Kenya rights groups decry abductions as government cracks down on protests

Kenyan police have arrested more than 270 people who, they said, were masquerading as protesters and suspected of going on a criminal rampage during anti-government rallies in the country. Human rights organisations denounced what they say is "excessive repression".

After two weeks of protests against a new tax law, dozens of Kenya activists have been abducted, rights groups say, while some now demand President William Ruto's resignation.

“Security forces across the country singled out suspects found engaging in criminal activities in the guise of protesting and took them to custody,” the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) said in a statement posted on social media this week.

Though Ruto withdrew the tax increases in a victory for the movement, the heavy-handed reaction to the protests - campaign groups have documented hundreds of arrests and at least 39 deaths - has raised fears of rights backsliding.

"The president and I gave a categorical promise to the people of Kenya that the issue was abductions and extrajudicial killings will never happen again," Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua said in a televised address. "Sadly, this is back."


The police did not respond to journalists' request for comment on the abductions, nor did Noordin Haji, the director of Kenya's intelligence services.

In an interview on Sunday, Ruto had denied police involvement in disappearances but broadly defended the actions of the security forces.

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