NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan police fired tear gas into a crowd of opposition leaders and their supporters as they marched on the office of the country’s electoral commission to demand it disband before next year’s election.
Several protesters were arrested and at least two policemen were injured by stones, police said.
The opposition rejected the outcome of the last presidential vote in March 2013. Its leaders petitioned the supreme court to overturn the result. The court upheld it.
Raila Odinga, the leader of the opposition and its candidate for president, said then that he accepted the court’s decision and the victory of his opponent, Uhuru Kenyatta. That helped avert the kind of violence that broke out after Kenya’s 2007 election, when more than 1,200 people were killed.
But now Odinga and his fellow opposition leaders have turned on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), demanding that it be dissolved before the elections set for August 2017.
Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula, leaders of the main opposition CORD coalition, said over the weekend they would storm the IEBC offices and eject its commissioners.
They led about 500 supporters, who waved placards, whistled, shouted, and threw stones at police, to the commission’s office in downtown Nairobi. Riot police dispersed them with tear gas.
“We have made some arrests and I’m yet to establish the number,” Japheth Koome, the police commander for Nairobi county told Reuters. “Two police officers were injured after they were hit with stones.”
Odinga, Musyoka and Wetangula were driven off shortly after the tear gas was fired, without addressing their supporters or the media.
The opposition accuses the IEBC of failing to act on their complaints stemming from the last election. They accused it of incompetence, citing the failure of electronic voting and counting equipment.
IEBC rejects the accusations and says any party that wants to eject its commissioners should follow established procedure, which include petitioning parliament to remove them.
“The commissioners and senior officials were ready to meet CORD leaders and discuss their concerns, but they tried to come with a crowd that was difficult to contain,” Andrew Limo, a spokesman for the IEBC, told Reuters.
Riot police in lorries patrolled the streets near the IEBC offices two hours after the protests were dispersed.
Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Larry King