By Joseph Akwiri
MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Kenyan police in the port city of Mombasa fired teargas to disperse hundreds of protesters demonstrating against an electoral oversight body which opposition parties want scrapped, a Reuters witness said.
Police in riot gear earlier patrolled the streets while businesses stayed closed for fear of looting, the witness said.
About three hundred protesters demonstrated with placards reading "IEBC must go home now", a reference to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
Another banner read "Democracy on trial. The struggle is on."
It is the fourth week running for the protests, called by the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD). In similar previous protests in the capital Nairobi, police have used tear-gas and water cannon against stone-throwing crowds.
"We shall not allow any disruption to normal business activities in the city. The demonstrations are illegal and the organizers have been clearly warned. If they insist on rioting, they will meet us there," Lucas Ogara, Mombasa's police chief, told Reuters.
Kenya's next presidential and parliamentary polls are not due until August 2017. But politicians are already trying to galvanize their supporters in a nation where violence erupted after the 2007 vote and the opposition disputed the outcome in 2013.
The opposition CORD coalition, led by Raila Odinga who lost the 2013 vote and unsuccessfully challenged the result in court, has accused the IEBC of bias and said its members should quit. IEBC officials have dismissed the charge and say they will stay.
The government has called on the opposition not to stage street protests against the IEBC and asked them to pursue other peaceful means to bring about change.
But CORD on Sunday vowed to keep up the protests in Nairobi and other regions. "Kenyans will be doing this, as we have done in the past, in exercise of their right to assemble peaceably and to direct the widest possible attention to a great national issue," it said in the statement.
(Reporting by Joseph Akwiri; Additional reporting and writing by George Obulutsa in Nairobi; Editing by Richard Balmforth)