NAIROBI — At least one person was killed and several others injured as businesses remained shut on Monday when supporters of Kenya’s opposition engaged police during protests to press for electoral reforms.
The police confirmed a 41-year-old man died in Siaya County of Western Kenya after collapsing in a protest against the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in the opposition stronghold.
Witnesses said the man collapsed and died after police lobbed teargas canisters to disperse the protesters who had barricaded roads with stones and bonfires.
The man was caught up in the melee and fell to the ground while running away during the ensuing fracas and was later confirmed dead.
Officials from the Red Cross Society who attended to the deceased at the scene confirmed the man dead.
Other witnesses said the man was coming from Siaya County Referral Hospital where he collected some medication.
Nyanza regional police commander Leonard Katana said they are investigating the circumstances under which he died.
“Preliminary findings show the man was sick. We are however waiting for postmortem results to show the cause of the death,” he said.
Many shops remained closed for the better part of Monday over fears of looting during the demonstrations, which started at dawn and lasted until the afternoon in more than ten counties.
Banks were also affected as clients could not access the premises for services as the police fired teargas and shot in the air to disperse hundreds of protesters who carried twigs and banners with the messages against IEBC CEO Ezra Chiloba who they accused of bungling the Aug. 8 presidential elections.
The demos were called by the opposition National Super Alliance leader Raila Odinga to push for changes at the electoral commission before the fresh vote slated this month.
Odinga said his coalition would be embarking on weekly peaceful protests, every Monday and Friday, to force the electoral commission to implement specific changes before the repeat presidential election set for Oct. 26.
However, anti-riot police were reportedly forced to use teargas on rowdy youth who were hurling stones at police in Nairobi, Kisumu and other towns where business was brought to a standstill.
The protesters accused the police of provoking them by hurling teargas canisters at them during the protests.
Meanwhile, President Uhuru Kenyatta said no one will be allowed to stifle Kenyans’ right to express their will through the ballot box, saying protests will not stop the fresh polls.
He urged Members of Parliament to proceed with the proposed amendments to the electoral laws, saying that was a sure way of sealing loopholes that could subvert the will of the people.
“For those legislators who are here, continue with the work and expedite the process so that we can have elections where no one will doubt who the winner is,” Kenyatta said in Nairobi.
“There is nothing wrong for Members of Parliament to change the electoral laws so as to ensure that there is no room for any individual or institution to overturn the supreme will of the people,” he added when he addressed more than 15,000 women grassroots leaders in Nairobi.
Kenyatta reminded opposition leader Odinga that the Supreme Court ruled that the fresh presidential election should be held within 60 days and conducted by the electoral agency IEBC, asking him to stop the selective adherence to the Supreme Court’s decision. Enditem