NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan police fired teargas on Tuesday at supporters of President Uhuru Kenyatta who were protesting outside the Supreme Court against the invalidation of his Aug. 8 re-election, Reuters witnesses said.
The Supreme Court nullified the presidential election on Sept. 1 and ordered the electoral body to hold a repeat vote within 60 days. The court, which issued a majority judgement, said there were irregularities in tallying results of the poll.
David Maraga, the chief justice and president of the Supreme Court, said threats against judicial staff had risen since the ruling.
“Since the Supreme Court delivered judgement ... these threats have become more aggressive,” Maraga told a news conference at the Supreme Court, as hundreds of protesters wearing the bright red of Kenyatta’s Jubilee party gathered outside.
He cited the demonstrations outside the court as an example of the rising threats, and threatening messages sent on social media to individual judges and their staff.
“Senior political leaders have also threatened the judiciary, promising ‘to cut it down to size’ and ‘teach us a lesson’,” Maraga said, adding that judges would not be intimidated by anyone and were ready to pay the “ultimate price” to protect the constitution and rule of law.
Maraga accused the inspector general of police of “repeatedly ignoring calls to act, exposing judicial officers, property and litigants to danger”.
George Kinoti, the national police spokesman, denied the accusations, saying the police had provided bodyguards to judges and protection for their homes and the courts.“The truth is borne out of facts and they are plain for any citizen to check and confirm,” Kinoti said in a statement.
The protesters waved placards and shouted slogans against the judiciary and Maraga himself.
“I have attended this protest to air my grievances after the Supreme Court annulled my candidate’s victory,” one of the protesters told Reuters.
There was a commotion after the teargas was fired, before the protesters regrouped and continued with their protest outside the court building. They were eventually dispersed by further rounds of teargas.
The Supreme Court, which gave a summary of its findings when it invalidated Kenyatta’s election victory, said it would read its detailed ruling on Wednesday at 0700 GMT.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who lost by 1.4 million votes to Kenyatta in the annulled poll, has said he will not take part in a repeat vote scheduled for Oct. 17, unless some staff at the electoral commission are fired, among other demands.
The heads of Western diplomatic missions in Kenya, including those of the European Union, the United States and Britain, urged Kenyan leaders to avoid comments that could incite hatred and violence.
“Now is the time to focus on preparing for the new poll, which, in line with the Court’s order and the Constitution, must be run by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and be held by the end of October,” they said in a joint statement.
Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Gareth Jones