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Death, violence mar protests against IEBC

Tuesday June 7 2016

Embakasi South MP Irshad Sumra leads Cord supporters who had gathered at Uhuru Park on June 6, 2016 to protest against the electoral body. The Opposition has called the protests to force out of office the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which it accuses of, among other things, corruption and favouring Jubilee. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Embakasi South MP Irshad Sumra leads Cord supporters who had gathered at Uhuru Park on June 6, 2016 to protest against the electoral body. The Opposition has called the protests to force out of office the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which it accuses of, among other things, corruption and favouring Jubilee. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Cord leader Raila Odinga on Monday escalated demonstrations on a day that at least one protester was shot dead and 53 injured in Kisumu Town.

Mr Odinga announced that there would be two protests a week, up from one, after leading a relatively peaceful march in Nairobi.

But in Kisumu, where a handcart pusher was shot in the chest, there were ugly scenes of riots, confrontation with police and attempts to storm business premises.

Enraged protesters carried the man’s dead body and used it to taunt police and block a street before it was eventually taken to the mortuary.

In Nairobi, the demonstration was uneventful unlike in previous weeks, when police violently dispersed the protesters. Police, except for a few officers at the headquarters of the electoral commission, kept well away.

The Opposition has called the protests to force out of office the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which it accuses of, among other things, corruption and favouring Jubilee.

Of those injured in Kisumu, 24 were being treated at the Kisumu County Hospital, 22 at the Jaramogi Referral and Teaching Hospital and another seven in Homa Bay County Hospital.

Speaking at Uhuru Park, Nairobi, after the demonstration, Mr Odinga said election officials had sent emissaries to meet him on Sunday evening inviting him for talks but he said the time for consultation with the commission was over.

Mr Odinga has been pushing for the removal of the commissioners ahead of next year’s General Election.

He and Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetang’ula criticised the police over the shooting of the Kisumu protester.

Mr Odinga announced that from next week, the Opposition will be demonstrating in the streets twice a week to put more pressure on the government to start negotiations on the removal of the nine electoral commissioners.

“We are ready to sit down and talk over this matter. Our position, however, is that this commission has lost integrity and cannot be trusted with our 2017 elections. If by Sunday the government will not have come to the table then I declare that from next week we will demonstrate on Monday and Thursday,” Mr Odinga said.

NO BACKING DOWN

The Opposition, he added, was concerned at the manner in which the commission — chaired by Mr Ahmed Issack Hassan — handled the 2013 elections, which he claimed had been stolen.

“All the total votes cast for candidates competing in the county assembly wards, county women representatives, senators, Members of Parliament and governors were on average 10 million but that of the presidential candidates was 12.2 million. This shows the magnitude of the theft,” Mr Odinga said.

He also said that talks with the Government will not focus on the exit of the commissioners but what will be done after they leave.

He dismissed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s and Deputy President William Ruto’s position that talks on the exit of the commissioners must be held within the confines of the Constitution.

This, he said, exposed the dishonesty of the Jubilee leaders.

“When they hounded out Grace Kaindi from her office as Deputy Inspector-General of Police, they humiliated her without consulting the Constitution. They did so with EACC when they wanted Mumo Matemu and his team out,” Mr Odinga told supporters. “Yesterday, the IEBC sent some people to me so that we can talk. But I told them time for consultations with the commission was up.”

Senators Wetang’ula, James Orengo and Johnson Muthama also said various groups had been sent to Mr Odinga for talks with the IEBC but he declined.

The Bungoma Senator warned: “We want to announce that next year, there will be no elections if this commission is not removed.”

INCOMPETENT TEAM

Mr Wetang’ula also asked security agencies to “refrain from manufacturing laughable propaganda” as a way of winning sympathy against the Opposition protests.

“The fact that we want talks is not a sign of cowardice. Outbursts by police will not help in this situation,” said the Ford Kenya leader.

Mr Orengo insisted that they would not retreat until the commissioners are sent parking. He blamed police for casualties recorded in the Monday protests and in previous weeks.

“They should know that we shall not retreat until we get this matter fixed. We will not be cowed by any amount of pressure,” he said.

The coalition circulated a document titled The Kenyan People’s Case against IEBC, enumerating issues they have against the electoral body.

The charges against the commission include a claim that it manipulated the 2013 presidential election results, that top IEBC officials are corrupt and intolerably incompetent.

“There exists overwhelming evidence that IEBC had a predetermined two million votes statutorily unaccounted for and which was used to fraudulently adjust the votes cast in favour of Uhuru Kenyatta,” the document said.

Reported by Isaac Ongiri, Stella Cherono, Silas Apollo and Angela Oketch