October 26, 2017 / 4:06 PM / 8 months ago

Kenya opposition, ruling party MPs exchange blows at rival news conferences

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Legislators from Kenya’s ruling party and opposition exchanged blows on Thursday, after polls closed in a controversial repeat presidential election.

Live national television showed MPs tumbling into a hedge at Nairobi’s Panafric Hotel when the two sides clashed after attempting to hold near-simultaneous news conferences at the same venue. One lawmaker shouted profanities on camera, prompting nervous giggles from anchors.

The fistfight reflected larger tensions within the country, that saw polling stations in some counties unable to open after opposition leader Raila Odinga called for a boycott of the Oct. 26 poll, saying it would not be free and fair.

Odinga’s withdrawal left President Uhuru Kenyatta as the only serious contender for the presidency, although six other candidates were also on the ballot. Kenyatta won a presidential poll on Aug. 8 that was later nullified by the Supreme Court on procedural grounds.

“They (the government MPs) came here, instead of addressing their own issues, they started attacked Raila,” Anthony Oluoch, opposition MP for Mathare constituency, told Reuters at the Panafric Hotel after the brawl.

“I was not engaging in physical violence, I was attacked by more than 10 or 15 people.”

Opposition MPs said a joke against Odinga from Senator Kipchumba Murkomen from the ruling Jubilee party sparked the brawl, but the senator blamed the other side for the violence.

“We met the ODM (opposition) MPs in the gallery, they asked me to buy them drinks, I bought them drinks. These people are just violent,” he said.

Writing by Katharine Houreld; editing by Andrew Roche

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