NAIROBI, Kenya – At least five people were killed Friday in confrontations between Kenyan police and supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga as tensions over the disputed presidential election continued.
Police fired live rounds and tear gas to prevent Odinga’s convoy from making its way from the airport to Nairobi’s main park so he could address supporters after returning from a trip overseas. Legislator Otiende Amollo said his car was shot at by police.
Police warned earlier this week they would not allow a ceremony to welcome Odinga back from speaking engagements abroad. Opposition legislators had urged supporters come out “more than 1 million strong.”
Police said five people were killed by mobs that stoned them to death when they were caught stealing during the confrontations. But mortuary attendants and eyewitnesses said police shot them.
An Associated Press photographer took pictures of a man shot while carrying water in a jerry can. The photographer also took photos of four bodies that appeared to have bullet wounds.
The death toll may be higher. Around the same time the photographer saw the bodies, attendants at the city morgue told the AP another body had been brought in with bullet wounds from the confrontation.
Odinga had been speaking in the United States and Britain about Kenya’s political turmoil following a court-nullified presidential election and the fresh vote last month. Odinga, whose claim of electoral fraud led the Supreme Court to nullify President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election in August, boycotted the new vote, saying reforms had not been made.
Kenyatta’s win last month is being challenged at the Supreme Court by activists and a politician amid claims of irregularities. The court will make a decision Monday.
A police cordon ringed Uhuru Park where Odinga had been expected to address supporters. Police used tear gas on people walking in groups toward the park.
Youth who accused police of stopping them on a main highway from going to the airport to greet Odinga threw stones at officers. The confrontations were aired on live television.
“This is a reckless, insensitive and primitive response to a crisis Uhuru Kenyatta himself has created,” Odinga said in a statement that condemned attacks on his supporters.
Rights activists condemned the police actions, accusing officers of taking sides in the political crisis and violating the constitution by preventing opposition supporters from assembling.
The nullification of Kenya’s August election was the first time a court in Africa had overturned a presidential vote. At least 70 people have died in political unrest since then, the majority opposition demonstrators shot by police during protests.
“In the face of this shameful police brutality and serious violations of human rights to life and physical security, the Uhuru Kenyatta government has remained mute and at times cheered the police on and made alarming statements in support of horrifying police actions,” rights activist Ndungu Wainaina said.
Adds Odinga quote. With AP Photos.
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