NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s police said on Friday that a protest the opposition plans to hold next week is illegal and participants could be arrested, setting the scene for potential confrontation.
Three protesters were killed a similar march on May 23 in clashes with police and three other demonstrations have also turned violent.
The protests, organized by opposition leader Raila Odinga’s
Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), are against alleged bias in Kenya’s election commission. CORD called for a fresh protest on Monday, ending a one-week break for a dialogue that did not happen.
CORD wants the electoral commission scrapped. Its electronic vote results transmission system collapsed during the 2013 election that brought President Uhuru Kenyatta to power, beating Odinga, a result disputed by the opposition.
The next elections are not due until August 2017 but politicians are already trying to rally supporters in a country prone to strife during elections. Deadly violence erupted after a 2007 vote.
“The #CORDdemos will be on this Monday, following breached dialogue agreements,” CORD said on Twitter. The opposition had hoped to speak with lawmakers allied to the government and election commission officials.
“#IEBCMustGo & we shall take nothing less for an answer,” it said, referring to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
Police said in a statement on Friday it had declined to honor CORD’s notification to march, saying it would be in contravention of a court order issued on May 26 barring any demonstrations against IEBC.
“Similarly, we wish to caution any other person or persons wishing to stage unauthorized counter-demonstrations that they will be in breach of the law and therefore risk arrest and prosecution,” the statement said.
IEBC officials have dismissed the allegations of bias and say they will stay.
On Friday, Kenyatta reiterated his call for CORD to end the protests, saying parliament’s legal committee was ready to start hearing public views on how to reform the IEBC.
”We want dialogue like yesterday but it must be held within the confines of the law. Dialogue is not about going to the streets or meeting in tea rooms,” Kenyatta’s office quoted him saying.
Reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by Robin Pomeroy