Hundreds arrested following deadly Kenya protestsThu, 13 Jul 2023 16:57:22 GMT

Kenya’s interior ministry on Thursday said more than 300 people had been arrested over anti-government protests that left nine dead as the opposition announced fresh demonstrations next week.There were violent clashes and looting on Wednesday in parts of the East African nation as protesters took to the streets over tax hikes in defiance of a government ban.Police have been accused of a heavy-handed response and criticised for using tear gas against civilians, including at a school, causing dozens of children to be hospitalised.Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s Azimio alliance said it would stage another demonstration next Wednesday, vowing to keep up the street action until economic pressures ease.”Acts of lawlessness… can neither be accepted nor tolerated”, Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki said.”There is no relationship between lowering the cost of living and destruction of critical infrastructure built using public funds. That is hooliganism, lawlessness, and a recipe for anarchy,” he said.”Security officers are directed to enforce the law firmly and decisively and deal with all criminals, including economic saboteurs, looters, and vandals, who are destroying… private property.”He said 312 people “who directly or indirectly planned, orchestrated, or financed” the protests had been arrested and would be charged, including a member of parliament who was later released.The unrest has claimed nine lives, according to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, an independent watchdog created by parliament, which said the figures were shared by the police.The commission called for an investigation into reports of looting, vandalism and incidents of police brutality, warning Kenya was “teetering on the brink of anarchy”.”It is essential for leaders across the political spectrum to prioritise the interests of the nation and its citizens over partisan interests,” it said.Kenya’s police watchdog, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority announced a probe into “reported fatalities resulting from gunshot injuries” as well as other incidents involving casualties or damage to property.Police said one man died in clashes between rival groups in Sondu on the border of Kericho and Kisumu, the latter an Odinga stronghold. Six people lost their lives when police fired on demonstrators in Mlolongo and Kitengela on Nairobi’s outskirts, and in Emali along the highway to Mombasa.Two others were killed in Migori and Busia in western Kenya, KNCHR said.- Children hospitalised -In Nairobi’s Kangemi slum, dozens of children were hospitalised, some unconscious, after tear gas was fired near their classrooms.The National Gender and Equality Commission, a state authority, condemned the incident.”School children… who should be shielded from such chaos, were tragically caught in the crossfire,” it said.Odinga initiated a string of anti-government rallies this year after losing to William Ruto in presidential elections last August — a vote he claims was “stolen”.Already hit by soaring inflation, many say Kenya can ill afford the disruption caused by the demonstrations, with six people killed in protests last week.Each day of protest costs the economy an average of three billion shillings ($21.8 million), according to the Kenya Private Sector Alliance.Last month, Ruto signed a new law aimed at generating more than $2.1 billion for government’s depleted coffers. The Finance Act provides for new taxes or increases on basic goods such as fuel and food and mobile money transfers, as well as a levy on all taxpayers to fund a housing scheme.