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Kenya Railways Partly Halts Service Ahead of Opposition-Led Protests

© AFP 2023 / TONY KARUMBAThis general view shows the old Kenya Railways exchange terminal the Kenyan capital, Nairobi on January 9, 2018
This general view shows the old Kenya Railways exchange terminal the Kenyan capital, Nairobi on January 9, 2018 - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.03.2023
Following last week's mass protests and the chaos that erupted on the streets of Kenya, the political opposition has decided to hold demonstrations on Monday and Thursday this week. Despite the fact that police did not authorize the demonstrations, the opposition leadership remains defiant.
Kenya Railways, a state-run corporation, has suspended commuter train services scheduled for Monday due to opposition rallies, a statement by the company revealed.
"We wish to inform our customers that due to unavoidable circumstances, commuter train services scheduled for Monday March 27, 2023 have been suspended," reads the statement.
However, company management added that All Madaraka Express link trains between Nairobi Central Station and the Nairobi Terminus would run as scheduled.
Earlier, Azimio la Umoja – One Kenya Coalition Party leader Raila Odinga representing the opposition to the incumbent leadership of Kenya called on the public to take to the streets every Monday and Thursday in Nairobi, the nation's capital, in order to protest against the rising cost of living and alleged fraud during the last presidential election won by William Ruto who got 1.7% more votes than the opposition leader.
Earlier, the opposition said it properly notified the police of the upcoming demonstrations, but Inspector General of Kenyan Police Japhet Koome, in turn, said the authorities would not let them take place, as cited by local media.

"The demonstrations they [the opposition] plan tomorrow are illegal and will not be allowed," he told reporters on Sunday, adding that police was ready to keep the peace and would arrest anyone carrying offensive weapons.

However, the statement by the police chief did not stop the opposition leader who remained defiant and vowed that the demonstrations would be held.

"I am asking our supporters and all Kenyans to come out and join the peaceful demonstrations," he said at a church service on Sunday, as quoted by the media, and added: "I want to tell Mr. [President] Ruto and the IG [Inspector General] Koome that we are not going to be intimidated."

Koome had insisted that police did not approve any demonstrations even as Odinga and his team cited the provision of the country's Constitution which stipulates that police should only be notified without any confirmation in order to hold a demonstration.
Narc-Kenya party leader Martha Karua from the opposition bloc also said the law did not grant police powers to authorize any public demonstrations and warned the president against violating the Constitution.

In line with Article 37 of the Kenyan Constitution, the people have the right, "peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities."

In response to Odinga's speech over the upcoming protests banned by police, Koome, in turn, recalled the violent protests that took place last week.
"You all saw what happened last week and we won't allow that to happen again, where hooligans come to town to loot and destroy people's property and businesses," he said.
Protesters run from tear gas fired by police in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya Monday, March 20, 2023 - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.03.2023
Kenyan Opposition Holds Violent Protests, Clashes With Police
On March 20, Nairobi and Kisumu were subjected to opposition-led demonstrations, pursuing the same goals as the upcoming ones.
The protests descended into riots and triggered turmoil, forcing a number of businesses to close amid Kenya's mounting economic problems, compounded by high inflation and the local currency's decline.
In order to maintain order in the country, police forces reportedly had to resort to using tear gas and water cannons to drive away the crowd, which threw stones at the police officers.
At the same time, Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithuke Kindiki announced on Sunday that the government would propose a new law to set restrictions on holding public demonstrations and not to allow a repeat of last week's violent protests.

"The government shall introduce in Parliament subsidiary legislation in the form of regulations pursuant to the Public Order Act and the Statutory Instruments Act to provide for the legal circumscription of assemblies, demonstrations, pickets, and petitions," Kindiki stated.

According to him, the new regulations will "cover notification procedures, duties of security agencies to protect the rights [of participants], demarcation of assembly, demonstration, picket and petition zones, among others."

"It is not feasible for security organs to allow masses of people to roam streets and neighbourhoods of their choice carrying stones and other offensive weapons while chanting political slogans and disrupting the daily activities of others," Kindiki said, adding: "Accordingly, law enforcement agencies shall not tolerate the reported plans to repeat the violent, chaotic, and economically disruptive protests that took place in Nairobi and Kisumu."

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