UPDATES WITH ODINGA SPEECH; DEPUTY PRESIDENT RIGATHI GACHAGUA; CHANGES HEADLINE, DECK
By Andrew Wasike
NAIROBI, Kenya (AA) — Kenyan police on Monday fired bullets in the air and hurled tear gas canisters to disperse hundreds of protesters in the capital Nairobi, led by opposition leader Raila Odinga, who vowed to hold similar demonstrations every week.
In the Kibera area where the youth had blocked roads with bonfires and stones, police officers confronted the crowd in running battles. Some youths were clobbered while others arrested.
The protests were sparked by a call from Odinga, who urged his supporters to take part in a nationwide demonstration demanding that President William Ruto lower the cost of living.
"The cost of living is just too high, all basic commodities are expensive, we cannot afford food and the high price of fuel has made everything worse," Kevin Otieno, a protester told Anadolu.
Hundreds of opposition supporters came out across Kenya to take part in the protests.
Major roads in the capital Nairobi including Procession Way leading to State House remained barricaded by heavily armed police.
The opposition supporters aimed to march to Nairobi's Central Business District to join opposition leader Raila Odinga in the protests as he leads them to State House to air their grievances.
Odinga later led hundreds of thousands of his supporters in protest after being denied access to the district as police blocked the main roads.
The opposition leader warned President Ruto to prepare for fiery protests every Monday.
"We are saying that the cost of living must go down, every Monday we will hold protests until this is done, the fight has just started and it will end after our grievances are addressed," he told the crowds.
The release of arrested opposition lawmakers was another demand voiced by Odinga.
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua pleaded with the opposition to call off the protests, noting that they had cost Nairobi 2 billion Kenyan shillings ($15.3 million) in revenue.
"The economy had begun showing signs of recovery and we were getting a lot of support from international financial players and other partners, but the events that are being organized by the opposition are not good for business, it's not good for the economy and we want to ask the organizers to consider to call off the mayhem and the chaos," Gachagua said.
The protests in Kenya are part of simultaneous demonstrations set to be held on March 20 in five other African countries, including Nigeria, Senegal, Gambia, Tunisia, and South Africa.
While the protests in Kenya are focused on lowering the cost of living, the objectives of the demonstrations in other countries vary.
As the protests continue across the African continent, concerns have been raised about the use of excessive force by the police in handling demonstrations. The authorities have been urged to respect the right to peaceful protest and to ensure the safety of demonstrators.