Chaos, teargas as Kenyans rush home to beat curfew

A street in Kisumu during curfew hours. The government imposed a raft of restrictions to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • There was desperation as only a few public service vehicles were available in Kisumu.

  • In Kakamega, the town centre was deserted by 6.45pm as residents rushed home from their places of work.
  • Several motorists who failed to beat the curfew deadline were arrested at roadblocks.

Hundreds of Kisumu residents braved a heavy downpour on Friday evening as they rushed home to beat the nationwide curfew that kicked off Friday 7pm.

There was desperation as only a few public service vehicles were available, forcing many to camp outside buildings as they waited for means of transport. 

A spot check by Nation established a number of residents also sought refuge in different petrol stations and Kondele flyover. 

Many streets within the CBD remained empty while major supermarkets including Naivas Khetias and Quickmart closed despite a government directive listing them as essential service providers.

In Kakamega, the town centre was deserted by 6.45pm as residents rushed home from their places of work.

Several motorists who failed to beat the curfew deadline were arrested at roadblocks set up at the main gate of the western region police headquarters.

Supermarkets and other business premises also closed operations by 6.30pm.

Kakamega Central sub-county commander David Kabena said all those who failed to stay away during curfew period would be arrested.

At Amalemba estate, there was pandemonium as residents scampered away from police officers who were patrolling the residential estates.

Police lobbed teargas at disperse boda boda operators near the Mumias matatu stage.

In Homa Bay, police used teargas to disperse crowds of people who were disobeying the curfew order after 7 pm. 

Police offices and local chiefs patrolled Homa Bay Town some minutes before 7pm to ensure that no business operated after the curfew started.

However, local youths, mainly boda boda riders became hostile to the officers, forcing police to use teargas to repulse them.

Earlier, County Commissioner Yatich Kipkemei had warned those who would violate the order.

Most business premises including local supermarkets closed early.

In Siaya County, police officers began patrolling trading centers by 5pm on Friday as the dusk to dawn curfew announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta kicked off.

Hours before the curfew, the officers who were reinforced by prison warders forcefully dispersed crowds and traders who rushed to close their shops in some of the trading centers. 

The officers who were patrolling in their hundreds moved from shop to shop in Ndere trading center along Siaya Ugunja road ordering business people to close their shops and immediately head home.

It was a similar situation in Kobare trading center where many traders hurriedly shut down their premises and headed home to avoid being caught on the wrong side of the law.

However, it was calm in towns such as Siaya, Bondo, and Akala where most people kept off the streets, leaving the CBD deserted by 5pm. 

In Kisii, residents heeded the 7pm curfew order.

By 6.30pm, the streets were deserted except for a few people.

At 6pm, a county enforcement vehicle moved round the streets warning residents against defying the order.

"Go home for your own security. Let 7pm not get you in town," they warned.

By 7.15pm, dozens of security officers were patrolling the streets.

In Bomet and Kericho counties, business premises were closed an hour before the curfew imposed by the government took effect as thousands of residents rushed to their homes on foot, while others opted for taxis and matatus to ensure they were not found on the wrong side of the law.

"Anyone found to be flouting the regulations set by the national government on curfew will not be spared. All the offenders would be arrested by the police," said Bomet County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding.

A heavy downpour that pounded the region as early as 4pm saw residents lock themselves indoors, with towns and major trading centres being deserted.

"Police in anti-riot gear had been patrolling Kericho town and residential estates in the outskirts of ahead of the time set for a curfew. The move has led to shops being closed early as the people fear being clobbered," said Mr Ben Siele a Kanu party leader in Kericho.

In Busia County, there was little activity at most markets by 6pm as most traders closed their shops ahead of the curfew.

In Bumala, one of the busiest shopping centres in the county, boda boda operators deserted the town as policemen started patrolling the centre an hour before the curfew.

“We understand the economic meltdown this directive is going to cause in the region but again this is not the time to find yourself on the wrong side of the law,” said an operator Richard Omondi.

The same was experienced in Busia town, the county headquarters as the Busia-Kisumu highway remained deserted save for transit trucks that are still queuing for clearance at the One Stop Border Post.

County Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri earlier urged residents to adhere to the night lockdown.

In Vihiga, residents begun vacating major trading centres early enough, leaving streets deserted an hour to the start of the curfew.

A contingent of police officers was seen stationed on the major highway in Mbale town that houses the county headquarters.

No major incidences were recorded as the population largely respected the dusk to dawn curfew with a few people seen rushing to their homes minutes before the start of the curfew.

County Commissioner Ochillo Oyugi and Governor Wilber Ottichilo urged the locals to heed the directive saying it intended to aid the fight against the spread of coronavirus.

"Security personnel are out and this will remain in place until further notice," said Mr Oyugi.

Reported by Victor Raballa, Elizabeth Ojina, Benson Amadala, Ruth Mbula, Vitalis Kimutai, Derick Luvega, Gaitano Pessa and George Odiwuor