Trump has spoken with world leaders, no tariff exemptions: Ross to ABC

U.S. President Donald Trump listens to reporters as walks with first lady Melania Trump on South Lawn of the White House upon their return to Washington, U.S., from Palm Beach
U.S. President Donald Trump listens to reporters as walks with first lady Melania Trump on South Lawn of the White House upon their return to Washington, U.S., from Palm Beach, Florida, March 3, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

March 4, 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken to world leaders about his planned tariff hike on steel and aluminum and is not considering any exemptions to the measure, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Sunday.

“I know he’s had conversations with a number of the world leaders,” Ross said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week.”

“The decision obviously is his, but as of the moment as far as I know he’s talking about a fairly broad brush. I have not heard him describe particular exemptions just yet,” Ross said.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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U.N. says Russia’s eastern Ghouta aid plan not enough

Smoke rises from the besieged Eastern Ghouta in Damascus
Smoke rises from the besieged Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria. REUTERS/ Bassam Khabieh

March 1, 2018

By Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles

GENEVA (Reuters) – A Russian plan for a five-hour pause in fighting in Syria’s eastern Ghouta needs to be expanded to allow aid deliveries to enter and civilians and medical cases to leave, United Nations officials said on Thursday.

Hundreds of people have died in 11 days of bombing of eastern Ghouta, a swathe of towns and farms outside Damascus that is the last major rebel-controlled area near the capital.

The onslaught has been one of the fiercest of Syria’s civil war, now entering its eighth year.

“You are failing to help us help civilians in Syria,” U.N. humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland told diplomats from 23 states attending a weekly meeting in Geneva.

“Eastern Ghouta is devoid of respect for international law.”

Some 400,000 people trapped in government-besieged eastern Ghouta need life-saving aid, and the only convoy allowed so far this year was a small one in mid-February with aid for just 7,200 people, Egeland said.

Russia, a strong ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has called for daily five-hour local ceasefires to establish what it calls a humanitarian corridor so aid can enter the enclave and civilians and wounded can leave.

But the first such truce on Tuesday quickly collapsed when bombing and shelling resumed after a short lull.


Egeland said a “two-way” humanitarian corridor was needed, with several convoys each week into eastern Ghouta, while 1,000 priority medical cases must be evacuated for treatment.

“I have to say I know no humanitarian actor… who thinks the five hours is enough for us to be able to deliver relief into eastern Ghouta and to organize orderly medical evacuations out,” he said of the Russian unilateral declaration.

During Thursday’s meeting of the humanitarian taskforce in Geneva, the United Nations received notice that it may get permission from Damascus to go to Douma in eastern Ghouta.

“We have 43 trucks standing by to go there and full warehouses to load into the trucks as soon as we get the permit,” Egeland said.

U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters the world body would not give up seeking a full 30-day ceasefire, as mandated by the U.N. Security Council last Saturday.

“We are determined because otherwise this becomes the copycat of Aleppo,” de Mistura said, referring to a battle for besieged rebel-held eastern Aleppo in late 2016.

Ghanem Tayara, chairman of the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM) working in Syria, said some 1,123 patients needed evacuation from eastern Ghouta, where two hospitals have been bombed since Saturday’s resolution.

“The U.N. resolution has been ignored completely,” he said.

(Reporting by Tom Miles and Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Wall Street set to climb as focus shifts to Fed

Traders work on the floor of the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

February 26, 2018

By Sruthi Shankar

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures pointed to a strong start for Wall Street on Monday, with investors hoping that new Fed chair Jerome Powell will keep the U.S. central bank on a steady course of monetary tightening.

Powell faces questions from both houses of the U.S. Congress in a semi-annual testimony starting on Tuesday, his first major set piece since he took over from Janet Yellen earlier this month.

His testimony comes at a time when investors have been anxious about the pace of interest rate hikes, which have weighed on equity markets globally.

“There’s some talk of him (Powell) being a little more open to tolerating inflation running above the 2 percent target. The focus will be to see if he is indeed open to that and the rationale behind it,” said Aaron Clark, portfolio manager at GW&K Investment Management.

The Fed said on Friday it expected economic growth to remain steady and saw no serious risks on the horizon that might pause its planned pace of rate hikes.

The week is heavy on data, with a report on personal consumption expenditure, the Fed’s favorite gauge of inflation, expected on Thursday.

By 8:34 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis <1YMc1> had gained 143 points, S&P 500 e-minis <ESc1> added 10 points and Nasdaq 100 e-minis <NQc1> rose 27 points.

Among stocks, Qualcomm <QCOM.O> shares rose 2.8 percent in premarket trading after the chipmaker urged Broadcom <AVGO.O> to enter into price negotiations on its $117 billion offer for the company.

GE <GE.N> shares rose marginally after the industrial conglomerate nominated three new candidates to its board.

The U.S. 10-year Treasury yield eased to 2.8405 percent <US10YT=RR>, continuing a slip from the four-year high hit last week, while the CBOE Volatility index <.VIX>, known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, was last at 16.53.

A report on U.S. new home sales, due at 10:00 a.m. ET, is likely to show sales increased 3.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted rate of 645,000 units in January.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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Brazil’s Temer says he will not run in October presidential election

Brazil's President Temer arrives to the Military Defense Council meeting in Brasilia
Brazil’s President Michel Temer arrives to the Military Defense Council meeting in Brasilia, Brazil February 22, 2018. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

February 23, 2018

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s President Michel Temer said on Friday that he will not run in the October 7 election and denied that a federal security intervention in Rio de Janeiro state was designed to improve his low approval ratings.

“I am not a candidate and I won’t be a candidate,” Temer, a former vice president who took office when leftist Dilma Rousseff was impeached in 2016, said in an interview with Radio Bandeirantes.

(Reporting by Anthony BoadleEditing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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Britain urges EU to work jointly on Brexit deal, won’t undercut rivals

Britain's Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Davis delivers a speech in Vienna
Britain’s Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis delivers a speech in Vienna, Austria, February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

February 20, 2018

By Francois Murphy

VIENNA (Reuters) – Brexit minister David Davis said on Tuesday Britain and the European Union could reach a deal to access each others’ markets and dismissed fears Britain would use Brexit to cut regulation to attract global businesses, despite past threats to do so.

In the latest of several speeches by ministers to lay out Britain’s Brexit plans, Davis told business leaders in Austria that fears of Britain plunging into a “Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction” after leaving the EU are unfounded.

Instead, he proposed a system of “mutual recognition” where both sides agree common regulatory outcomes, such as consumer protection or financial stability, but are able to pursue their own policies to reach those goals.

“This will be a crucial part of ensuring our future economic partnership is as open, and trade remains as frictionless, as possible,” Davis said.

“Britain’s plan, its blueprint for life outside of Europe, is a race to the top in global standards, not a regression from the high standards we have now.”

Davis is touring European capitals as Britain tries to persuade EU leaders to strike a new deal on trade. Britain wants to retain close economic ties with the EU after it leaves the trading bloc in March next year, while also being free to strike new trade deals around the world.

But EU leaders have warned Britain can’t have both freedom from the bloc’s regulations and frictionless trade.

Davis said Britain wants to work with the EU to create the highest standards of rules in the world, and cited workers’ rights and financial regulation as areas that could be improved.

His comments are designed to allay European politicians’ concerns that Britain could cut taxes and regulation to attract global businesses.

Since Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016, supporters of Brexit have argued that removing the costs imposed by EU rules would be one of the main benefits.


Davis said Britain and the EU could preserve regulatory standards by close cooperation between regulators and the use of an independent arbitration mechanism.  

“The agreement we strike will not be about how to build convergence but what to do when one of us wants to make changes to rules,” Davis said.

“Such mutual recognition will naturally require close, even-handed cooperation between these authorities and a common set of principles to guide them.”

He said the EU already has a number of mutual recognition agreements with countries such as Switzerland, Canada and South Korea covering products including toys, cars, electronics and medical devices.

Business leaders, anxious to preserve cross-border supply chains, generally support the plan.

The speech provides “assurances that the government wants to maintain and improve standards that deliver for consumers, whilst not inflicting any additional administrative burden on business,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium.

Davis’s speech comes as the EU is formulating its approach to the next stage of the Brexit negotiations and ahead of a crucial cabinet meeting on Thursday to decide on Britain’s negotiating strategy.

(Writing by Andrew MacAskill; editing by Andrew Roche, William Maclean)

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Iranian president pledges to stick to nuclear deal commitments

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a meeting with Muslim leaders and scholars in Hyderabad
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a meeting with Muslim leaders and scholars in Hyderabad, India, February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

February 17, 2018

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday it would adhere to commitments under its 2015 international nuclear agreement, signed with six world powers to limit its disputed nuclear program.

“We will adhere to our commitments made,” Rouhani said at an event in New Delhi. “After signing a contract, haggling with it is ridiculous.”

Under the agreement signed with the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of many sanctions.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been pushing for changes to the agreement.

“If the U.S. violates this agreement… you will see that America will regret this decision,” he said adding his country had always adhered to contracts deals so long as other party did not violate the contract.

Rouhani arrived in India on a three-day visit part of efforts to expand bilateral ties and cooperation in economic development.

(Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Alison Williams)

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South African police raid Gupta home, ANC to sack Zuma via parliament

Police raid the home of the Gupta family, friends of President Jacob Zuma, in Johannesburg
Police raid the home of the Gupta family, friends of President Jacob Zuma, in Johannesburg, South Africa, February 14, 2018. REUTERS/James Oatway

February 14, 2018

By Ed Cropley and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s ANC unveiled plans on Wednesday to sack President Jacob Zuma via a parliamentary no-confidence vote, hours after armed police raided the luxury home of his friends, the Gupta brothers, as part of an anti-corruption investigation.

In his first response to an avalanche of pressure from the African National Congress (ANC) for him to quit, Zuma – who has been dogged by scandal throughout his political life – proclaimed his innocence and said he was being “victimized” by Nelson Mandela’s former liberation movement.

“There’s nothing I’ve done wrong,” a relaxed but indignant Zuma said during a nearly hour-long interview with the SABC, South Africa’s state broadcaster. “I don’t think it’s fair. I think it’s unfair.”

When asked point-blank if would step aside, he avoided the question and continued to allege a lack of principle in moves by the party’s National Executive Committee to oust him. He did say he would make a formal statement later on Wednesday.

He did not comment on the police raids, which marked a dramatic tightening of the net around the 75-year-old and the political faction around him accused of milking state resources for their own ends.

Even if he refuses to quit, with the ANC backing an opposition-led no-confidence motion on Thursday, Zuma appears to have run out of road after nine years in office marked by political tumult and economic stagnation.

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, whose election as head of the ANC in December marked the beginning of the end of Zuma’s tenure, could be sworn in as head of state as early as Friday.

“After we have voted for the removal of the President of the Republic tomorrow – and depending on the availability of the Chief Justice – we will also elect a new president,” Mthembu told a news conference in Cape Town.

The rand, which has gained ground whenever Zuma has hit political turbulence, soared more than one percent to a 2-1/2 year high of 11.79 against the dollar.


The speed of Zuma’s demise after two weeks of dithering by the ANC has stunned South Africa.

The early morning raid, which the police’s elite Hawks unit said resulted in three arrests, took place amid reports Zuma was preparing to tell the country he was stepping down

The SABC, South Africa’s state broadcaster, said a Gupta family member was among those detained. A senior judicial source said police expected to arrest up to seven more people and that Gupta family members would be among them.

“You can’t bring a matter of this nature to court and not charge the people who have benefited the most,” the source, who has knowledge of the police’s moves, told Reuters.

Zuma and the Guptas, a family of wealthy Indian-born businessmen, deny any wrongdoing. A lawyer for the Gupta family said he could not comment on the raid because he had yet to see the search warrant.

Meanwhile, there was chaos and confusion at Pretoria’s Union Buildings, the official seat of government, over reported plans for Zuma to address the country.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said Zuma would speak at 0800 GMT and satellite trucks were in position overnight. However, Zuma’s office denied there had been any “official communication” of an address and the scheduled time came and went.

Adding to the mystery, a copy of an email, purportedly from deputy presidential communications director Shadi Baloyi, circulated on Twitter telling Pretoria police that plans for a “special media briefing” by Zuma at 0800 GMT had been canceled.

“Kindly ignore my earlier request, as the briefing will not take place tomorrow,” Baloyi wrote. Reuters could not confirm the email’s authenticity and Baloyi did not answer her phone or respond to text messages.

Zuma’s spokesman did not answer his phone.


Shortly after dawn, a dozen Hawks police officers sealed off a street leading to the Gupta mansion in Johannesburg’s upscale Saxonwold suburb. One blocked access to Reuters, saying: “This is a crime scene.”

Minutes later, an unmarked police van left the compound as residents applauded police officers and hurled abuse at security guards for the Guptas, who have been accused by South Africa’s top anti-corruption watchdog of influence-peddling and swaying the appointment of cabinet ministers.

“Finally something is being done about it. These guys must get out of our country. They must leave us alone. They have done enough damage,” said Tessa Turvey, head of the local residents’ association, standing outside the compound’s iron gates.

Police also raided the Guptas’ Oakbay holding company in Johannesburg’s Sandton financial district, according to a security guard outside the building.

On Tuesday, the ANC ordered Zuma to step down as president of the country, giving him no firm deadline but saying the party was sure he would comply and “respond” on Wednesday.

Hawks spokesman Hangwani Mulaudzi said the raid was part of an investigation into influence-peddling allegations that are also the focus of a judicial inquiry into wider corruption involving the Guptas, dubbed “state capture” in local media.

“We’re not playing around in terms of making sure that those who are responsible in the so-called state capture, they take responsibility for it,” Mulaudzi said.

He declined to give details of what was seized or if the business premises of the Guptas, whose commercial empire stretches from mining to media, would also be raided. Under South African law, suspects cannot be named until they appear in court.

(Additional reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng, Tanisha Heiberg and James Macharia in Johannesburg and Wendell Roelf in Cape Town; Editing by William Maclean and Janet Lawrence)

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ECB concerned about U.S. political influence on exchange rates: Nowotny

ECB Governing Council member Nowotny addresses a news conference in Vienna
European Central Bank (ECB) Governing Council member and OeNB governor Ewald Nowotny addresses a news conference in Vienna, Austria, June 9, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

February 11, 2018

ZURICH (Reuters) – The European Central Bank is concerned that the United States is exerting “political influence” on exchange rates and will make this a theme at upcoming G20 meetings, ECB policymaker Ewald Nowotny said in an interview on Sunday.

“We in the ECB are certainly concerned about attempts by the United States to politically influence the exchange rate,” Nowotny told Austrian broadcaster ORF.

“That was a theme of economic discussions in Davos, where the ECB addressed this, and it will certainly be a theme at the upcoming G20 summit.”

The next G20 summit will be held next month in Argentina.

Nowotny’s comments echo those he made earlier this month when he said the U.S. Treasury department was deliberately putting downward pressure on the dollar.

A weaker dollar tends to benefit large U.S. multinational companies, but it can also make imports more expensive and hurt consumers. The dollar has fallen 2 percent this year and declined 10 percent in 2017.

Positive economic signals in the United States including low unemployment, robust growth and tame inflation do not stem from President Donald Trump’s policies, Nowotny said, but rather those established by his predecessor, ex-President Barack Obama.

“You have to view the economy over a longer period,” he said. “What the United States is currently experiencing is the inheritance from the previous government, as well as Fed policy,” he said.

Trump “started with a good inheritance”, Nowotny said.

(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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Walmart makes push to sell online goods at $10 and up to capture elusive e-commerce profit

A woman shops at Walmart as the store prepares for Black Friday in Los Angeles
A woman shops at Walmart as the store prepares for Black Friday in Los Angeles, California November 24, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

February 8, 2018

By Nandita Bose

(Reuters) – Walmart Inc is asking vendors to supply it with more merchandise priced at $10 and up, as part of a major push to finally turn a profit at its online business, according to four people with knowledge of the matter.

The new focus at the world’s largest retailer is on dry grocery products such as sauces, soaps and general merchandise items such as toys and home furnishings, the sources said.

Walmart’s goal is to see higher profit margins selling these more expensive items given the built-in cost of delivering goods purchased online, according to the people familiar with Walmart’s new strategy.

Shipping Gillette Mach 3 Disposable Razors at $6.97, for example, costs the same as Gillette Fusion5 ProGlide Men’s Razor Refills at $12.97.

In meetings last week with suppliers including Procter & Gamble Co, Unilever PLC, Kimberly-Clark Corp and Clorox Co, Walmart’s e-commerce chief Marc Lore said wants to focus on merchandise priced at least $5 and preferably, more than $10, the people said.

“Walmart has started to understand it cannot make money if they offer the lowest prices online on every item and then spend $4 or $5 trying to ship it over,” said one supplier present at the meetings. “It is not sustainable and more importantly their shareholders won’t allow it.”

Walmart’s directive to suppliers marks a shift in strategy. The retailer for years has squeezed suppliers for pennies to drive the lowest prices for shoppers, both online and at its brick-and-mortar stores. Walmart will continue to press for bargain-priced items to sell at its 4,700 stores. But in addition, it will now implore suppliers to provide it with more expensive goods for sale online.

This new emphasis on more higher-priced goods at comes after the retailer acquired in 2016 and is investing billions of dollars to make its online business more competitive.

Walmart declined to comment on the meetings, but affirmed its commitment to “Every Day Low Prices” and offering the best prices online.

“We are constantly looking for opportunities to expand our assortment with new items, and want to ensure that the items we add to the assortment are a great value but also make economic sense for the channel,” a Walmart spokeswoman said.

Two people present at the Walmart meetings in Bentonville, Ark. – who were not authorized to speak on the record – said Walmart wants to avoid selling products online at a loss like rival Inc, where there is much less of a focus on retail profit. Seattle-based Amazon profits on many but not all transactions, depending on price-matching, an order’s size, shipping speed and other factors.

While Amazon has pressured suppliers for discounts usually given to bigger retailers, a person familiar with the matter said, it has been happy to sell popular items at cost or even at a loss if it means winning customers’ loyalty over the long term.

For a graphic, click

Amazon has a diverse array of profitable businesses to offset its retail losses, including commissions for third-party sales on its site, advertising sales and a business handling large enterprises’ computing needs in the cloud.

Amazon accounted for 43.5 percent of U.S. e-commerce sales in the 12 months to October 2017, compared to Walmart’s 3.6 percent, according to digital research firm has tripled the items it sells to 70 million in the past year. It is looking to grow that fast, as it plays catch up with Amazon’s more than 300 million products for sale. already had begun to raise prices on some items sold online last year. By now enlisting suppliers to provide it with higher priced goods, it is taking that strategy a step further.

The move to offer more $10-and-up merchandise for sale online carries significant risk if bargain hunters reject the push and seek lower-priced goods elsewhere. A majority of Walmart’s low-income customers still tend to shop at its brick-and-mortar stores.

But the retailer, with $485 billion in annual sales, is trying to attract a slightly more affluent audience to

For some suppliers, Walmart’s directive will entail going back to the drawing board and coming up with new items to sell on That, in turn, will require planning and investment in new product design, packaging, marketing and sales. One Walmart vendor said that more than 95 percent of its merchandise currently for sale on is priced between $3 and $8.

Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark and Unilever declined to comment. Clorox did not respond to requests for comment.

“They are no longer saying ‘give us the lowest priced product for dot com,’” said one person present at the meetings, referring to “They want items that retail for more than $10; those are the products that make money for them online.”

(Additional reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco and Martinne Geller in London; Editing by Vanessa O’Connell and Edward Tobin)

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Activist files contempt of court case against Kenya government over TV closures

Kenyan activist Okiya Omtatah files a lawsuit seeking the arrest of two Kenyan ministers and a senior official for contempt of court, at the Milimani Court in Nairobi
Kenyan activist Okiya Omtatah files a lawsuit seeking the arrest of two Kenyan ministers and a senior official for contempt of court after the government ignored a court order to reopen three television channels shut down over their political coverage, at the Milimani Court in Nairobi, Kenya, February 5, 2018. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

February 5, 2018

By George Obulutsa

NAIROBI (Reuters) – An activist filed a lawsuit on Monday seeking the arrest of two Kenyan ministers and a senior official for contempt of court after the government ignored a court order to reopen three television channels shut down over their political coverage.

The case moves Kenya, East Africa’s wealthiest economy and regional powerhouse, one step closer to a possible showdown between the government and judiciary over the unprecedented decision to shutter the three stations.

Kenyan police used teargas to disperse a crowd of more than 100 demonstrators demanding the reopening of the channels, whose closure has also prompted vocal criticism from the United States, the United Nations and ex-colonial ruler Britain.

“The government cannot ignore the ruling of the court,” the activist, Okiya Omtatah, told Reuters as he filed his papers. “I am waiting to get a time when my petition might be heard.”

Omtatah said he was seeking the arrest of the interior minister, the information minister and the director of Kenya’s communications authority for flouting last Thursday’s order.

No one from the government was immediately available for comment.

Kenya’s latest political crisis has its roots in a disputed presidential election last August. President Uhuru Kenyatta won by 1.4 million votes, but the Supreme Court later nullified the results on procedural grounds.


In an October re-run Kenyatta won with 98 percent of the vote after opposition leader Raila Odinga boycotted it, complaining it would not be fair. Odinga claims he was the real winner of the August election, although he has not produced any conclusive evidence to back his claim.

Last Tuesday Odinga held a symbolic inauguration of himself as president of Kenya. On the same day the government took three private television channels planning to screen the event off air.

In the past few days, the government has also briefly detained three opposition politicians who took part in Odinga’s ceremony.

One, firebrand lawyer Miguna Miguna, was due to appear in court on Monday but authorities did not produce him or charge him despite a judge’s order.

Instead, the judge ordered the chief of police and director of criminal investigation to appear on Tuesday to explain Miguna’s absence. The police routinely flout such orders.

At Monday’s demonstration the 100 or so protesters had been trying to march on government offices in central Nairobi when police fired the teargas at them, a Reuters witness said.

“We are tired of what is happening. Detention without trial is back, like what has happened to opposition leaders, lack of respect for court orders,” said one demonstrator, Wilfred Olal.

“Unfortunately despite having notified the police, despite the constitution giving us the right to picket, demonstrate and assemble, they still stopped us with teargas.”

Odinga’s opposition alliance has not yet announced his next plans. He failed to show up at a rally on Sunday, leaving his allies to explain that they would outline their plan next week.

(additional reporting by Katharine Houreld and Humphrey Malalo; writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Gareth Jones and Ed Osmond)

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