NAIROBI, Kenya – Legislators chose an opposition member as parliament speaker in a close vote yesterday, giving a victory to foes of Kenya’s president as they prepared for mass protest rallies that raised fears of new violence over last month’s disputed election.
Security forces were expected to be out in force today to guard against unrest with the start of three days of demonstrations against President Mwai Kibaki. Opposition leader Raila Odinga called the rallies in 42 locations nationwide, despite a government ban.
Similar rallies earlier this month degenerated into violence in the capital, with security forces beating back mobs with water cannons and tear gas. Though braced for violence, Nairobi was calm this morning with no sign of large crowds gathering and a light rain falling.
The legislative session was the first time that Kibaki and Odinga were together since Odinga accused Kibaki of rigging the Dec. 27 presidential ballot. The two arrived at the National Assembly at the same time but studiously ignored each other.
Kenneth Marende, a 52-year-old lawyer and opposition supporter, was elected speaker of the National Assembly in a narrow 105-101 vote over a Kibaki loyalist.