they deceive us. Where is the low-cost maize flour that was promised? Where are the promised jobs for the youth? They only hire their friends.”
Nairobi police chief Adamson Bungei said on Sunday that police received requests to hold two demonstrations only late Saturday and early Sunday, despite the fact that public rallies typically require three days’ notice. “Neither has been granted for public safety,” he said.
The cost of living is skyrocketing.’
On Sunday, Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki warned that anyone inciting public disorder or disturbing the peace would face criminal charges.
“Day of the showdown,” declared the headline in Kenya’s The Standard newspaper on Monday. Many Nairobi businesses were closed ahead of the protests, and some employers told their employees to work from home.
Odinga stated that he called the protests in response to the “skyrocketing” cost of living and the “stolen” election last August. “Since Mr Ruto’s inauguration six months ago, he has continued to run the country with a lot of contempt,” he said, citing the high cost of basic necessities such as fuel, cooking oil, school fees, and electricity.
Odinga, leader of the Azimio la Umoja party, has long protested that the August election was fraudulent and denounced Ruto’s government as “illegitimate”.
According to official results, Odinga, who was running for president for the fifth time, was defeated by Ruto by around 233,000 votes, one of the narrowest margins in the country’s history.
The Supreme Court dismissed his appeals, with its judges unanimously ruling in favour of Ruto, finding no evidence to support Odinga’s allegations.
Ruto, for his part, declared that the opposition demonstrations would not intimidate him, saying, “You are not going to threaten us with ultimatums, chaos, and impunity.” “We will not allow that,” he said, calling on Odinga to act in a “legal and constitutional manner”.