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24 killed in Kenyan election violence, many after police open fire on opposition protesters

Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

JOHANNESBURG -- At least 24 people have been shot by police in violence during Kenya's disputed election, according to Kenyan human rights observers, including many killed in protests in opposition strongholds after President Uhuru Kenyatta's victory late Friday.

The Kenya Red Cross Society said it picked up 93 injured casualties in the violence. MSF Kenya, which has its own ambulances and involves figures not counted by the Red Cross, reported 54 people were treated at its clinics, raising the toll to at least 150 wounded.

Police on Saturday fired live bullets and tear gas on protesters in volatile areas of Nairobi and other parts of the country, provoking anger from opposition supporters and condemnation from human rights activists.

Kenya faced its third successive disputed election after the opposition National Super Alliance claimed its candidate, Raila Odinga, won and that Kenyatta had colluded with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to steal the election.

Kenya has a vibrant capital, a burgeoning tech sector and robust middle class, but it also faces frequent terrorist attacks, is embroiled in war against the Qaida-allied Al Shabab in neighboring Somalia and loses around $6 billion a year to corruption, almost a third of its GDP.

Every five years during bitterly contested elections, voters divide largely along ethnic lines over who will gain power, which is often used to hand out jobs and patronage to ethnic allies. In 2007 election violence flared across Kenya, leaving an estimated 1,500 dead, as rival ethnic groups dragged people from their houses and killed them over a disputed result.

Kenya's massive deployment of riot police in opposition strongholds appears designed to prevent the nation from sliding into a similar conflict. But rights observers said police have used excessive force to quell demonstrations. The Kenyan National Human Rights Commission said 17 of the 24 killed since the Aug. 8 election died in the capital, Nairobi.

In the opposition heartland, loyal supporters look to the party leaders to determine their response to the result. Although the party has called for calm and urged supporters not to put their lives in danger, leaders have also made reference to Kenyans rising up to defend democracy.

The dead include at least eight men killed by gunshots from Nairobi's Mathare slum after Friday night's election result. They were taken to the city morgue, an official told the Los Angeles Times.

Witnesses reported seeing police fire live ammunition and said they recovered spent rifle cartridges in Mathare and Kibera. They said they saw police in those areas drag people from their houses and beat them. One witness reported seeing police shoot a man protesting in Kibera.


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