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Kenya's opposition leader says will suspend protest rallies

A Kenyan police officer walks through a cloud of teargas to disperse supporters of the National Super Alliance (NASA) in Nairobi on October 11, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga says he will suspend protest rallies after three people were shot dead in demonstrations against the country's election body.

Odinga, who heads the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, made the announcement in a statement in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on Tuesday.

“In honor of the innocent victims of the state, our protests will stay suspended. On Friday, we will mark the memory of these victims as heroes of the struggle for electoral justice,” the statement read.

The opposition leader added that the party would communicate “our next course of action” on Friday. The coalition had earlier said the protests would resume on Wednesday after a one-day break to honor the victims.

The suspension comes days after two protesters were shot dead by police in Odinga’s rural home of Bondo, in the west of the East African country. Police commander Leonard Katana confirmed the demonstrators were shot after attempting to “attack” the police station on October 13.

On Monday, an 18-year-old man was shot dead in Kisumu.

Human rights groups say as many as 67 people died during a police crackdown on protesters following the annulment of the August presidential election in the country.

Three weeks ago, Odinga launched a protest campaign against the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). He said the panel had failed to properly reform since the Supreme Court annulled an August 8 presidential election over irregularities in the counting process.

The protests have seen opposition supporters setting tires alight, lobbing stones at police and in some cases looting stores and destroying property. Most of the protest rallies had been concentrated in Kisumu but with smaller crowds were also seen in Nairobi and coastal Mombasa.

On October 12, Security Minister Fred Matiangi banned protests in main cities, citing lawlessness from opposition supporters. However, the country’s high court suspended the ban.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who won the vote only to have his victory annulled, has accused the court of bringing the country close to “judicial chaos.”

Odinga and his supporters have turned their ire on the election board for its role in the cancelled poll.

With less than 10 days to go until a scheduled rerun of the vote, politicians from both sides have traded insults and accusations, raising fears of further turmoil in the regional economic and transport hub.

The opposition is threatening to boycott the October 26 rerun if election board officials are not removed and if parliament passes a proposed amendment to the election law that would prevent the court from annulling the results again.

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