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Nine men charged after latest protest clashes in Kenya

NAIROBI (HAN) May 24.2016. Public Diplomacy & Regional Security News. By George Obulutsa & Humphrey Malalo. A Kenyan court charged nine men on Tuesday for their role in a protest a day earlier against an electoral oversight body, a lawyer said, after the fourth flare-up on the streets in a month.

In Monday’s protest, a demonstrator in the western city of Kisumu died from an injury while running away, the police said. Newspapers had reported three dead, but a government spokesman denied the higher toll. Police denied using live ammunition.

Dozens of people have been arrested in protests that began on April 25 and have been held on most Monday’s since then.

The demonstrators want the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to be scrapped, saying it is not impartial and cannot oversee fair presidential and parliamentary elections due in August 2017.

The IEBC, which oversaw a vote the opposition disputed in 2013, denies the charges. The government says the opposition is taking to street as it cannot win a vote.

The nine people charged on Tuesday were accused of unlawful assembly, court documents showed. “My clients pleaded not guilty and were released on cash bail pending hearing of the matter,” Lawyer Harun Ndubi told Reuters.

Fifteen people faced similar charges last week.

The protests have extended beyond Nairobi to cities such as Kisumu, where there is strong support for opposition leader Raila Odinga, who is expected to run again against President Uhuru Kenyatta, now serving the first of a maximum two terms.

Police fired teargas and water cannon at demonstrators in Nairobi this week. A week earlier, officers had fought running battles in the street with protesters, beating some of them with batons and kicking them. Some demonstrators had thrown stones.

The United States, a major donor to Kenya, condemned the “excessive” force used by police last week. Kenyan and international rights groups also criticised the police action.

Western envoys have urged the government and citizens to prepare carefully for the elections in a nation where the 2007 vote was followed by ethnic blood-letting that killed 1,200 people, while the 2013 result was unsuccessfully challenged in court by the opposition.



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