Police reportedly used tear gas to disperse crowds in the Kebirigo area of Nyamira County on Thursday, October 8, ahead of a political rally organized by Deputy President William Ruto. The rally had reportedly been planned as a political fund-raising event, but dozens of police officers blocked access to the site and ordered tents to be taken down, stating that the gathering had not been authorized and was illegal. Ruto was not at the site when police dispersed the crowd but it is unclear whether the Deputy President will still attempt to address supporters in the area later on Thursday.
The police action came a day after the National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC) announced new regulations requiring organizers of public gatherings to seek approval from local police chiefs at least three days prior to the planned event. The new measure has been widely seen as an attempt by the NSAC to restrict early political campaigning for the 2022 presidential election, with police given the power to prevent such gatherings.
Further gatherings and associated police activity are likely in the Kebirigo area in the near term, with a realistic possibility of clashes between demonstrators and security forces.
Political tensions have been increasing in Kenya amid a growing rift between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto. The Deputy President, a long-term ally of Kenyatta, had expected to be the heir apparent going into elections in 2022, when the President reaches the end of his constitutionally-limited two terms. However, Kenyatta has grown increasingly close to opposition leader Raila Odinga following an agreement that ended the country's 2018 political crisis, triggering a simmering power struggle within the government.
Those in Nyamira County are advised to avoid the Kebirigo area in the immediate term due to the risk of unrest. Travelers should avoid all demonstrations and political gatherings in Kenya due to the risk of incidental violence and crowd-dispersal operations by security forces, avoid discussing politically sensitive topics in public or on social media, and heed any directives issued by local authorities.
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