Kenyan march stopped with tear gas
Police confront opposition groups protesting against the misappropriation of power.
Last Modified: 05 Dec 2006 16:36 GMT

Kibaki promised to reduce presidential powers but some say his promises have fallen short (file)

Kenyan police have used tear gas against opposition leaders and supporters protesting against government-approved changes to the former ruling party's leadership.


The violence in central Nairobi came after weeks of political negotiations between Kenya's party leaders before a presidential election due at the end of 2007.

Opposition groups have viewed the changes as a political coup.


Uhuru Kenyatta, an official opposition leader, said: "It is clear that the government doesn't respect the rule of law. Our struggle has to continue because this is a fight for our democratic rights."

Suspicious minds


The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Kenya's main opposition alliance, had called the march to the government registrar's office to complain that an ally of Daniel arap Moi, the former president, was made head of the Kenya African National Union (Kanu).


"Kenyans do not need a permit to visit a public office. This is the highest form of violence."

Nazlin Omar

Last week, Nicholas Biwott, a powerful minister under Moi, was approved. Many Kenyans still view him with suspicion.


The government said the march would be illegal, and police used tear gas against the crowd. They beat some with truncheons outside parliament.


Nazlin Omar, of the ODM, said: "Kenyans do not need a permit to visit a public office. This is the highest form of violence."


Gideon Kibunjah, a police spokesman, said the demonstration had not been cleared in advance as required by law, and anyone involved was subject to arrest and prosecution.


Kenyatta's faction in Kanu, the country's oldest political party, wants the party to stay within the ODM, which Biwott and Moi oppose.


Clandestine control


ODM complained the registrar's move was a government-backed plot to split Kanu and keep Kenyatta's wing from steering the party which Moi had once ruled when president.


Many Kenyans believe Moi still controls Kanu, and analysts say that is why Kenyatta failed to win the 2002 elections that brought Mwai Kibaki to the presidency. Kibaki initially served as Moi's finance minister and vice president.

Despite a series of corruption scandals implicating his government, opinion polls show Kibaki as the favourite to win next year's elections. 
A united ODM, however, could make it a tight race.

Al Jazeera + agencies
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