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Kenya opposition leader blames president for violence during demonstrations

A riot police officer puts out a fire in Nairobi during protests   -  
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Patrick Ngugi/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.


Kenya opposition leader, Raila Odingo, says he and his supporters did not imagine that the state would respond with violence to the ongoing protests over the high cost of living.

His statement came after Monday’s anti-government demonstrations turned violent with the police firing tear gas at protestors and looters going on the rampage.

"Ruto's hands are all over this violence. When Azimio la Umoja called for protests in line with Article 37 of our Constitution, we never envisaged that in desperation the state will respond by hiring goons and mercenaries to reign terror on peaceful and innocent Kenyans," he said.

The veteran politicians has called for regular protests every Monday and Thursday, accusing President William Ruto of stealing last year's election and of failing to control the surging prices.

Hundreds of looters descended on former president Uhuru Kenyatta's farm on the outskirts of Nairobi, stealing sheep and cutting trees before setting a section of the property on fire.

Kenyatta backed Odinga's candidacy in last year’s presidential poll after falling out with Ruto who had been his deputy president.

Gangs also targeted Odinga's gas company Spectre International Ltd in the capital.

The violence has sparked concern among Kenyans, who are already grappling with skyrocketing inflation and a jobs crisis.

Many are struggling to put food on the table, battling high prices for basic goods, as well as a plunging local currency and a record drought that has left millions hungry.

"How does Ruto go to Germany and talk about attracting German foreign investment to Kenya knowing very well that back at home he has put in place machinery for vicious attacks on local investments," Odinga said.

After Monday’s violent protests, Ruto, who is on a four-day trip to Germany and Belgium, said impunity would not be tolerated and that all Kenyans must obey the law.

"That is what makes us equal. Nobody should trample on the rights of others," Ruto said in a statement, adding that he would ensure the right to life, property, and business was protected.

The African Union has appealed for calm and political dialogue saying it was deeply concerned by the violence.

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