Kenyan opposition supporters gather next to a burning barricade during anti-government protests in Nairobi on July 19, 2023. AFP
The opposition has called for three days of countrywide protests starting Wednesday in a new wave of demonstrations aimed at forcing the president to address the rising cost of living.
President William Ruto had vowed that no protests would take place in the country, saying he would take on opposition leader Raila Odinga “head-on.”
Four protesters were injured in the capital, Nairobi’s Mathare area, according to a police officer who wished to remain anonymous as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Businesses in Nairobi remained closed on Wednesday as police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters.
Demonstrations were reported in several other parts of the country including the western counties of Kisumu, Migori and Kisii where the opposition enjoys huge support. Police on Tuesday said the Wednesday protests were illegal as no permit had been issued.
Day schools in Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa were ordered to close by the education minister.
Last week’s protests left more than six people dead and many others injured, including 53 children who went into shock after tear gas was thrown inside their school compound.
Religious leaders have been calling for dialogue between the government and the opposition to end the protests.
Catholic bishops led by Anthony Muheria on Wednesday issued a statement reiterating that “no further blood should be shed” and urged the president to repeal the newly passed Finance Act that has agitated Kenyans.
The new finance law has raised the price of fuel to its highest as the government implements a doubling of value added tax on petroleum products to 16%. The new prices have taken effect despite a court order suspending the implementation of the controversial new taxes.
Western envoys from 13 countries on Tuesday issued a joint statement calling for dialogue and expressed concern over the loss of lives and destruction of property.
Rights’ group, Human Rights Watch, on Tuesday urged political leaders to stop labelling protesters as “terrorists” and respect the right to peaceful protests. The group called out the police for using force and live bullets to confront protesters.
The right to peaceful protests is enshrined in the Kenyan constitution but the opposition has in the past held violent protests that have resulted to deaths.