3 dead as Kenyan police attack electoral reform demos

Pupils flee yesterday during the protests in Kibera, Nairobi. At least three people were killed in violent protests that rocked parts of the country. (PHOTO:BONIFACE OKENDO/ STANDARD)

At least two people died Monday when Kenya’s police shot, beat and tear gassed demonstrators across the country who called for the electoral commission to be dissolved due to allegations of bias and corruption.

The two were shot dead in Siaya County, in western Kenya on the shore of Lake Victoria, according to Bonny Odinga, the county’s communications director.

The protests, held each Monday for the past four weeks, come before elections next year and are organized by Kenya’s main opposition group, the Coalitions for Reforms and Democracy. Last week the U.S. and human rights activists condemned the violence displayed by Kenyan police in which one man was killed.

Police Inspector General Joseph Boinnet said he would not permit the demonstrations because the opposition group did not notify police of their intent. The organization says the right to picket is constitutionally guaranteed. Senator James Orengo, a protest organizer, said the opposition notified police of the alleged intent of government allied legislators to hire goons to disrupt the protests.

In the capital, Nairobi, police tear-gassed demonstrators in the Kibera area, who were trying to make their way to the city center where electoral commission offices are. Demonstrators responded by throwing stones. In the central business district The Associated Press reporters said police were tear gassing gatherings of five people or more covering the area in noxious smoke.

Police also tear-gassed demonstrators in opposition strongholds in Mombasa and Kisumu, Kenya’s second and third largest cities. Opposition Senator Boni Khalwale was arrested leading protests in the town of Kakamega.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman Isaack Hassan said the commission will not be disbanded and challenged the opposition to provide evidence of the alleged corruption and bias.