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Kenya's violent protests 'sabotaging' economy president Ruto says

William Ruto addresses supporters at his final electoral campaign rally at Nyayo stadium in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022.   -  
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Ben Curtis/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved


After a day of clashes between the police and protesters, Kenya's President reiterated his warning to the opposition coalition which called for a 3-day anti-government protests.

Ruto spoke Thursday (Jul. 20) in Isiolo, eastern Kenya. He accused the opposition of sabotaging the economy with recurrent protests.

"Every part of Kenya have said we cannot sabotage our economy using violence and destruction of business and destruction of property," he told a large crowd.

"Kenya is the only place we have to call home and we must protect it by all means. We must protect our democracy; we must protect the peace in our country because it is the collective responsibility of all of us as citizens."

Police fired tear gas and live rounds in Kibera, Nairobi's biggest slum, as protesters throw back projectiles, Thursday (Jul. 20).

Shops and schools reopened in Kenya, and the capital's business district, largely shuttered on Wednesday, also resumed activity Thursday morning.

Kenya Private Sector Alliance said it estimated that each day of protest cost the economy an average of three billion shillings ($21.8 million).

Dealdly protests

The Independent Medico-Legal Unit watchdog claimed six people were killed on the first of three days of protests called by the opposition.

Last week’s protests left more than six people dead and many others injured, including 53 children who went into shock after tear gas was thrown inside their school compound.

"I would like to congratulate the police for standing firm by ensuring that there is order, ensuring all the criminals are being dealt with so that that there is peace in Kenya, there is no violence, businesses are protected, and all the government infrastructures are protected."

The escalating cost of living and the implementation of new taxes on petroleum products have been a source of growing worry and even anger for some Kenyans.

Leading newspapers published a joint editorial on Thursday calling for Odinga and President Ruto to hold talks.

Tension is high between the politicians since Ruto's election, which Odinga contests.

'Hand to mouth'

Odinga called off demonstrations in April and May after Ruto agreed to dialogue, but the talks broke down.

Odinga says Ruto's government is illegitimate and to blame for a cost-of-living crisis.

The government in turn has accused the opposition of derailing efforts to improve the economy, with Ruto on Thursday saying that protests were "not a solution to (the) problems of Kenyans."

Analysts said the protests have piled further pressure on a population already struggling with galloping inflation.

"With many Kenyans living hand to mouth, asking for three days of protests (in) a week is too much for them," said Edgar Githua, lecturer at USIU Africa and Strathmore University in Nairobi.

"If these protests continue this way... and with a lot of violence and looting, they will lose purpose and even the leaders will eventually lose credibility," he told AFP.

Opposition protests following Odinga's election loss in 2017 continued until he brokered a surprise pact with his erstwhile foe, former president Uhuru Kenyatta, that became known as "the handshake".

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