Odinga slams ‘unprecedented police brutality’ at Kenya protests

Kenya’s veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga on Tuesday railed against “unprecedented police brutality” at protests he called over cost of living crisis in the East African nation.

Since March, Odinga’s Azimio coalition has organized nine days of street protests against President William Ruto’s government. Some of these rallies have devolved into looting and violent clashes between security forces and demonstrators, resulting in fatalities.

According to Azimio, the skirmishes have resulted in the deaths of at least 50 people. However, official figures have stated the toll to be 20.

“We are witnessing unprecedented police brutality,” Odinga told a press conference in the capital Nairobi.

“Police and hired gangs have shot and killed or wounded scores of people at close range,” he said, adding that the violence is particularly directed towards his Luo tribe.

President Ruto last week defended police conduct, saying: “We do not want a country of violence or fighting or destruction of property”.

On Tuesday, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, an independent watchdog established by parliament, expressed its concern, stating that it was “disheartening to witness the escalating tensions and the blatant disregard for human rights principles” displayed by both rogue demonstrators and the police.

Last week, rights groups, including Amnesty International, decried “repression” by the police and presented evidence of 27 “extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary executions” that took place in July alone.

Odinga’s team had initially called for another round of demonstrations on Wednesday but has now decided to alter their approach and hold “solidarity parades and vigils for the victims of police brutality” instead.

Critics argue that Ruto is reneging on promises made during the August 2022 election campaign, where he portrayed himself as the advocate for impoverished Kenyans and vowed to enhance their economic prospects.

Despite the country facing the challenge of soaring inflation, the 56-year-old self-made businessman has chosen to increase taxes, adding strain to the already burdensome economic situation.

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