© 2021 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Post-Election Violence Continues In Kenya, As Opposition Leader Returns


We're going to start the program today in Kenya, which is in the middle of a political standoff, a standoff which is fueling deadly clashes between police and demonstrators. Yesterday, at least five people were killed in clashes between demonstrators and security services after the leader of the opposition returned home after a visit overseas. Now, this all comes after the country has held two presidential elections in the past three months - the second was just last month. The Supreme Court is considering a challenge to that second election. NPR's East Africa correspondent Eyder Peralta is with us now from Nairobi to tell us more. Hi, Eyder.


MARTIN: So what happened yesterday?

PERALTA: Yeah. So, you know, the opposition leader, Raila Odinga, he's been out of the country for about 10 days. And before he flew back yesterday, the opposition got word that they wanted about a million people to receive him at the airport. And the government said that wasn't happening, so they deployed a bunch of security across the city. And that set up a confrontation. Raila arrived. He got into an SUV, and he drove to town. It took him about six hours to get there. And his caravan was just surrounded by thousands of supporters. And basically everywhere he stopped, it was chaos. His supporters lit cars on fire. They set up roadblocks and threw rocks. And police responded with tear gas and water cannons. And at least one person ended up shot on the streets.

MARTIN: What are people saying on the streets, or what were people saying as you were following all these events?

PERALTA: You know, I heard a lot of resignation. I think Kenyans are bracing for this to become a long-term thing. And in some ways, this is becoming Kenya's new normal. We've been at this for more than three months already. And yesterday, after Raila Odinga had gone home, I took a walk around downtown. And it seemed like out of nowhere police came riding through and started firing tear gas at the sidewalk. An Anglican priest, Reverend Paul Masaba (ph), was walking home, and he spotted me and my microphone. And he just started ranting. Let's listen to a bit of what he said.

PAUL MASABA: (Speaking Swahili).

PERALTA: What struck me about this man is that he was hardly bothered by the chaos around him. And what he was saying is that it was clear that Uhuru Kenyatta, the president, could no longer keep his people safe. So it was time, he says, for Kenyans to pray that God brings change to this country.

MARTIN: What does each side want in this conflict? I mean, what does the opposition want? Do they have specific demands? And what does the president, the current administration, saying about that?

PERALTA: Yeah. I mean, so for a long time, the opposition leader was just asking for new and fair elections. The goalposts has changed. And now, he's saying that he wants President Uhuru Kenyatta to step down. His supporters have started calling Raila Odinga Mr. President. And, of course, the president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, is saying there's no way we're stepping down and that he believes that he won fair and square both times.

MARTIN: So what is likely to be the next flashpoint in this long - what is expected to be a long saga, Eyder?

PERALTA: We have a Supreme Court decision coming up on Monday. The court is going to decide whether to throw out these elections or to say that they were free and fair. It's truly anyone's guess how they're going to decide. Remember that last time around, the court threw out the results and that was historic. So it's hard to read the tea leaves in this, but I think the one thing we know for sure is that whatever the court decides, it's just another trigger for potential violence.

MARTIN: That's NPR's East Africa correspondent Eyder Peralta joining us from Nairobi. Eyder, thank you.

PERALTA: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.