Police shot dead one person in northern Kenya’s Isiolo county after a political rally attended by President Uhuru Kenyatta at which supporters of rival political candidates for regional government positions clashed, police said.
Officials and political leaders said the trouble started before Kenyatta arrived to address the gathering on Saturday.
Kenya’s Aug. 8 presidential campaign in which incumbent president Kenyatta will run, coincides with elections for members of parliament and representatives in regional governments, known as counties.
Devolution of some powers to county level during Kenyatta’s presidency, and the associated access to and control of lucrative local budgets and high official salaries, has sparked intense interest in the local contests, especially for the governor post.
Police said after the rally, supporters of one candidate for the county governor roll, accompanied by a convoy of vehicles, approached a roadblock in Isiolo town and refused to move to one side when asked by police officers, who then dispersed them.
“A strong team of security personnel were all over the place to maintain order. We can’t allow lawlessness. It is illogical to claim they shot at a peaceful crowd. No they (police) acted to restore order after being attacked,” Isiolo County police commander Charles Ontinta said.
He said they were investigating the circumstances that led to the death.
Abdul Bahari, a candidate for governor in Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party, said his supporters had been peaceful when police shot at them.
“I was in the crowd with the group. They are all my supporters, very peaceful, singing in my support. Campaigning for Jubilee is not an offence. It’s very sad we have lost an innocent life,” he said after giving a statement to police on the incident.
Last month’s primaries for various seats, in which voters chose party candidates, were marred by violence, claims of rigging and canceled ballots. Record numbers of candidates who failed to secure party tickets have also rushed to register as independents.
Footage broadcast on privately-owned Citizen Television showed one speaker at the rally asking the crowd – seen waving banners, blowing whistles and shouting – to be orderly to allow Kenyatta to speak. Kenyatta was also shown trying to calm the crowd.
Last month, he said the government would not tolerate violence between rival camps of supporters during the primaries and before a national election.