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Kenya Police Club Protesters at Anti-Government Rally

October 11, 1997| From Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya — Firing into the air, police with clubs broke up an anti-government protest Friday during a national holiday honoring Kenya's longtime president. Dozens of people were hurt, and several opposition leaders were arrested.

Rally organizers said the violent police response proves that President Daniel Arap Moi is not committed to genuine reforms. One protest leader called for a boycott of upcoming elections unless the government repeals laws dating from British colonial rule, which opposition groups claim favor Moi.

"We were saying earlier that we want minimum reforms before elections," said Kivutha Kibwana, a spokesman for the National Convention Executive Council. "From now on, we are saying no elections without comprehensive constitutional reforms."

He said a reform package being debated in parliament allows the president to retain too much power and does not guarantee free and fair elections.

The date for the elections has not been set, but the constitution requires that they take place before the end of this year. Moi is seeking a fifth five-year term.

During the protest in Nairobi, about 100 police officers fired ammunition into the air and unleashed a cloud of tear gas.

At least a dozen people were arrested, including three opposition leaders. Police beat protesters with clubs and short whips.

Across town, the president delivered a speech to mark the day he assumed the presidency. Moi said he was encouraged by those politicians who set aside personal and party differences to participate in talks on democratic reforms.

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