The protests are the first major outbreak of political violence in Kenya since Ruto became president in August 2022, a victory disputed by rival Odinga.
A Kenyan Police officer arrests a protester following clashes with opposition supporters in Nairobi, Kenya on March 20, 2023 (© Luis Tato/AFP)
A university student in Kenya was killed and more than 200 people arrested in nationwide protests against President William Ruto’s government over high living costs on Monday, police said.
Protesters took to the streets of the capital, Nairobi, and several other cities in response to a call for demonstrations by opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Some lit fires in the streets and threw rocks at police. Police fired tear gas and water cannon, including at Odinga’s convoy as he addressed supporters from the sunroof of his car. Police said 24 officers were injured in the clashes. They gave no figure for injuries among the protesters.
The person killed, a student at Maseno University in western Kenya, was shot in the neck by the police when officers fired live rounds after running out of tear gas canisters and blank rounds, according to a police report seen by Reuters on Tuesday.
The report said the officers were confronting students who had set fires in the road and vandalised local businesses.
“The unwarranted day-long stand-off that was witnessed in Nairobi and Kisumu yesterday amounts to nothing short of violence against police and economic sabotage,” the police said in a statement on Tuesday.
It was the first major outbreak of political violence in the East African nation since Ruto took office six months ago. Ruto handed Odinga his fifth loss in a row, although Odinga claims the election was “stolen”. He challenged the result last year before the Supreme Court, which upheld Ruto’s victory.
Odinga, 78, cited the high cost of staples such as maize flour, which have kept inflation high, in calling for protests.
At least four lawmakers were among those arrested during the protests, including the leaders of Odinga’s faction in both houses of parliament. They were released on bail and will appear in court on Thursday to answer charges of unlawful assembly, their lawyer, Danstan Omari, told Reuters.
On Monday, Odinga called for the protests to be repeated weekly.
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