Protests banned in Kenya after opposition leader pulls out of presidential election

Several people were injured in protests in Kenya on Wednesday, a day after opposition leader Raila Odinga announced he would quit the presidential race, in a move that plunged the country into uncharted waters.

The incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta was declared victor but his rival Raila Odinga in the opposition's National Super Alliance (NASA) contested the victory and file a petition at the supreme court that later nullified the entire exercise.

Opposition supporters have been holding regular protests in the three cities, which have resulted in looting and violent clashes with police.

Earlier on Thursday, Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo said NASA would defy a directive from the Ministry of Interior banning protesters from accessing the Central Business Districts in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu.

Police contingents repelled with tear gas and shots in the air around 1,000 demonstrators in the central area of this capital. In Odinga's western stronghold of Kisumu, thousands of protesters took to the street, blocking roads, setting heaps of tyres alight and engaging in running battles with police.

"Why are they shooting at innocent peaceful protesters?" Protest violence immediately after the August election left 37 people dead, mostly at the hands of police, according to a Kenyan rights group.

Kenyatta and Odinga were due to return to the polls because the Supreme Court nullified Kenyatta's win in an August 8 election, citing procedural irregularities. Kenyatta insists an October 26 do-over must go ahead. In fact, including a new candidate legitimates the results of the contest, despite the boycott by Odinga, who supported his abstention with accusations of partiality favoring Kenyatta.

Opposition leaders have called for daily demonstrations. "What we are demanding is that the electoral commission should respect the Supreme Court and carry out elections in accordance with the ruling", he told Reuters. "As far as we are concerned, that (original Supreme Court) ruling is still valid", he said during a visit to London.

Mr Odinga withdrew his participation in the re-run election because he said the electoral commission had refused to implement changes to correct the problems he blames for the bungled election.

Kenyatta's Jubilee Party has pursued changes to the electoral law that the opposition says will make it more hard for the Supreme Court to nullify a presidential election and will reduce safeguards against electoral fraud.

Vanessa Coleman