NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Opposition parties in Kenya said on Tuesday they are filing charges against the government for “police atrocities” that left 30 people dead at the International Criminal Court in the wake of protests against the rising cost of living and the levying of new taxes.
Opposition coalition leader Raila Odinga called for a press conference in the capital, Nairobi, announcing that his party was “assembling more evidence” of police brutality against protesters. He also said they were gathering evidence to prove “the targeting of people” from his “Luo ethnic community” living in western Kenya, where protesters were admitted to hospital with bullet-related injuries.
Police have been accused of shooting at protesters using live bullets in areas where the opposition enjoys wide political support.
Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki dismissed in a statement the opposition’s claims as “malicious, false and intended to distort public opinion,” saying police forces have remained “neutral, impartial and professional”.
The ministry said one officer died and more than 300 others were injured in the protests.
In the last three weeks, demonstrations have spread across Kenya with people calling out President William Ruto’s administration over the rising cost of living and newly imposed taxes that have caused a fuel price hike as tax on petroleum products doubled from 8% to 16%
Odinga said protests would continue but he did not give a date when the next wave of protests would start.
The opposition had called for protests on Wednesday, but later urged its supporters to instead hold a peaceful vigil to remember 50 people it said have died in demonstrations over the past weeks.
Human rights groups condemned the police for using excessive force to disperse protesters and said that at least 30 people have been shot and killed in recent protests.
Ruto at first commended the police for doing a “good job” in quelling the protests but later cautioned them against extrajudicial killings after public outcry.
Odinga on Tuesday defended the call for more protests saying the government abandoned bi-partisan talks and ignored court orders suspending the new tax law. He said there was a need for a “combined” approach using both legal methods and having “people fight on the streets.”
He added that the economy is not suffering “because of the demonstrations but because of bad policies.”
The opposition has previously accused the government of election fraud during last year’s vote in which President Ruto was announced the winner. His win was upheld in court.
Odinga accused Ruto of hindering mediation efforts, the latest by Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu.
Kenya has a history of violent protests that have in the past led to loss of life and destruction of property. Various leaders have previously mediated between the opposing parties, leading to government-opposition agreements like the coalition government formed after the 2007/2008 post-election violence.