Chaos, injuries as Cord supporters clash with police in anti-IEBC demos

Monday May 16 2016

By NATION TEAM
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Opposition supporters on Monday clashed with police officers as they heeded their leaders’ call to storm IEBC offices countrywide to force the electoral body’s commissioners out of office.

Cord leader Raila Odinga's car was attacked, putting his life in danger, in the chaos.

It is was not clear whether a smash on his vehicle's windscreen was caused by a bullet or a from a stone.

Cord politicians Johnson Muthama (second left) and James Orengo (right) comfort an injured protester at Nairobi Hospital.

Cord politicians Johnson Muthama (second left) and James Orengo (right) comfort an injured protester at Nairobi Hospital. The man was shot by police during demonstrations against the IEBC in Nairobi on May 16, 2016. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

In Kisii town, police fired several times in the air and engaged the demonstrators in running battles.

The officers' action came barely minutes after Kisii County Governor James Ongwae and Senator Chris Obure had addressed the demonstrators at the county government headquarters.

"The commission cannot be trusted to oversee a free and fair election in the country. We therefore demand that it is disbanded and replaced by a new body," said senator Obure.

Governor Ongwae said the drive to disband the commission was not an opposition issue but a public one.

NO GOING BACK

"It is time for the government to listen to the voice of the people. We wish to live in peace, but at the same time we must have a commission that represents the wishes and aspirations of the majority of Kenyans," he said.

The demos, which started from Kisii Hotel, turned chaotic when the protesters attempted to force their way into the IEBC offices.

Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) youth leader Eric Janganya, one of the demo's leaders, said the party would not relent until the commission is disbanded.

"We will be back next Monday and every other Monday until the commission us disbanded," he said.

Security officers, led by Administration Police County Commander Mohammed Kutsola and OCPD Francis Kithinji, fired several rounds in the air to disperse the protesters.

A riot police officer clobbers a Cord supporter during a protest outside the headquarters of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in Nairobi on May 16, 2016.

A riot police officer clobbers a Cord supporter during a protest outside the headquarters of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in Nairobi on May 16, 2016. PHOTO | JOAN PERERUAN | NATION MEDIA GROUP

They engaged the Cord supporters in running battles that raged from the entrance to the IEBC offices to Gusii Stadium.

Another group that was dispersed also regrouped at the Daraja Moja bridge but was quickly dispersed by the police.

However, nor arrests were made.

ACTIVIST, MCAs INJURED

In Kisumu, two MCAs, an activist and an ODM official are nursing serious injuries after they were allegedly beaten by anti-riot police during the anti-IEBC demos.

Nereah Okombo (Manyatta B) and nominated member Pamela Odhiambo were rushed to hospital following injuries sustained during the protest.

An unknown number of people were also injured during the protest against the IEBC.

The riots, now in their third week, attracted a bigger crowd that split itself in three groups, a change of tact that creating a challenge to the authorities.

Ms Okombo suffered head injuries after she was hit by a tear-gas canister while Ms Odhiambo was roughed up by officers from the Quick Response Team wing of the Administration Police.

Just before Ms Odhiambo was attacked by the police officers, she was standing a few meters from the IEBC Nyanza regional office washing her face after she was overwhelmed by tear gas.

A man is clobbered on the head by a police officer as demonstrators were dispersed in Kisumu during anti-IEBC demos on May 16, 2016. PHOTO | TOM OTIENO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A man is clobbered on the head by a police officer as demonstrators were being dispersed in Kisumu during anti-IEBC demos on May 16, 2016. PHOTO | TOM OTIENO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

HAD SURRENDERED

Her attempt to raise her hands in the air to show she had surrendered and was ignored as one officer hit her several times with a baton amid shouts and screams from other rioters.

Ms Okombo was rushed to Kisumu’s Aga Khan Hospital, where by noon, where her head wounds were stitched.

The activist, George Obala, was cornered with three others and also beaten before being chased away from the scene.

He was later rushed to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital while Kisumu Central ODM Treasurer Edward Ogolla was also taken to Aga Khan Hospital for treatment.

The demo was led by Kisumu Deputy Governor Ruth Odinga and Kisumu East MP Shakeel Shabbir, who stressed that they would continue with their push to have the IEBC commissioners ejected from office.

An injured protester wipes blood from his face after anti-riot police dispersed a crowd protesting against the IEBC in Kisumu on May 16, 2016.

An injured protester wipes blood from his face after anti-riot police dispersed a crowd protesting against the IEBC in Kisumu on May 16, 2016. PHOTO | TOM OTIENO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The demonstrators walked all the way from Kondele, where they had converged, and later held a procession along Oginga Odinga and Angawa streets before heading to the IEBC offices through Jomo Kenyatta Avenue.

“Use of this kind of force by police especially on women who have already surrendered is unacceptable. We have been very peaceful and no amount of intimidation will deter us from our course,” said Ms Odinga.

She asked IEBC chairman Issack Hassan to read the public mood and vacate office instead of subjecting the country to unnecessary tension.

After dispersing the rioters, the joint forces of AP police, regular police, plain-clothes officers and the flying squad extended their operation to other parts of the town centre.

HEAVY POLICE PRESENCE

In Machakos County, Wiper Party leaders, including County Woman Representative Susan Musyoka, Deputy Governor Bernard Kiala and Machakos Central Ward MCA Cornelius Kitheka, led supporters in protests at Mulu Mutisya Gardens.

This was despite a heavy police presence.

Demonstrators in Nairobi marched along city streets blowing whistles and chanting anti-IEBC slogans as they demanded that commissioners leave office.

Initially, there had been a low turnout but the crowd grew as protesters marched to Anniversary Towers, where the IEBC’s head offices are housed.

Police officers were forced to fire tear-gas canisters at the protesters trying to move closer to the entrance.

Elsewhere, there were reports of mugging and robbery as some demonstrators were said to have stolen property from motorists.

With traders fearing violence and looting, shops on some streets were closed.

A man walks into the Mombasa County IEBC regional offices in Kizingo on May 16, 2016.

A man walks into the Mombasa County IEBC regional offices in Kizingo on May 16, 2016. With no demonstrations at the offices, business went on as usual. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

WAITING FOR JOHO

Members of the Cord coalition in Mombasa County did not take part in the countrywide protests, explaining that they could not do so without a directive from their leaders.

The members, among them ODM Mombasa branch chairman Mohammed Hatimy, said they were waiting for their leaders in the county to lead them in the protest.

“We cannot do anything, because Governor Hassan Joho, the ODM deputy party leader, is not around. We have to wait for him so that he gives us a way forward. We met last week with other leaders to discuss about it and saw the need to wait for the governor,” said Mr Hatimy.

Mvita MP, Abdulswamad Nassir, for his part, said a collective effort was needed from leaders, a majority of whom he said were away from the county.

“Our deputy party leader and about three MPs are not around; that is why we are waiting to strategise together. We need to ensure that it is a collective step because that is better for all of us,” said Mr Nassir.

For the past one week, Governor Joho has been in Antalya, Turkey, for the First Annual Strong Cities Network Global Summit.

A spot check by the Nation at some IEBC offices in the county revealed that the electoral body’s officials were working as usual.

IEBC West and South Coast acting regional coordinator Hussein Abdulwahid said they were operating with no fear as they have a "good relationship" with politicians in the region.

Reported by Rushdie Oudia Aggrey Omboki, Stephen Muthini, Stella Cherono, Owino K'Onyango, Mohamed Ahmed and Wachira Mwangi.