Azimio protests: Several injured, police car stoned in Kisumu clashes

Police stand by in Kisumu County on March 19, 2023 amid clashes between a group preaching peace and one supporting countrywide anti-government protests called by Azimio coalition leader Raila Odinga.

Several people were injured and a police car stoned on Sunday, when two rival political groups clashed in Kisumu County, ahead of mega anti-government protests called by Azimio coalition leader Raila Odinga.

What started as a peaceful demonstration by one group turned ugly after a rival group attacked them.

The peaceful protest brought together civil society groups and human rights defenders who want the Constitutio respected and for dialogue to be used to address Kenyans' problems.

Violence broke out a few kilometres from the Kisumu bus terminus after the self-proclaimed peace ambassadors ran into a hostile group chanting pro-Odinga slogans.

The violent clash that lasted only for a few minutes left an unknown number of people injured and the windscreen of a police car damaged.

kisumu protests

Members of the public advocate for peace in a demonstration in Kisumu County on March 19, 2021. 

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

The incident happened as the peace procession snaked its way towards the central business district, with protestors waving placards and beating drums in a call for peace.

They were confronted by pro-Odinga supporters who accused them of undermining the opposition chief and going against his directive for countrywide protest marches on Monday.

They came wielding sticks, stones and clubs, forcing the other group to scatter in all directions.

The driver of a vehicle carrying speakers and some of the protesters was forced to make a U-turn against the traffic to avoid the wrath of the Odinga supporters.

The police moved in to quell the chaos but the rioters hurled stones at them, forcing them to seek reinforcement from colleagues, who arrived in more than eight vehicles including lorries.

The protestors, however, stood their ground, vowing to confront the police on Monday.

“We cannot allow people who have been paid to come and cause chaos to provoke us yet we know very well that we will be participating in peaceful demonstrations on Monday, to protest against the high cost of living that is hurting all of us,” said Mr Stephen Okumu, a resident of Nyalenda.

The protesters accused Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda of plotting the morning demonstrations in a bid to create chaos before Monday.

“You cannot go against Raila in Kisumu. If Ojienda feels he wants to fight in a house he was welcomed, then let him resign and seek a fresh mandate, but not trying to undermine Jakom,” said Mr Okumu.

The 'peace ambassadors' lashed out at those planning to stage anti-government demos in the town, saying it is time to shun violence.

“I have been engaging in violence since I was young. I cannot continue doing this because it is not helping me in any way. We do not want our business to be destroyed. We call upon Raila to accept defeat for the sake of peace,” said Mr Wilson Aminda.

kisumu clashes

Traders rush to close their businesses following clashes between rival groups in Kisumu County on March 19, 2023, over opposition leader Raila Odinga's planned anti-government protests.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

Kisumu officials of the United Democratic Alliance party condemned the violence, terming it retrogressive.

“What we have witnessed today is shameful. We are afraid on Monday the situation could be worse. I am asking those who will be in Nairobi and Kisumu not to cause commotion but choose selected leaders to take the petition to State House,” said UDA's acting chairman for Kisumu Central, Mr Cliff Natome.

Mr Karanja Muiruri, the Nyanza Regional police commander, asked the demonstrators to be peace.

“I ask those who want to demonstrate to do so in peace and not interfere with others going about their businesses. You should not pelt vehicles with stones,” said Mr Muiruri.

Meanwhile, report indicate that most of the leaders in the region have travelled to Nairobi with their supporters, to participate in the protest march.

Usually, buses are seen ferrying supporters in broad daylight but Nation.Africa has received reports that most travelled on Saturday night so as not to create any suspicion.

It is also apparent that the elected leaders did not want to appear to have funded the process as they earlier stated in public barazas.