Kenyan protesters die in clashes

Click to follow
Thika, Kenya (Reuter) - At least four people were killed yesterday when Kenyan police broke up protests, badly beating organisers of opposition-backed rallies and firing tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds.

Riot and elite paramilitary General Service Unit (GSU) police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to break up rallies in Nairobi. Scores of protesters were severely beaten, some even after they surrendered and offered no resistance.

"Kill him, kill him," bellowed police and council workmen armed with clubs as they laid into one man lying in Nairobi's Uhuru park.

Police said Red Cross workers found a boy bleeding from his mouth and ears in Uhuru park, but he died on his way to hospital. Witnesses said that David Mutugi, 17, was shot in the chest and killed by police at Moi gardens in Thika, 20 miles from Nairobi, when police and prison guards charged people gathering for a demonstration.

A police spokesman said it was unclear whether David was the same person as a dead boy shown to police in Thika's Majengo area. He said an investigation was under way.

Sources at Thika hospital said that at least five other people were taken to hospital after being injured when police stormed Moi gardens, which had a second-hand clothes market. The police spokesman said a mob tried to overrun the jail in the town of Nyahururu, about 60 miles west of Nairobi, and one man was shot dead by prison authorities. Police also shot and killed another man in a crowd that attempted to storm a bank. He said a policeman was shot and wounded in Nyaharuru by a gunman firing from a crowd.

Police appeared to single out for particularly savage beatings leaders of opposition-backed groups which called the rallies in the biggest day of action to press for constitutional reforms before presidential and parliamentary elections.

Witnesses said that GSU and police fired tear gas inside Nairobi's All Saints Cathedral and beat several demonstrators, including Muturi Kigano, chairman of the unregistered Safina party, and opposition members of parliament Kamau Icharia and Njoka Mutani. "We were in the middle of the service when they broke in. This is Kenyan justice for you. Even in God's house they beat innocent protesters," said the Rev Peter Njoka.

The Rev Timothy Njoya, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa and an organiser of the demonstrations, was severely beaten near the cathedral by six police wielding wooden pick-axe handles. His assistant was also badly hurt. "[President Daniel arap] Moi must go. Moi must go," hundreds of stone-throwing supporters chanted as they marched into the deserted business centre of Nairobi.

The rallies were called by opposition parties, human rights groups and other organisations at 50 sites in Kenya yesterday, a day in Kiswahili known as "Saba Saba", to commemorate a Nairobi rally seven years ago when at least 20 people were killed.

However, Mr Moi, 73, looks certain to extend his 19-year rule by five more years because of electoral rules and opposition splits. No date has been set for this year's general election.