I’m nursing a terrible flu, Raila explains absence from protests » Capital News

NAIROBI, Kenya July 20 – Azimio La Umoja leader Raila Odinga has broken his silence to explain his conspicuous absence from the three-day anti-government protests he mobilized.

In a telephone interview with NTV, Odinga said he is nursing a terrible flu but he has assured his supporters that he is firmly with them.

“I nursing a terrible flu but I am getting better,” he said in the interview, “I am urging my supporters to go on with the protests because tomorrow (Friday) is the grand finale.”

At least 6 people have been killed and more than 300 arrested since Wednesday when the protests started.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki said the suspects-many of them in Nairobi- have been charged with various offences, including unlawful assembly and destruction of property.

Kindiki says the government has managed to suppress the protests and urged the public to go on with their businesses.

“The public is hereby informed that the wave of hooliganism, disruption of order and lawlessness that began on Wednesday has been fully contained and the country has returned to normalcy,” he said in a statement.

But Odinga has vowed the protests will proceed Friday and urged his supporters to turn up, saying he must not be there for protests to proceed.

“The protests are for all Kenyans, it is not about me or Azimio leaders so even if we are not present they proceed,” he said.

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Kenyans largely ignored a call by the opposition to boost anti-government protests on Thursday, although isolated clashes flared in the capital between police and stone-throwing demonstrators.

Police fired tear gas and live rounds at protesters in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, an opposition stronghold, but no violence was reported elsewhere in contrast to earlier demonstrations.

Veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga called for three days of demonstrations this week, with Wednesday’s protests claiming six lives according to Amnesty International’s Kenya chapter, which said it had cross-checked the toll with victims’ families.

Since March, 20 people have died in the demonstrations, according to figures released by the government and hospitals, and the unrest has alarmed Kenyans and the international community alike.

President William Ruto on Thursday repeated his call for a halt to the demonstrations, saying they were “not a solution to the problems of Kenyans”.

Odinga says Ruto’s government is illegitimate and responsible for a cost-of-living crisis and had urged Kenyans to show up in large numbers on Thursday, tweeting: “The voice of the People must be heard.”

But no major demonstrations were reported on Thursday, apart from skirmishes in Kibera, where police clashed with protesters, while some residents armed with sticks stood guard to prevent burglaries.

“Yesterday, five shops were looted in this area, we are here to avoid that happening today, we are tired of it,” said Jacob Anyango, 45.

Schools in Nairobi and the opposition bastions of Kisumu and Mombasa reopened, with the interior ministry assuring Kenyans that it had taken “adequate measures to guarantee the safety and security of learners”.

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Nairobi’s business district, which was largely shuttered on Wednesday, also went back to work, with stores reopening.

“The shop was closed yesterday because there was a lot of tension, and we felt people can take advantage of the situation to loot,” said mobile phone salesman Peter Wangui.

“We feel today is safer… but it is not as busy as it used to be, the protests are hurting businesses,” the 24-year-old said.

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