Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Five dead as blasts hit Kenya political rally

Two explosions ripped through a rally against a proposed new constitution for Kenya being held in the centre of Nairobi on Sunday, killing at least five people and injuring 79, officials said.

It was the most serious incident in the east African nation since the violence that followed disputed elections in 2007 left 1 500 people dead and 300 000 displaced from their homes.

Panic gripped the crowd in Uhuru Park in the heart of the capital when the blasts went off during prayers at the end of the rally, called by evangelical Protestant churches, Nairobi police chief Anthony Kibuchi told Agence-France Presse.

‘An isolated incident’
“There were two explosions in the middle of the crowd,” he said.

“This is an isolated incident, but it is unfortunate we have lost three lives,” Prime Minister Raila Odinga told reporters after visiting some of the injured at Kenyatta national hospital.

“The government will do everything to apprehend the perpetrators,” he said, adding however that the incident “should not be linked” with the planned August 4 referendum on the draft revised constitution.

Peter Wanyoike, a doctor at Kenyatta national hospital, later confirmed that a total of five people had died, while another five were fighting for their lives.

“Two more people have just succumbed to injuries, and the death toll is now at five,” he told AFP.

“We have five people who are in a critical condition and some of them are already in the [operating] theatre.”

Appeals for calm
Police sealed off the vast park as ambulances converged on the scene, then sped away to take the casualties to various hospitals.

Several thousand people were attending the rally, where organisers and speakers appealed for calm from the podium.

Inside one hospital, some of the bloodstained victims appeared unconscious, lying on stretchers on the floor of the emergency ward. Their injuries were mainly to their legs and lower torsos.

It appeared that an explosive device had been thrown at the crowd, police chief Kibuchi said, while survivors thought hand grenades had been used. The blasts were said to have gone off 15 minutes apart.

“We will get to the bottom of the matter,” said Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, as he announced that a police investigation is underway.

“We do not want to speculate … We cannot tell the kind of devices that were used … but we will know in due course,” he added.

Kenya has been striving to chart a new political course after the 2007 elections which shattered its reputation as an island of stability in the otherwise volatile Horn of Africa region.

Mediation by former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan led to President Mwai Kibaki and Odinga, his rival in the presidential election, sharing power.

But the international community has expressed concern that Kenya — which expects another general election in December 2010 — has made little progress on political reform and combating corruption.

United States Vice President Joe Biden — visiting Nairobi last week en route to the World Cup in South Africa — promised big economic rewards for Kenya if political reforms were implemented.

“Putting in place a new constitution and strengthening your democratic institutions and rule of law will further open the door to major US development programmes and investment from US corporations,” he said.

“Kenya’s best days are yet to come,” he added. — AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

GDP, recession, JSE, rallying rand … these terms mean very...

The economy is not producing work, with many young adults working outside their fields of study or considering leaving the country as a result

More top stories

Europe, Asia rob West Africa of fish

Greenpeace Africa reports that the fishmeal and fish oil industry is ‘robbing the Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal of livelihoods and food’

Covid jab tech helps fight malaria

An estimated two-thirds of malaria deaths are among children under the age of five, most of them in Africa.

Learners moving to other provinces puts education departments under pressure

Gauteng and the Western Cape struggle to put children in class, but Limpopo and the Eastern Cape are closing schools as enrolment plummets

New membership system encounters problems in ANC branches

The Lower South Coast region has complained of a plot by some branch secretaries to manipulate the system
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×