Gunmen kill 2 in attack on university convoy in Kenya

Opposition to boycott parliament; poll re-run in doubt – Motive and Identity of attackers unclear

MOMBASA: Armed security officers at the scene of shooting where two women were shot dead in Ukunda town, south coast of Mombasa yesterday.— AP

MOMBASA: Two staff members of a Kenyan university were killed south of Mombasa yesterday when gunmen fired on vehicles carrying them and students to their campus, the area police chief said. The identity of the gunmen was unclear. Police in the coastal county of Kwale, where the Technical University of Mombasa (TUM) has a campus, said they could be robbers or militants. Security is poor in the area and the convoy had a police escort. Somali Islamist militants Al Shabaab frequently carry out attacks along the Kenyan coast and have been recruiting new members there.

In 2015, Al Shabaab gunmen killed 148 students at a university in Kenya’s Garissa town near the Kenya-Somali border, an attack that provoked shock and outrage in Kenya and abroad. Two staff members of the university were killed yesterday’s attack, and a driver and two policemen were wounded, area police chief Joseph Chebusit said. “A bus carrying students of TUM was ferrying them from their hostels to the campus in Ukunda for classes and was being escorted by a van that had some staff of the college and two escort police officers,” the policeman said.

“Armed men numbering about 10 emerged from the bushes and started firing at the van in front. As a result two ladies who are staff of TUM were killed in the van. The driver of the van and two police officers were injured,” he said. “We have information that the attackers had other accomplices along the road who were monitoring the movement of the two vehicles and communicating with them to enable the attack,” he added. “For now we are treating it as a crime like any other as we continue with investigations but that does not mean we are ruling out Al Shabaab.”

Poll re-run in doubt
Separately, Kenyan opposition lawmakers said yesterday they would boycott parliament over proposed election law amendments ahead of a re-run of a presidential vote on Oct 26, a contest experts say looks increasingly unlikely to happen. The poll pitting President Uhuru Kenyatta against opposition leader Raila Odinga must be held by the end of October, according to a Supreme Court ruling. Judges ordered the re-run after nullifying Kenyatta’s win in Aug. 8 polls due to procedural irregularities.

If the election is not held, it is unclear who would lead Kenya, a regional trade and transport hub. The East African nation’s free market and staunch alliance with Western nations make it a favored investment and tourism destination and the region’s richest economy. But months of political uncertainty have blunted growth and raised fears that street protests could spill over into violence. At least 37 people were killed in protests following the August vote, a Kenyan rights group said on Monday. Most were killed by police, the group said.

Yesterday, opposition lawmakers said they would boycott parliament over proposed amendments to the election laws introduced by the ruling party, which has a majority in both houses. The amendments say if a candidate boycotts an election, the remaining candidate automatically wins. Ruling party legislators say they are trying to head off a constitutional crisis if Odinga pulls out of the election at the last minute. He has repeatedly said he will boycott the polls if some officials at the election board are not replaced.

“With fifteen days to the next election, we are not going to participate in a process where the Jubilee government is shifting the goal posts of an election and the candidate is the one to assent to the law,” opposition senator Mutula Kilonzo said at a news conference. Opposition lawmakers announced a boycott of parliament when Kenyatta opened it in September, saying he no longer had the authority after his election was voided. Since then, they have been turning up for the minimum amount of time required to avoid their seats being declared vacant.
Britain’s Africa minister, Rory Stewart, released a statement at the weekend saying “The UK is concerned by the increasingly unstable political situation in Kenya … Neither threats to boycott the election nor changes to the electoral legislation at this stage are helpful.” While Kenyatta has been travelling around the country campaigning, Odinga has held few rallies. His campaign announced this week he would be flying to London for a day to deliver a lecture. With two weeks to go to the election, Odinga spokesman Dennis Onyango was unable to provide Odinga’s campaign schedule to Reuters. Murithi Mutiga, a senior analyst for the Horn of Africa, said the lack of action suggested a boycott of the polls was likely. – Agencies


This article was published on 10/10/2017