| 1 December 2023, Friday |

Opposition arrests, tear gas fired at Kenyan protests

Hundreds of people demonstrated against President William Ruto, the high cost of living, and allegations of election fraud in Kenya, and police responded by using tear gas and detaining many top opposition figures.

In an effort to mobilize opposition to the president, Raila Odinga, who was defeated by Ruto in the election of August, has called for widespread protests.

The discontented include some of those who voted for Ruto and feel he has not not delivered on pledges to help the country’s forgotten “hustlers,” or working class Kenyans.

Police officers in riot gear fired tear gas at hundreds of rock-throwing protesters in the capital Nairobi’s vast Kibera slum, who chanted: “Ruto must go.”

They also used tear gas to disperse demonstrators trying to gather in the Central Business District, from where Odinga has called for a march toward the president’s State House residence, Reuters reporters said.

In the western city of Kisumu, an Odinga stronghold, police fired barrages of tear gas in the direction of protesters who had started fires in the road, footage on Citizen TV showed.

At least four members of parliament were arrested during protests in Nairobi, including the minority leaders of the National Assembly and Senate, Odinga’s spokesman, Dennis Onyango, said.

Nairobi police chief Adamson Bungei said he would have details about the arrests later in the day.

Despite Ruto’s promises to bring down living costs since taking power in September, inflation has remained high in East Africa’s economic powerhouse, rising to 9.2% in February.

Ruto has said his government is laying the foundations of a healthier economy, including by cutting reliance on borrowing.

Odinga, who has lost five presidential elections, has cast the demonstration as an opportunity to protest the August vote, which he says was tainted by fraud.

He challenged the results in the Supreme Court last year, but the court affirmed Ruto’s win and there was little of the violence that marred elections in 2007 and 2017.

  • Reuters