NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenyan opposition supporters took to the streets for a second straight day on Thursday to protest high living costs and tax hikes, as police clashed with demonstrators and arrested at least 300 people on Wednesday.
The Wednesday-Friday demonstrations were the third round of protests launched by the opposition this month. Several people were reportedly shot on Wednesday, some of them presumably dead, and several senior opposition leaders were arrested.
Veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga tweeted on Thursday: “The voice of the people must be heard. Our peaceful protests continue.”
The Nation reported that Odinga’s Azimio party called on its supporters to rally at the Huruma and Kangemi grounds in the capital, Nairobi, as well as in Central Park. NTV broadcaster showed a large police presence in riot gear at Nairobi’s Jacaranda Square, once the site of an opposition rally.
Many shops in the city’s central business district reopened on Thursday, with traffic on major roads improving. Schools in Nairobi, the port city of Mombasa and Kisumu, the country’s third-largest city, also reopened after closing on Wednesday.
Odinga lost his fifth consecutive election loss to President William Ruto last August and has repeatedly called for civil disobedience against the government, which he blames for raising the cost of living and consolidating power.
Ruto has pledged to stand up for the poor, but under his watch prices of basic goods have soared. His government argues that higher taxes are needed to help pay down growing debt and fund job-creating initiatives.
At least people were killed during the first two rounds of protests earlier this month. Civic leaders have sounded the alarm over apparent racial attacks in a country with a history of deadly political violence.
“We don’t want Kenya to be filled with fighting. We don’t want Kenya to destroy people’s property and roads built with Kenyan money,” Ruto said after commissioning the water project on Wednesday.
A Kenyan newspaper published a syndicated editorial on Thursday with the headline: “Let’s save our country”.
Part of the editorial read: “President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga in particular should consider whether they want more blood on their hands, for themselves and for the people of Kenya.”