President William Ruto said on Tuesday that all Kenyans must obey the law, a day after anti-government protests turned violent, with police firing tear gas and looting.
The African Union later appealed for calm and political dialogue demonstrations Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s call sparked protests in Nairobi and the western city of Kisumu.
The veteran opposition leader has called for regular protests every Monday and Thursday, accusing the government of stealing last year’s election and failing to control the rising cost of living.
Ruto, who is on a diplomatic visit to Germany, said impunity would not be tolerated and that all Kenyans must submit to the rule of law.
“That is what makes us equal. No one should trample on the rights of others.
“We have deliberately offered operational and financial freedom to the police to function. It is their duty to ensure that everyone follows the rule of law,” he said.
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On Monday, police fired tear gas in Nairobi and Kisumu – an Odinga stronghold – to disperse crowds, aiming canisters at cars carrying journalists in the capital.
Officers also used tear gas and water cannons as Odinga’s motorcade passed through a congested area of Nairobi and rushed to rescue people.
A man was shot dead in Kisumu, the head of the city’s main hospital told AFP, the second since protests began last Monday when a university student died in police firing. .
Demonstrators rejected warnings from Inspector General of Police Japhet Koum that the demonstrations were “illegal”.
The head of the AU commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, expressed “deep concern” over the violence on Tuesday and appealed for calm.
“The president urges all stakeholders to maintain calm and engage in dialogue to resolve any differences that may exist in the supreme interest of national integration and reconciliation,” Faki’s office said in a statement.
Faki “expressed deep concern over the violence … which has resulted in loss of life, damage to property and disruption of some economic activities,” his office said.
‘Stop this madness’
Hundreds of looters descended on former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s sprawling farm on the outskirts of Nairobi, stealing sheep and chopping down trees before setting a section of the property on fire.
Kenyatta supported Odinga’s candidacy in the presidential election in August last year after falling out with his former deputy Ruto.
The gang also targeted Odinga’s gas company, Specter International Limited, in Nairobi.
The violence has sparked concern among Kenyans, who are already grappling with skyrocketing inflation and a jobs crisis.
The Daily Nation newspaper on Tuesday ran the headlines, “Stop this madness.”
The National Reconciliation and Integration Commission, a peace-building body set up after the 2007–2008 post-election clashes that left more than 1,100 dead, has also called for dialogue “as a means to move our country forward”. called.
“The indiscriminate destruction of cars, mosques, churches, etc. is not acceptable and is condemned in the strongest terms,” commission chairman Samuel Kobia said in a statement on Tuesday.
Koome said two police vehicles were destroyed in the chaos and 23 officers were injured.
“Our investigation into the destruction and injuries has begun and those found guilty will face the law,” he said in a statement.
Police said they had received reports of disturbance at the properties of Kenyatta and Odinga and had “reacted swiftly and prevented further crimes”.
Ruto, who is on a four-day visit to Germany and Belgium, last week urged his rival to end the demonstrations.
“I am telling Raila Odinga that if he has a problem with me, he should face me and stop terrorizing the country,” he said on Thursday.
Many Kenyans are struggling to put food on the table, battling high prices for basic goods as well as a plunging local currency and a record drought that has left millions hungry.
During the election campaign, Ruto portrayed himself as a champion of the downtrodden and vowed to reform many ordinary Kenyans.
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But he has since removed subsidies for fuel and maize flour – a dietary staple.
And last week, Kenya’s energy regulatory body announced a hike in electricity prices from next month, despite Ruto insisting there would be no such increase in January.
By: Hillary Orinde © Agence France-Presse