Nairobi electoral protest turns violent

Police clash with opposition supporters during demonstration for reform of electoral commission.

Anti-riot police clashed with protesters demanding the dissolution of the Kenyan electoral board during a demonstration in central Nairobi on 16 May.

The protesters showed up in their thousands to support opposition leader and former premier Raila Odinga who accuses the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) of favouring the so-called Jubilee coalition of president Uhuru Kenyatta ahead of the August 2017 general election.

Anti-riot police responded to the stone-throwing protestors with tear gas and water cannon, resulting in numerous arrests and hospitalisations. Nairobi police chief Japeth Koome defended the actions of his officers, saying they were forced to react after protesters began looting and harassing bystanders.

The demonstration was the third in Nairobi over the last three weeks and Odinga has vowed that the protests will continue every Monday until the electoral body is dissolved.

Odinga says he is concerned that unless the electoral commission is reformed next year's general election could see a repeat of the violence witnessed in early 2008 in the aftermath of the country's 2007 presidential election.

The 2007 results were disputed by supporters of Odinga who was beaten by a small margin by Mwai Kibaki, resulting in two months of ethnic violence across Kenya. At least 1,220 people were killed and between 180,000 and 250,000 are thought to have been displaced.

Odinga eventually became prime minister in a unity government in 2008 until 2013 before standing again for president, losing to incumbent Kenyatta. Odinga also disputed the results of that election in which he won 43.70 per cent of the vote compared to the 50.51 per cent of Kenyatta who won outright on the first round.

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