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Kenya demonstrations turn ugly

THOUSANDS of students protested against alleged police killings in Kenya yesterday, but the demonstration slid into violence with shops ransacked, journalists beaten and officers pelted with stones.

In one of the worst bouts of political unrest since post-election violence at the start of last year, three shots were heard as the protest turned ugly in Nairobi city center. Police moved in after students blocked roads, one with a petrol tanker.

The demonstration was the latest sign of widespread public frustration in Kenya with the coalition government of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

About 2,000 students poured into the center of the capital from the University of Nairobi and Kenya Polytechnic, waving placards and chanting "Ali must go!" in reference to controversial police commissioner Hussein Ali.

Numbers quickly swelled to about 5,000, witnesses said, as slum-dwellers, the jobless and others joined the fray.

The demonstrators banged on cars, pulled up trees, smashed the windows of restaurants to grab food and drink, and beat half a dozen journalists with sticks. Police who tried to confront a group were met with a hail of stones.

"We supported their right to carry out a protest, but now they seem to be misusing their freedom," Julius Ndegwa, deputy provincial police boss, told Reuters. "This is utter stupidity."

Having restored peace after a traumatic post-election crisis that killed at least 1,300 people and uprooted 300,000 more at the beginning of last year, the unity government has stalled on political reforms and seen various corruption scandals emerge.


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