Imagine sitting in your home, outside a “peaceful” protest against the country’s government is occurring. Suddenly, shots are fired and a wall of bullets begin flying, catching anyone and everyone in its path, killing at least five people and wounding more than sixty. That was the scene on June 6, 2016 when the people of Nyanza, Kenya took to the streets in protest of their current government lead by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, or IEBC.
The Human Rights Watch group reported that on May 23, 2016 and June 6, 2016, police fired live ammunition into a crowd of protesters participating in a peaceful protest against upcoming elections. The protests were lead by the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy, CORD, and focused on the demand for the resignation of all political officials prior to the upcoming elections to ensure a free and fair vote. In the wake of accusations of corruption and rigging of past polls by elected officials, CORD has taken to the streets in an effort to change the current political panel and clear out the cabinet floor for new political change.
CORD has roughly 50% of the electorate support in Kenya at this time, making the current government officials quite nervous. Led by Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, and Moses Wetangula, the team was first comprised to contest the 2013 elections. Three years later as the newest election year approaches the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy is persistent, this time with more serious opposition.
The Shooting Facts
In addition to the five fatalities, roughly 60 people were injured during the altercation, leaving much of Kenya wondering if the government will take action against those responsible for these heinous acts of violence. In fact, Nyanza is not the only region of the nation suffering from fatalities, and recent protests in Siaya have resulted in two deaths. Police officials and politicians are split at this time; whether or not lethal force was necessary during the protest. Otsieno Namwaya is not confused on the stance, telling the Human Rights Watch group, “People were killed in their homes and schools, people were killed in the streets during largely peaceful protests, and the authorities need to find out why. Given the failure to investigate similar past incidents and with elections expected in 2017, it’s crucial for the government to make its findings public and to see that justice is done.”
Law and Order
With the recent violence and the surge of protests in the area, many residents are beginning to fear for their life, not only the ones participating in the actual protests, but innocent bystanders, children, and families living in the area during the time. Officials don’t have the same view and Chief Deputy Jared Ojuok stands by the decision to use lethal force, stating, “The law allows demonstrations, but this is supposed to be peaceful. When demonstrators carry stones, light tires on roads, and throw stones at motorists or, as in the case of Kisumu, at police stations, then the demonstration ceases to be peaceful.”
As it stands, the people of Kenya continue to oppose the current government and despite the recent deaths, injuries, arrests, and court orders, CORD leaders are encouraging supporters to continue to take to the streets and voice their stance on the issues.