More than 270 people arrested in antigovernment rallies in Kenya

Police say protests were co-opted by ‘suspects’ engaging in ‘criminal activities’.

Kenyan police have arrested more than 270 people who they said were masquerading as protesters and suspected of going on a criminal rampage during antigovernment rallies in the country.

“Security forces across the country singled out suspects found engaging in criminal activities in the guise of protesting and took them to custody,” the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) said in a statement posted on X late on Tuesday.

It said 204 suspects were arrested in Nairobi, the capital, and another 68 in other areas of the country.

“The DCI has further deployed scrupulous investigators across the affected regions to pursue suspects captured on CCTV cameras and mobile phone recordings violently robbing, stealing and destroying properties and businesses of innocent citizens,” the statement added.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki also condemned the protests, describing them as an “orgy of violence”, warning that the government would take action against anyone engaging in “anarchic chaos and cruel plunder”.

“This reign of terror against the people of Kenya and the impunity of dangerous criminal gangs must end at whatever cost,” he said.

Riot police used tear gas and charged at stone-throwing protesters in central Nairobi and across Kenya on Tuesday in widespread unrest since at least two dozen protesters died in clashes last week.

The demonstrations began against a controversial finance bill that contained new taxes, adding to the hardships of people already suffering a cost-of-living crisis.

While President William Ruto later abandoned the measure, protesters have since called for his resignation in a wider campaign against his rule, using the hashtag “RutoMustGo”.

They have also rejected his calls for dialogue.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) said 39 people had been killed and 361 injured during two weeks of rallies, with the worst violence occurring in Nairobi on June 25.

The KNCHR on Monday also condemned the use of force against demonstrators as “excessive and disproportionate”.

In Mombasa, Milan Waudo told the Reuters news agency, “People are dying in the streets, and the only thing he can talk about is money. We are not money. We are people. We are human beings.

“He [Ruto] needs to care about his people, because if he can’t care about his people then we don’t need him in that chair.”

Reporting from Nairobi, Al Jazeera’s Zein Brasravi said the rallies are a “reflection” of the anger that people are feeling after the deaths of protesters.

“Protesters here say that they feel that their voices are still not heard and the government still doesn’t understand why they’re coming out and protesting,” he said on Wednesday.

Activists blamed Tuesday’s violence on infiltrators they said had been unleashed by the government to discredit their movement and said it was now time to disperse.

Still, more demonstrations have been called for Thursday and Sunday.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies