Kenya’s interior ministry on Thursday said more than 300 people including a lawmaker had been arrested following violent anti-government protests that left seven people dead.
There were deadly clashes and looting on Wednesday in parts of the East African nation as protesters took to the streets over tax hikes and economic pressures in defiance of a government ban.
Police have been accused of a heavy-handed response and criticised for using tear gas against civilians, including at a school where dozens of children were hospitalised.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who called the protests, has vowed to keep up the street action until cost of living pressures come down.
But the interior ministry said that “acts of lawlessness… can neither be accepted nor tolerated”.
“There is no relationship between lowering the cost of living and destruction of critical infrastructure built using public funds. That is hooliganism, lawlessness, and a recipe for anarchy,” Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki said.
“Security officers are directed to enforce the law firmly and decisively and deal with all criminals, including economic saboteurs, looters, and vandals, who are destroying private and private property.”
He said 312 people “who directly or indirectly planned, orchestrated, or financed” the protests had been arrested and would be charged, including a member of parliament.
“The search for more culprits is on,” he added.
The death toll from the unrest rose to seven after a man died in clashes between rival groups in Sondu on the border of Kericho and Kisumu, the latter an Odinga stronghold.
“One person succumbed to injuries at the hospital,” Kericho police commander Geoffrey Mayek told AFP.
Six others were killed when police opened fire on demonstrators in the towns of Mlolongo and Kitengela on Nairobi’s outskirts, and in Emali along the highway to Mombasa.
In Nairobi’s Kangemi slum, dozens of children were hospitalised, some unconscious, after teargas was fired near their classrooms.
The National Gender and Equality Commission, a state authority, strongly condemned the incident.
“School children… who should be shielded from such chaos, were tragically caught in the crossfire,” it said, condemning the vandalism and rights abuses linked to the protests.
Odinga initiated a string of anti-government rallies this year after losing to William Ruto in presidential elections last August — a vote he claims was “stolen”.
Last week, protests in several cities also saw six people killed.