Shooting, tear gas, bonfires mar Kenya election re-run

Shooting, tear gas, bonfires mar Kenya election re-run

By Maggie Fick

KISUMU, Kenya (Reuters) – Kenyan opposition supporters clashed with police and threw up burning barricades on Thursday, seeking to derail an election rerun likely to return Uhuru Kenyatta as president of East Africa’s chief economic and political powerhouse.

In the western city of Kisumu, stone-throwing youths heeding opposition leader Raila Odinga’s call for a voter boycott were met by live rounds, tear gas and water cannon. Gunfire killed one protester and wounded three others, a nurse said. Reuters found no polling stations open there.

Riot police fired tear gas in Kibera and Mathare, two volatile Nairobi slums. Protesters set fires in Kibera early in the morning and in Mathara a church was firebombed and a voter attacked.

Around 50 people have been killed, mostly by security forces, since the original Aug. 8 vote. The Supreme Court annulled Kenyatta’s win in that poll on procedural grounds and ordered fresh elections within 60 days, but Odinga called for a boycott amid concerns the poll would not be free and fair.

The repeat election is being closely watched across East Africa, which relies on Kenya as a trade and logistics hub, and in the West, which considers Nairobi a bulwark against Islamist militancy in Somalia and civil conflict in South Sudan and Burundi.

While tensions simmered in opposition strongholds, other areas were calm. In the capital, polling stations saw a sprinkling of voters instead of the hours-long queues that waited in August.

Interior minister Fred Matiang’i told Citizen TV that polling stations opened in 90 percent of the country, including Kiambu, where Kenyatta cast his ballot.

“We are requesting them (voters) humbly that they should turn out in large numbers,” Kenyatta, the U.S.-educated son of Kenya’s founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, said after voting. “We’re tired as a country of electioneering and I think it’s time to move forward.”

A decade after 1,200 people were killed over another disputed election, many Kenyans feared violence could spread.

If some counties fail to hold elections, it could trigger legal challenges to the election, stirring longer-term instability and ethnic divisions.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court was due to hear a case seeking to delay the polls. But it was unable to sit after five out of the seven judges failed to show up, fuelling suspicions among opposition supporters.

“The lack of a quorum is highly unusual for a Supreme Court hearing,” a statement from the European Union said. “Not hearing this case has de facto cut off the legal path for remedy.”

In a statement issued by the U.S. embassy, foreign missions said the vote had damaged regional stability and urged “open and transparent dialogue involving all Kenyans to resolve the deep divisions that the electoral process has exacerbated.”


In Kisumu, the scene of major ethnic violence after a disputed election in 2007, many schools designated as polling stations were padlocked. Young men milled about outside.

In Kisumu Central, constituency returning officer John Ngutai said no voting materials had been distributed and only three of his 400 staff had turned up. One nervous official said his election work was a “suicide mission”.

Kisumu businessman Joshua Nyamori, 42, was one of the few voters brave enough to defy Odinga’s stay-away call but could not cast his ballot.

“Residents fear reprisal from political gangs organized by politicians. This is wrong,” he said.

In the coastal city of Mombasa, protesters lit tyres and timber along the main highway. Some polling stations had not opened by 8am, and those that did had low turnout and four armed police on guard – double the number on duty last time.

“We are not staying home. We are protesting and ensuring there is no voting around this area,” said Babangida Tumbo, 31.


On the eve of the vote Odinga, backed off previous calls for protests and urged supporters to stay home.

“We advise Kenyans who value democracy and justice to hold vigils and prayers away from polling stations, or just stay at home,” he said in English.

But speakers who preceded him urged in the KiSwahili language that supporters should ensure the vote did not take place.

Odinga’s National Super Alliance coalition, whose supporters attacked polling staff in the run-up to the vote, could argue in court that the lack of open polling stations shows that the re-run is bogus. The Supreme Court said it would annul this election too if it did not meet legal standards.

The head of the election commission said last week he could not guarantee a free and fair vote, citing political interference and threats of violence against his colleagues. One election commissioner quit and fled the country.

Kenya’s Election Observation Group, a coalition of civil society organizations, said an observer in Mombasa had been beaten up and one in Kibera prevented from leaving the house.

They did not send observers to western Kenya over security fears, they said, but in other places 80 percent of the 766 polling stations they were observing opened on time.

(Additional reporting by Katharine Houreld, Duncan Miriri, David Lewis and John Ndiso in Nairobi and Joseph Akwiri in Mombasa; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

Tens of thousands of Catalans take to streets to protest police action

Tens of thousands of Catalans take to streets to protest police action

By Sam Edwards

BARCELONA (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Catalonia on Tuesday to protest against Sunday’s violent crackdown by Spanish police on an outlawed independence referendum for the region.

Metro stations shut down in Barcelona, pickets blocked dozens of roads and state workers walked out in response to a call for a general strike by pro-independence groups and trade unions. Many small businesses also shut down for the day.

Catalonia, Spain’s richest region, has its own language and culture and a political movement for secession that has strengthened in recent years.

Pro-independence parties who control the regional government staged Sunday’s referendum in defiance of Spanish courts that had ruled it illegal. Some 900 people were injured on polling day when police fired rubber bullets and charged at crowds with truncheons to disrupt the vote.

Those who participated voted overwhelmingly for independence, a result that was expected since residents who favor remaining part of Spain mainly boycotted the vote.

Opinion polls conducted before the vote suggested only a minority of around 40 percent of residents in the region back independence although a majority want a referendum to be held.

Protesters said the violent police crackdown against the ballot had energized the secessionist camp.

“What happened on Oct. 1 has fired up independence feeling that will never die,” said 18-year-old student Monica Ventinc, who attended a protest on Tuesday.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has said the referendum is valid and its result must be implemented. Spain’s Constitutional Court prohibited the ballot, siding with Madrid which argued that it contravened the country’s 1978 constitution which bars breaking up the country.

The referendum has plunged Spain into its worst constitutional crisis in decades, and is a political test for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, a conservative who has taken a hard line stance on the issue. Outside of Catalonia, Spaniards mostly hold strong views against its independence drive.

Several demonstrations unfolded throughout Catalonia on Tuesday. To the north of Barcelona, a line of tractors moved down a road blocked to traffic, accompanied by protesters chanting “Independence!” and “The streets will always be ours!”

Crowds gathered outside the local headquarters of Spain’s ruling People’s Party (PP) and the Spanish national police headquarters in Barcelona, whistling and waving the red-and-yellow regional flag.

“In no way can we accept that they come here with this kind of repression,” taxi driver Alejandro Torralbo, standing outside the PP headquarters, said of Sunday’s police action.

Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said Puigdemont and his regional government had lost respect for the democratic process and were showing a flagrant disregard for the law.

“I’ve seen how President Puigdemont has flooded the streets with his followers to stop people obeying the law and to make them disrespect justice,” she said. “We are here to defend the rights and liberties of all Spaniards that have been trampled upon by the regional government.”

(Additional reporting by Angus Berwick in Vic, Robert Hetz and Sonya Dowsett in Madrid; Writing by Paul Day and Adrian Croft; Editing by Julien Toyer, Janet Lawrence and Peter Graff)

DNA links man to two Michigan police shootings: law enforcement

(Reuters) – A man charged in the shooting of two Detroit police officers earlier this week has been linked through DNA evidence to the fatal shooting of a university police officer last year, authorities said.

Raymond Durham, 60, who was charged in shootings of two Detroit officers on Wednesday, is now the “prime suspect” in the November shooting death of Wayne State University Police Sergeant Collin Rose, Detroit Police Chief James Craig told the media on Friday.

Craig declined to provide details on the DNA evidence that links Durham to Rose’s death, citing the ongoing investigation.

Durham was charged by the Wayne County Prosecutor on Friday in connection with the shootings of the two Detroit officers, the Detroit Free Press reported.

He was arraigned while in hospital, where he is receiving treatment after being shot in the leg during a shoot-out with officers.

One officer was shot once in the ankle and twice in the upper torso, but was wearing protective body armor that likely saved his life. The other officer was shot in the neck, police said. They are both recovering in hospital, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The shoot-out occurred while officers were investigating drug activity on the city’s West Side, just blocks from where Rose, 29, was shot on Nov. 22. He died a day later.

Police are compiling evidence to present to prosecutors regarding Rose’s killing, Craig said on Friday. He said he anticipated charges would be filed against Durham for that shooting.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Paul Tait)

French police clash with youths at protest rally, arrest eight

Clouds of tear gas surround youths as they face off with French police during a demonstration against police brutality after a young black man, 22-year-old youth worker named Theo, was severely injured during his arrest earlier this month, in Paris, France, February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

PARIS (Reuters) – Hundreds of French high-school students staged an unauthorized anti-police rally on Thursday, blocking the entrances to a dozen schools in Paris in the latest in a series of protests over the alleged rape of a young black man with a police baton.

Police reported eight arrests after isolated skirmishes with youths who hurled objects and damaged property on the fringes of what otherwise appeared to have been a relatively peaceful demonstration.

The protest comes two months before a presidential election where far-right leader Marine Le Pen, leader of the anti-immigrant National Front party, is tipped to win the first round but lose the runoff vote that takes place on May 7.

The Paris school authority said more than 10 schools had been targeted by youths who piled up rubbish bins and other objects at the entrance gates. In one case, a deputy school director was injured when protesters hurled a fire extinguisher.

The protesters are angry over the alleged rape of the 22-year-old man during a Feb. 2 arrest in an area north of Paris where large numbers of immigrants live. The man, identified only as Theo, remains in hospital with injuries to his anus and head.

He has called for public calm and his family has said they have faith in the French justice system.

One of the banners carried at Thursday’s rally read “Revenge for Theo!”

Social media networks showed signs of skirmishes on the fringes of the rally in the Place de la Nation square in the east of Paris, where riot police in protective gear advanced on groups of mostly-hooded youths in sidestreet confrontations.

A helicopter flew overhead and tear gas clouds rose into the air above that square toward the end of the rally.

The Paris police department had warned people to stay away from the protest, saying it was not authorized and that there was a risk of violent groups causing trouble, as happened over the last three weeks.

Four police officers have been suspended pending an inquiry into the Feb. 2 incident. One has been placed under formal investigation for suspected rape and three others for unnecessary use of force.

So far the protests have not snowballed to the extent of the unrest that 12 years ago drew global attention to the stark contrast between wealthy Paris and the suburbs that surround it.

(Writing by Brian Love; additional reporting by Gerard Bon and Jean-Baptiste Vey; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Cars torched as Paris suburb seethes over alleged police violence

PARIS (Reuters) – Cars and rubbish-bins were set ablaze in a night of violence in a tense Paris suburb following allegations of police brutality in the arrest of a 22-year-old local man.

One policeman has been placed under formal investigation for suspected rape and three others for unnecessary violence on Feb. 2 during the arrest of the man in Aulnay-sous-Bois outside the French capital.

The area is one of several where riots erupted in 2005 after two youths who fled police died electrocuted in a power station where they took cover.

That incident sparked three weeks of rioting in which 10,000 cars and 300 buildings were set on fire, prompting then interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy to declare a state of emergency and drawing worldwide attention to the contrasts between Paris and the bleak suburbs that surround it.

In Aulnay, where the unemployment rate of 19 percent is near double the national average, petrol-bombs were thrown and police used tear gas in the overnight confrontation around, a suburb some 15 kilometers (9.32 miles) north-east of central Paris.

“This violence is incomprehensible,” Aulnay-sous-Bois mayor Bruno Beschizza said of the incidents.

One report on BFM TV spoke of police firing real bullets into the air to escape when surrounded by a group of angry locals at one point in the night of Monday. It spoke of 24 arrests.

Local police said in a statement the man arrested on Feb. 2, who was only identified by his first name, Theo, accused one of the policemen involved of inserting a baton in his anus.

A hospital examination had revealed wounds to his rectum, face and head, it said.

Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said an investigation would see to establish exactly what had happened, adding that: “Police officers must always behave in exemplary manner.”

Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux, questioned in parliament, said the arrested man was now in hospital with serious injuries but called for calm in the area.

The area where the arrest and subsequent violence took place is a spot where thousands of low-cost, low-rent apartments were built at the end of the 1960s to house workers at a nearby Citroen car factory that hired a lot of its workforce from French former colonies in Africa.

The factory closed in 2013.

(Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Brian Love)