Protests banned in Kenya after opposition leader pulls out of presidential election

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Riot policemen detain a man during clashes between supporters of Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta and supporters of Kenyan opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, during a protest in Nairobi, Kenya, October 11, 2017. REUTERS/Baz Ratner TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC11003DC9A0

Riot policemen detain a man during clashes between supporters of Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and supporters of Kenyan opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, during a protest in Nairobi, Kenya, October 11, 2017. Credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Kenyan officials have banned street protests in the nation’s three largest cities, just days after the main opposition leader dropped out of the upcoming presidential election because of concerns the voting process would not be fair. Cabinet secretary Fred Matiangi announced the decision in a press conference.

Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga have been holding regular demonstrations in Mombasa, Kisumu, and the capital Nairobi to push for election reforms before the Oct. 26 re-run of Kenya’s presidential election.

The Kenyan Supreme Court nullified the results of the country’s August presidential election, citing irregularities in the election. Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta was originally declared the winner.

Odinga withdrew from the race Tuesday, saying the electoral commission had not fixed problems with the voting process and that new laws introduced in parliament strongly favored the ruling party.

In a statement, Kenya’s Interior Minister said the ban on protests was put in place Thursday because the demonstrations present a “clear, present, and imminent danger.”

Some of the protests have involved looting and violent clashes with police.

In a separate press conference, Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetangula said the ban was “unconstitutional, null and void.”

President Kenyatta has voiced public support for new election reforms but has also said the election would go ahead, with or without Odinga.

Since the initial presidential election, protests have been taking place throughout the county on a nearly daily basis, leaving 37 people dead.

In 2007 a disputed presidential election between Odinga and incumbent Mwai Kibaki led to months of violence that killed more than one thousand Kenyans.

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