NAIROBI – Kenyan police fired tear gas and water cannon on Monday at stone-throwing protesters in Nairobi who had gathered to demand that a body supervising next year’s elections resign, a Reuters witness said.
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The presidential and parliamentary polls are more than a year away but politicians are already lining up for what could be a bruising battle in a nation where violence erupted after the 2007 vote and the opposition disputed the 2013 result.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered near the Kenyan university and the offices of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
The opposition have accused the IEBC of bias in favor of the government, demanding it be disbanded. The IEBC has dismissed the charges and says its members will stay on. A few demonstrators hurled stones at police standing near the gate of the IEBC offices.
“IEBC must go,” protesters shouted in the center of Nairobi, where dozens of police with support vehicles had been mobilized. When stone throwing began, police fired tear gas canisters and trucks shot water cannon. Protesters dispersed after that.
The 2013 vote, which brought President Uhuru Kenyatta to power, proceeded calmly despite the opposition challenge. Raila Odinga, the CORD leader who has lost previous presidential bids, accepted the court ruling. He is expected to run again.
Western diplomats say the authorities must prepare carefully to ensure another peaceful vote in a country where ethnic loyalties usually trump policy among voters. About 1,200 were killed in ethnic killing that erupted after the 2007 poll.
Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, who in 2007 were on opposing sides but in 2013 united in a coalition, were charged by the International Criminal Court with stoking the post-election violence. Both denied this. Charges were later dropped.
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