Monday, December 15, 2008

Kibaki booed off podium at Independence Day celebrations


Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki was heckled and forced to end his independence day speech after a crowd booed him when a protester was arrested.
The man was dragged away from the stands of Nairobi's Nyayo Stadium by security agents after trying to hand the president a protest note. Police say more than 20 other people were arrested over the protests. They were angry at the refusal of MPs to pay tax and a new media bill, which critics say will gag the press. Protestors including civil rights activists and journalists, wore black T-shirts with slogans printed on them. Thousands of people who attended Kenya's 45th Independence Day celebrations on Friday shouted in protest against rising food prices. Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the activists were arrested for trying to disrupt a national day.

Human rights activist Philo Ikonya said that the protest was to show the country's leaders that Kenyans have had enough. "Every day something is happening that is just showing insensitivity on the part of the leaders so there is general discontent," she said. A section of the crowd carried red cards and lifted them up when President Kibaki started speaking, she said.

The protestors slammed the new media bill passed by parliament on Wednesday, which gives the state power to raid media houses and control broadcast content. The new media bill has sparked outrage with newspapers carrying
 screaming headlines condemning the new law. Radio and television stations have also devoted plenty of airtime to the campaign, urging the president to reject the bill. Ms Ikonya said the activists had planned to peacefully join in the Independence Day celebrations and register their discontent through the messages printed on their clothing. Walter Mong'are, a popular radio comedian, dressed in an outfit resembling prison garb, was also forcibly removed from the stadium by security officers. Footage of the officers gagging the activists and roughing them up was broadcast live on television stations which were covering the celebrations. Many Kenyans are upset about the cost of the power-sharing government set up to end post-election violence earlier this year. The cabinet of 40 ministers and 52 assistant ministers is the biggest in Kenya's history.

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