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Protests banned in Kenya as election standoff escalates

شعار Al Jazeera Al Jazeera 12/10/2017
Riot police detain a man during a protest in Nairobi on Wednesday [Baz Ratner/Reuters] © Provided by Al Jazeera Riot police detain a man during a protest in Nairobi on Wednesday [Baz Ratner/Reuters]

Kenya announced a ban on Thursday on demonstrations in the central business districts of key cities including Nairobi amid a deepening standoff between the ruling party and the opposition over a presidential election re-run.

Internal Security Minister Fred Matiangi said protesters who violated the ban in Nairobi, the western city of Kisumu, and the coastal city of Mombasa would be held personally liable for any damage.

The three cities are strongholds of opposition support, and have seen repeated confrontations between riot police and opposition supporters in recent weeks.

The ban was imposed "due to the clear, present and imminent danger of breach of peace", said Matiangi.

On Wednesday in Nairobi, police briefly used tear gas to disperse protesters who threw stones at passing cars. However, the crowd later dispersed peacefully.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga were set to go to the polls in a repeat presidential election on October 26, after the Supreme Court nullified Kenyatta's win in August 8 polls over procedural irregularities.

But this week Odinga announced he was withdrawing from the race, throwing the East African nation into political turmoil.

On Wednesday, the election board said the polls would be held anyway, and all eight of the original presidential candidates would be on the ballot.

Matiangi said opposition protests had seen "attacks on police stations, attacks on police officers occasioning grievous bodily harm, serious disruption of normal business, assault on innocent civilians, destruction and looting of property".

Odinga's opposition alliance called for demonstrations demanding electoral reforms and new elections, raising fears of further clashes between his supporters and police.

Odinga said without fundamental reforms to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the vote would not be free and fair.

A Kenya rights group said this week that at least 37 people were killed in protests immediately following the August 8 poll. Most were killed by police.

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