Kenya drops charges against opposition lawmakers over protests

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Riot police detain a supporter of Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga [File: John Muchucha/Reuters]

Charges withdrawn after opposition leader Raila Odinga calls off Monday’s demonstration and agrees to talks with government.

Kenya’s top prosecutor has dropped charges against four lawmakers over anti-government protests, a day after the opposition leader suspended the demonstrations, their lawyer says.

The charges were withdrawn on Monday after Raila Odinga announced he would embark on dialogue with the government after weeks of chaotic street protests.

“The case has been withdrawn … for the sake of peace, dialogue and justice between the accused persons and the state,” lawyer Danstan Omari told reporters.

The four opposition lawmakers, all leaders of Odinga’s party in Kenya’s Parliament, were arrested and charged with unlawful assembly in late March, then released on bail.

Kenya protests
Odinga’s supporters at a protest against the rising cost of living and alleged fraud in last year’s elections [File: John Muchucha/Reuters]

Thousands of people took part in three marches over the past two weeks against the high cost of living and alleged fraud in last year’s general election.

During the protests, police used tear gas and water cannon, including on Odinga’s convoy. A heavy police presence was deployed in Nairobi’s central business district last week.

A fourth rally had been planned for Monday, but it was called off temporarily after President William Ruto called for negotiations and suggested the establishment of a bipartisan committee to reconstitute the electoral commission.

“In these circumstances, and in view of the recent events that led to loss of lives and destruction of property I urge Hon. Raila Odinga to call off any further demonstrations,” Ruto said in a statement on Sunday.

He said the bipartisan parliamentary committee could explore possible reforms to electoral procedure.

Ruto, who inherited a huge foreign debt and has scrapped fuel subsidies, said last week that the protests were hurting businesses and Kenya’s people.

Odinga, a former prime minister, has lost five elections in a row in his bid to become president.

Kenya’s Supreme Court unanimously upheld the result of August’s election, which made Ruto president, but Odinga insists the election was stolen and released new claims this past weekend that he said prove he won.

The opposition leader has refused to recognise Ruto or his government and urged him to “vacate his office” on Saturday.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

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