Kenyan opposition rally starts amid heavy police presence

NAIROBI: Kenyan opposition rally kicked off on Monday morning and is set to be addressed by opposition leaders later on Monday, as thousands of security forces have been deployed in the Kenyan capital Nairobi and its environs.The rally, dubbed Saba Saba rally, convened by Cord alliance, has sparked tension among Kenyans, most of whom boycotted work on Monday for fear of being attacked.Police have ringed Uhuru Park, the venue of the rally that started receiving opposition supporters from as early as 6:15 a.m., and are searching everybody entering the site to check for weapons. The busy city roads that are usually under traffic gridlocks during rush hours are free flowing, as most Nairobi residents have opted to stay away from the central business district.However, it is not certain whether people have heeded the call by opposition leader Raila Odinga, who declared the day a “public holiday” or have decided to keep a safe distance to avoid any eventualities.“The opposition’s call for a national dialogue to address serious issues plaguing the country is something that is, in fact, welcomed by many,” said Nanjira Sambuli, a senior researcher at Innovation Hub in Nairobi. He said reactions to all these events online indicate a resurgence of hateful and inflammatory speech, pitting ethnic groups against each other.Most shops in the central business district were still closed by 10:00 a.m., a time in the morning when business is typically brisk in the town, although there is visible police presence.All people attending the rally convened by Cord are undergoing screening at various entry points before entering the venue.Some businesses within the Central Business District are open with security personnel standing guard in all the city streets.. Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo has assured Kenyans that security is adequate for those attending the rally as well as business people within the city. The rally was preceded by anxiety with some fearing that chaos would mar the event.The police have however warned that it will hold Cord principals Odinga, ex-Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and ex- foreign affairs minister Moses Wetangula personally responsible for their utterances should they lead to violence after the rally.At least 15,000 police officers have been deployed to man the city as the rally goes on. “I am reporting for duty because of the decree that public servants who don’t do so shall be deemed to have resigned,” a woman who declined to be identified told Xinhua. Parking spaces that normally witness free-for-all scramble as drivers fight for the limited slots are devoid of vehicles as most motorists have kept off the road. 

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