Kenyan Government Bans Political Protests: Opposition Will Defy Decree

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CORD, an organization helmed by opposition leader, Raila Odinga, intends to negate an official mandate banning protests after demonstrations have resulted in damaged property and loss of life, according to Reuters.

Rallies have occurred each Monday since April as demonstrators object to the electoral commission’s alleged favoritism toward incumbent President, Uhuru Kenyatta. Kenyan elections take place on August 2017.

Political opponents also claim that the electoral commission is an incompetent body, which has failed to verify voter equipment. Moreover, protestors have called for an outright disbanding of the electoral system due to perceived corruption and bias.

On Monday, two people were killed and 50 injured during the latest bout of violence, causing officials to impose the protest ban. Both sides share some measure of blame, but critics and ambassadors have noted that the police have abused demonstrators and unnecessarily escalated tensions.

The government claims the ban is meant to preserve public safety, but opponents counter that officials have no authority under Kenya’s constitution. Kenyatta’s critics have accused leaders of retaining a colonial mindset that gives them false authority to suspend freedom of assembly, and critics note that their rights derive from the constitution and not the state. Currently, the government has not suspended the constitution.

Kenyatta’s Rule

The president is the second leader of Kenya after his father and has ruled since 2013. He has overseen some of the highest growth rates in Kenya’s history, propelling his country into lower-middle income status and one of the most prominent emerging markets in Africa.

Further, the president has enjoyed high popularity ratings for his successful policies that have led to increased opportunities and poverty reduction. One of his weaknesses, however, has come in the form of terrorism, as Somali-based Al-Shabaab has crossed through Kenya’s borders and conducted numerous high-profile terrorist attacks. Although the president has been criticized for security failings, he has issued persistent counterterrorism campaigns against the organization.

Economic Status

Kenya’s lacking security has led to economic shortfalls, and the recent demonstrations further undermine commerce and the business community’s faith in the government. Further, S&P may downgrade Kenya’s sovereign credit rating as the nation incurs a higher deficit, notes Bloomberg.

While not a disaster for Kenya, it shows that the world economy lacks faith in the government’s ability to navigate Kenya out of troubled waters, and political drama hangs over Nairobi like a dark cloud as the outside world observes overindulgent election spending and a lack of financial accountability. Kenya is already in a fragile state as it suffers with other developing economies in Africa, stemming for the world economic downturn, lower commodity prices, among other factors.

Political instability has come at the worst possible time as authorities must cement their credibility in the eyes of the world community and regain lost traction economic traction.