Kenya's rival political parties stage demos over poll body

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/9/27 8:51:59

Political tension is rising in Kenya as the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) on Tuesday began countrywide protests against electoral commission officials who it accuses of bungling the Aug. 8 presidential polls.

NASA's main rival, the ruling Jubilee Party, staged counter protests in support of the electoral commission officials.

The rival demonstrations have deepened divisions between the two sides.

NASA leader Raila Odinga on Sunday called for supporters to protest for the removal of at least five officials, including the chief executive of the Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission, as he pushes for reforms at the electoral agency ahead of Oct. 26 repeat polls.

Odinga's supporters in Nairobi and other parts of the country heeded his call and poured onto the streets, calling for the resignation of the electoral commission officials.

In Kisumu, his main bastion, demonstrators blocked roads and lit bonfires blocking roads in protests that lasted for several hours.

"We are beginning these peaceful protests to force electoral commission officials to quit so that we can have a credible election," said Odinga on Tuesday.

Supporters of ruling Jubilee Party, on the other hand, rallied in Nairobi but in support of the under-siege electoral commission officials, with police firing teargas to prevent the protestors from clashing. Tear gas and water cannons were also used.

"NASA has no monopoly of protests. We are ready to defend electoral commission," said Kimani Ichungwa, a Jubilee lawmaker.

The protests disrupted business and traffic in parts of the capital's central business district, leading to tension.

Analysts warned that the protests are raising political temperatures ahead of the Oct. 26 elections as they create a non-conducive environment to host fair and credible elections.

"As a country we are hurtling towards a dangerous path as we create an environment where impunity and chaos would thrive," said Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi.

Wandera noted that the protests are fuelling animosity, especially between supporters of the two main political groupings.

"We have seen some of the protestors armed with crude weapons, which is a sign of very bad times," he said. "It seems like people are ready to fight to defend whatever courses they believe in."

NASA said the protests would go on until the electoral commission officials quit to pave way for another team to restore confidence in the institution.

"This is where we were sometime towards the end of last year. NASA called for protests to push out the previous electoral commission," Wandera said. "They succeeded in their plan but it seems the move paid no dividend as the elections were cancelled, and we are back to the same spot."

Wandera said the ongoing protests portend bad times for Kenya as they poison the environment in which the elections should take place.

"Kenyan leaders must come together and iron out issues that affect the country," he said. "We are making several steps back as a country as politicians engage in unnecessary grandstanding."

Mukhisa Kituyi, a Kenyan who serves as secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, warned Tuesday that Kenya's global image is being shredded by the current "brinkmanship."

"I know President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga can rise above party positions," he said. "Please do."

Posted in: AFRICA

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