Kenya banned protests to demand electoral reforms after two people were killed in opposition-led marches on Monday, Interior Secretary Joseph Nkaissery said, a day after the High Court ruled that the demonstrations were legal.
The authorities will crack down on protests until negotiations resolve differences over electoral reforms. The opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy party has staged protests in the capital, Nairobi, and other cities since April to demand the resignation of officials at the electoral agency over alleged corruption. Eighteen civilians and 32 police officers were injured in protests across the country on Monday, Nkaissery said.
“The government has banned demonstrations beginning today whether it’s CORD or anybody else,” Nkaissery told reporters in Nairobi on Tuesday, flanked by Attorney General Githu Muigai and Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet. “It is extremely dangerous for anybody to challenge the government’s decision. The consequences are grave.”
With presidential elections scheduled for August 2017, the clashes have evoked memories of the political and ethnic conflict that erupted after a disputed vote in 2007 and claimed at least 1,100 lives. Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who heads CORD, poses the biggest political challenge to President Uhuru Kenyatta, 54.
CORD withdrew its members from a parliamentary committee on electoral reforms on Tuesday, saying it preferred instead talks at the “highest level.”
Ongoing political turmoil threatens to derail Kenya’s economy, one of a handful in sub-Saharan Africa that’s booming as it benefits from low oil prices, a stable exchange rate and slowing inflation. Dennis Awori, chairman of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, a business lobby group, warned last month that the protests were damaging the country’s image and scaring tourists away.
The International Monetary Fund expects Kenya’s economy to expand 6 percent this year and 6.1 percent in 2017, which would make it one of sub-Saharan Africa’s top five performers. The economy, East Africa’s largest, grew 5.6 percent last year, as an expansion of agriculture, manufacturing and construction offset a slowdown in tourism. Kenya is the world’s biggest exporter of black tea.
Kenya’s constitution says “every person has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, and to present petitions to public authorities.”
CORD has said it will intensify its protests to two marches every week. Kenyatta’s government continues to refuse to hold talks on reforming the Independent and Electoral and Boundaries Commission ahead of next year’s vote.