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Schools in Kenya closed over demonstrations called by the opposition

Kenya protests   -  
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LUIS TATO/AFP or licensors


With police deployed, streets deserted and schools closed, Kenya was gearing up for another tense day of opposition protests on Wednesday.

The government has promised to respond firmly to any excesses, following deadly violence at previous rallies.

The Azimio coalition, led by veteran politician Raila Odinga, has called for three consecutive days of demonstrations starting today against the policies of President William Ruto, whom they accuse of exacerbating the rising cost of living in this East African country.

"We call on Kenyans to (...) take back their country before this dictatorship takes firm root", Azimio said in a statement on Tuesday.

For the government, these demonstrations are "nothing more than a threat to national security".

On Wednesday morning, public schools remained closed, at the request of the authorities, in the country's three major cities: the capital Nairobi, Mombasa (south) and Kisumu (west).

The usually busy streets of Nairobi were empty, security forces were deployed at several points in the city, and many shops kept their curtains down, AFP journalists observed.

This is the third time since early July that the opposition has organised such days of action. During the previous one, on 12 July, rallies were banned by the authorities and were marred by looting and clashes between demonstrators and the police.

At least nine people were killed and more than 300 arrested. The police, who fired tear gas and live ammunition, were strongly criticised for their crackdown on the demonstrators.

On Tuesday, Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki said that the authorities had deployed "all available resources" to ensure that the scenes "we witnessed (...) do not happen again".

In a joint statement on Tuesday, thirteen Western countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, expressed their concern at the "high levels of violence" during the latest demonstrations, urging the various parties to "resolve their differences peacefully".

Elected in August 2022 on the promise of reviving the economy and supporting the most disadvantaged, President Ruto enacted a finance bill introducing new taxes at the beginning of July, despite criticism from the opposition and the population.

Kenya, the economic powerhouse of East Africa, is facing high inflation and a large debt, contracted in particular under the presidency of Uhuru Kenyatta, of whom William Ruto was Vice-President.

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