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Protesters and Police Clash in Kenya

ICC Note

The New York Times reports about the huge support that the Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga received from the country’s Muslims.

By Jeffrey Gettleman

January 17, 2008 Kenya (The New York Times) — Kenya sunk further into violence on Wednesday as police battled with protesters across the country, shooting several, according to witnesses, while opposition leaders vowed to press ahead with the protests.

The worst violence was in Kisumu, Kenya’s third largest city and an opposition stronghold, where mobs of furious young men hurled stones at police officers, who responded by charging into the crowds and firing their guns.

“There’s been war since the morning,” said Eric Otieno, a mechanic in Kisumu. “The police are whipping women, children, everyone.”

At least three people have been shot by the police, according to witnesses in Nairobi , the capital, and in Kisumu. In several areas, the tension seems to be growing, with crowds of young men building roadblocks in the street and lighting enormous bonfires.

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On Wednesday, the day started out relatively calmly with the country in partial lock-down mode.

In early clashes, protesters fought with police in the streets of Mombasa , Kenya ’s biggest port and a main artery to the rest of East Africa . Witnesses said that hundreds of demonstrators, many of them Muslims, tried to block roundabouts in the city center but that police officers in riot gear chased them away with tear gas.

Previous unrest in Mombasa seriously disrupted food and fuel supplies, forcing several neighboring countries like Uganda and Rwanda to ration gasoline. Many Muslims in Kenya support the opposition because they feel the Kenyan government, a close American ally, has cracked down harshly on members of their community.

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After the election last month, Mr. Kibaki, the incumbent president, was declared the winner over Raila Odinga, a top opposition leader, but several election observers said the government rigged the tallying of the results to give the president a slim, 11th hour victory.

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On Tuesday, the opposition scored its first political victory since the election, by choosing one of its own members to be the speaker of Kenya ’s parliament, an influential position.

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