Police tear-gassed opposition supporters in two of Kenya’s biggest cities on Monday as they protested at the country’s election watchdog, which is due to referee a re-run presidential poll this month.
Hundreds of opposition protesters in the capital Nairobi, the western city of Kisumu and the port of Mombasa demonstrated against the current Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
Opposition leaders say the panel, in its present form, should be barred from managing the October 26 vote after the Supreme Court annulled the original August election, citing widespread “illegalities and irregularities”.
The judges ruled the IEBC had produced a presidential election that was “neither transparent nor verifiable.”
Raila Odinga, head of the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA), has threatened to boycott the re-run if the election body is not overhauled and senior officials sacked.
He called last month for biweekly protests against the IEBC, beginning Monday.
In the opposition stronghold of Kisumu on the shores of Lake Victoria, up to 500 demonstrators erected barricades and burned tyres before police used tear gas, baton charges and warning shots to disperse the crowd.
“We will not stop demonstrating until Chiloba is out,” said Hillary Ojwang, referring to the controversial chief executive of the IEBC, Ezra Chiloba, whom opposition lawyers want prosecuted.
In downtown Nairobi, police played cat-and-mouse with demonstrators, firing tear gas whenever they formed groups.
In the seaside city of Mombasa, hundreds of opposition supporters gathered peacefully and were not confronted by police.
Since the annulment of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory, in which he was credited with 54 percent of the vote, both sides have engaged in increasingly bitter rhetoric.
In a joint statement on Monday ambassadors — including from the United States and European Union — said they were “deeply concerned by the deterioration in the political atmosphere” and urged “genuine dialogue” with the IEBC.
Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party government, which has a majority in parliament, has ruled out any major shake-up of the IEBC.
Instead, it wants to push through changes to the electoral law that opposition critics say will simply legalise some of the faults cited by the Supreme Court.