A day after deadly protests rocked several areas of Kenya, government security officials issued a decree on Tuesday banning all “unlawful demonstrations.”
Joseph Nkaisserry, Kenya’s interior minister, said protesters “armed with stones, machetes and other crude weapons” had caused “heightened political tension, disruption of peace and loss of livelihoods affecting thousands of ordinary Kenyans.”
As a result, Mr. Nkaisserry warned, “from today, the Government prohibits all unlawful demonstrations in the country.”
What exactly “unlawful” means and how this decree differs from what the government already had the right to do remained unclear.
Kenya’s opposition leaders have been organizing regular protests on Mondays, to many Kenyans’ chagrin. The opposition leaders immediately rejected the ban as unconstitutional.
Kenya’s courts may have to decide the appropriate balance between protecting security and allowing free expression. On several occasions, the courts have sided with Kenya’s opposition, affirming its right to hold peaceful protests.
On Monday, demonstrations erupted in several parts of the country. Many protesters were peaceful, singing as they marched through downtown Nairobi, the capital, but others in its slums burned tires and barricaded roads.
In Kisumu, in western Kenya, the police battled mobs, shooting several people. The government said on Tuesday that 50 people had been injured and two killed, and it blamed the protesters for the violence. Witnesses in Kisumu said police officers had opened fire on a crowd, hitting a 5-year-old boy in the back. He was hospitalized and his condition was listed as critical.
Kenya’s opposition has been mobilizing supporters to press the government to disband the national election commission, which is widely viewed as biased and corrupt. President Uhuru Kenyatta has refused to do so, and opposition leaders have threatened to increase their protests to two and then four times a week.
The protests have scared away business and tourists. One Kenyan investment adviser in Nairobi, Aly-Khan Satchu, has estimated that the country loses the equivalent of $5 million each day the protesters take to the streets, because of interruptions to commerce, the closing of businesses and the destruction of property.
Kenya is scheduled to hold a presidential election next year, and many Kenyans worry that the disruptions, anxiety and violence that usually surround elections have already begun.