NAIROBI / KISUMU, KENYA — Political tensions continue to climb in Kenya ahead of the re-run presidential election on October 26. Opposition supporters took to the streets of major cities Friday to demand that electoral officials blamed for botching the first election step down immediately.
Supporters of the ruling Jubilee party clashed with opposition protesters in central Nairobi Friday.
The Jubilee supporters say the opposition is disrupting business activities and creating tensions in the city.
“We had our peaceful meeting, and they started throwing stones. We should be respected,” one Jubilee backer said
But one opposition supporter accused Jubilee supporters of actively trying to disrupt their planned protest.
“We have seen traders brought here by bus to fight us. That’s not right,” he said
Violence also erupted in the opposition stronghold of Kisumu, where thousands of protesters blocked roads with bonfires and threw rocks, paralyzing business activities. Police fired tear gas to repel some demonstrators looting a retail store and made some arrests.
Kisumu is the hometown of opposition leader and presidential candidate, Raila Odinga.
The opposition is demanding the resignation of electoral officials behind what the Supreme Court called the “bungling” of the August presidential vote.
The court nullified the victory of incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, due to “irregularities and illegalities” in the transmission of election results.
Kenya must hold a new presidential election by the end of this month.
In Nairobi Friday, the Kisumu County Women’s Representative, Rosa Buyu, was among the hundreds of opposition demonstrators who marched to the headquarters of the electoral commission, or IEBC, which was under heavy guard by riot police.
“We are here to demonstrate peacefully to show our displeasure with the way IEBC is pretending to carry out reforms,” she said. “We are saying if there will be no reforms then it’s useless to go for this election.”
The IEBC officials have denied any wrongdoing and have refused to resign.
Meanwhile, the Jubilee party has set out to change the electoral law. The proposed changes include prioritizing the use of manual transmission of results over the electronic transmission and giving the other IEBC commissioners’ power to announce the presidential results in the event the chairman gets sick or resigns.
The chairman of the commission Wafula Chebukati said if the proposed changes are passed, it will be difficult to have an election on the 26th.
“The law will fundamentally change what we are doing. Then we say we shall have a problem with that kind of law because to implement it will be an issue, and that’s why we said as a commission we are ready for elections,” Chebukati said.
Legal experts warn Kenya may be headed for a constitutional crisis if the IEBC fails to conduct an election by the court’s October 30 deadline.
Kenya’s Attorney General has said President Kenyatta will remain in office until the next president is sworn in.