Street protests were set to resume in Kenya today after police fired tear gas and live bullets to halt the first day of mass rallies across the country.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga called for the demonstrations in what he hoped would be a show of power for his demands for the president to step down and admit his election victory was rigged.
At least two people were shot and killed by police and six were wounded in yesterday’s protests.
The first day of mass action came after a week of violence that killed more than 600 people and international mediation failed to move President Mwai Kibaki, who insists he won the December 27 election. Observers say the vote tally was rigged.
National police spokesman Eric Kiraithe had no word on casualties yesterday, but a mortuary attendant in Kisumu, Kenya’s third largest city, said there were two bodies with bullet wounds and nurses there said they were treating three wounded.
In Nairobi, at least three men were taken to hospital after they were shot and wounded in a Kibera slum, one of two in the city where police fired tear gas and bullets to disperse hundreds of protesters.
Mr Odinga said two people were killed in Kisumu and one in another western town, Migori.
Riots and ethnic killings in the wake of the disputed vote have marred Kenya’s image as a stable democratic oasis in a war-ravaged region and damaged its tourist-dependent economy. It has also aggravated long-simmering ethnic tensions and conflicts over land.
Police had declared yesterday’s protests illegal. In Nairobi, riot police on horseback chased small clusters of protesters from skyscraper-lined streets. Businesses shut as tear gas was fired, and thousands of panicked office workers in suits and high heels streamed out of the city centre on foot.
Some people, annoyed at the disturbance, shouted “Raila go home!”
His supporters chanted “No Raila, no peace.”
Mr Odinga vowed he would lead the march on Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, which was ringed by riot police. Though Mr Odinga drove through the city, neither he nor any other opposition member made it to the park.
Protesters’ fervour was dampened by rain across much of the country, and by the response of police.
Mr Odinga had called for peaceful demonstrations, and there were few of the serious clashes that characterised protests immediately after the election results were announced. Most protesters were unarmed, but mobs in one Nairobi slum and the western town of Kisumu hurled rocks at police, who responded with tear gas and live bullets.
Protests touched the coastal tourist city of Mombasa, where police hurled tear gas and used batons to beat back several groups of protesters hundreds strong.
Thirteen nations, including the US and Britain, increased pressure on rival politicians to find a solution, threatening yesterday to cut aid to the government “if the commitment of the government of Kenya to good governance, democracy, the rule of law and human rights weakens”.
Foreign and local election observers have said the vote count in the election was deeply flawed.
Although the electoral chief pronounced Mr Kibaki the victor, he later said he had been pressured to do so and did not know who won.