NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga denounced the point-blank firing of a tear gas canister at local journalists during his last anti-government protest as a “primitive act of intolerance”, and vows to go to court for what he called an attempt on his own life.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, the 78-year-old former presidential candidate spoke more about his complaints about last year’s election, a defeat upheld by Kenya’s high court, than about rising prices or other issues. painful economics. affecting Kenyans in general.
Known for his leading role in the fight for multi-party democracy decades ago, Odinga warned on Friday against attempts by the government of President William Ruto to outlaw the current protests.
“It is a violation of the fundamental right to demonstrate,” said Odinga, who vowed to continue the protests twice a week. in the capital, nairobiand in other places that started last week and have been marked sometimes by violence.
He spoke before traveling to Kisumu, his stronghold in western Kenya, which has also been rocked by protests.
The independent Police Supervisory Authority has said it is investigating four incidents in which protesters have been shot and killed by police since the demonstrations began (Odinga said his party is still collecting a casualty toll) and private property belonging to the family. of former President Uhuru Kenyatta has been attacked. Police Inspector General Japhet Koome said one officer was killed after protests on Thursday and 20 were seriously injured.
Diplomats, human rights groups and religious leaders have expressed alarm as many remember Kenya’s deadly 2007 post-election violence, and the African Union has called for dialogue. US Senator Chris Coons met this week with Odinga and the Kenyan vice president.
As images circulated on social media of a man firing tear gas at a vehicle and injuring journalists, the Kenyan Media Council called Thursday March 2023 the “darkest month for Kenyan media since the outcry for the multiparty democracy” in the 1980s.
Odinga claimed there was an attempt on his life on Thursday as he was touring Nairobi’s neighborhoods gathering thousands of residents. He showed The Associated Press dents in his armored vehicle that he said were left by bullets.
“We could hear gunshots and we thought they were shooting into the air, but we heard the car was hit multiple times,” Odinga said.
“That’s when I decided to take cover and lie down on the seat. There is no doubt that the intent was basically to kill, an attempt on my life, which is unfortunate. So, if this vehicle was not armored, the story would be another, ”she said.
Next to his official vehicle were two escort cars whose rear windshields were smashed. Inside the vehicles the strong smell of tear gas was still perceptible.
Odinga says he has instructed his lawyers to go to court over the incident.
As the chaos unfolded, the Kenyan president was elsewhere in Nairobi promoting the country as a “regional investment destination” at a US Chamber of Commerce summit.
Ruto last commented on the protests on Tuesday during a visit to Europe, when he said Kenyans must obey the rule of law.
Odinga said he has not had contact with Ruto since the protests began. “We say that we are ready with the conditions for negotiations, but the other party is being dismissive, they are not listening,” he said.
Anti-government protests will continue on Monday and Thursday until the government listens to opposition demands on last year’s elections and on the economy, Odinga said.
“We are saying that the high cost of living is not something to be expected. Kenyans have suffered seriously, and we are saying the subsidies must be reinstated now,” he said, referring to the popular fuel and corn subsidies that the Ruto government ended.
The year-on-year inflation rate in Kenya was 9.2% in February, according to the Kenya Office of National Statistics, largely driven by rising food, fuel and transport prices. The price of basic fortified corn flour rose 21.5% compared to the previous year.
Amid the frustration of many Kenyans, Home Secretary Kithure Kindiki, who oversees the police, warned on Wednesday that the violence and disruption of daily life “herald a real and imminent danger of our country slipping an irreparable anarchy”.
Odinga said the people looting and attacking are criminals who should be dealt with within the law, but he blamed it outside of his supporters.
“Gangs are imported into the city to make it look like the protesters are causing chaos. Those are organized groups,” she asserted.