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Thousands rally in Kenya against president's rule

07 July 2014, 23:28

Nairobi - Thousands of people rallied today in the capital against President Uhuru Kenyatta's rule, with some calling for him to step down because he had failed to improve the lives of Kenyans more than a year after he came to office.

Kenya's main opposition group, which organized the protest, signaled they would carry out more mass protests after the government refused to comply with its demands to convene national talks on security, corruption and rising costs of living.

"Today we are telling the president if he is not working he must go," Senator Bonny Khalwale told those gathered at the capital's central park. The crowd responded with chants of "Uhuru must go."

The protesters were met with thousands of government security officers in riot gear, and some businesses and schools did not open for fear of riots. Police chief David Kimaiyo said 15,000 security officers were deployed.

The rally ended up being mostly peaceful, although at one point police lobbed tear gas at a group of youths who threw stones at officers.

Pamela Ondito, 38, said she was protesting because she had a hard time getting a job despite being trained in hotel management. She said she was not related to anyone of influence, and in Kenya "you have to know somebody to get a job or anywhere in life."

The opposition group, the Coalition for Reforms of Democracy, or CORD, had asked the government to convene national talks by July 7 over a range of topics including security, corruption, and the disbanding of the electoral authority. The government has said those issues should be discussed in parliament.

CORD also made fresh demands that the government withdraw Kenyan troops from Somalia. Kenya has witnessed a notable increase in attacks since deploying troops in Oct. 2011 to fight al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militants. The terror group has claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Kenyan coast which killed 65 people last month, as well as an overnight attack Saturday in the same area in which 22 people died.

The spokesman of key opposition leader, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, said they will be planning more protest rallies.

Odinga lost to Kenyatta in the presidential elections of March 3 2013. Kenyatta won that election by extremely slim margins — 50.07 percent of the vote.

- AP


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