How Governor Nyong’o, local leaders are protecting property in Kisumu during demos

Kisumu Demos

Police disperse protestors who tried to access the CBD during anti-government protests in Kisumu on March 27, 2023. 

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

A strategy by police and politicians in Kisumu to guide the Monday opposition protests bore fruit, with the result that no business was destroyed, in contrast to last week.

This happened amid fear that rioters would target specific businesses whose products have been blacklisted for boycott by Azimio coalition leader Raila Odinga.

Last week’s demos in Kisumu turned chaotic and left one student shot dead and a number of businesses looted.

Wanting to prevent a repeat of last week, politicians agreed to simply march to the county commissioner’s office without blocking roads and lighting bonfires.

The politicians also identified hotspots and criminals who usually take advantage of the demonstration to loot and destroy property.

By Sunday evening, politicians, led by Governor Anyang Nyong’o and Kisumu City Manager Abala Wanga, were in a flurry of meetings with various stakeholders to ensure the demonstrations were peaceful and no property was destroyed.

The resolutions were made during a Kisumu multi-sectorial peace forum held over the weekend that brought together politicians from across the divide, the business community, church leaders and the civil society.

The absence of politicians, most of whom had joined Mr Odinga in Nairobi last week, played a role in the confusion witnessed last Monday since there was no one to offer leadership or sobriety during the demos.

This changed this Monday as the governor, his deputy Dr Mathew Owili, Kisumu Central MCA Joshua Oron and many MCAs ensured they were present to lead the protests.

They avoided the city centre, choosing to use the Kondele bypass towards Kachok.

“We want to participate 100 per cent, but we don’t want to destroy anything, that is why this morning we had to be on the ground to lead our protesters,” said Dr Owili.

A lot of work went into ensuring some angry youths did not proceed through town, he said.

“We refused and eventually they followed us and we are happy they heeded our call,” said Dr Owili.

Marshalls were placed in various parts of the city to identify those who might have infiltrated the protests with the aim of causing chaos or looting.

Many people could be heard condemning anyone who threw stones.

However, some rioters attempted to access the city centre through the Kisumu Boys roundabout, Jua kali and Kachok, but they were repulsed by anti-riot police officers and two of them were arrested.

Mr Elly Opondo, the director of Champions of Peace, said protesters had to adhere to the law even as they exercised their democratic right.

Champions of Peace is a grassroots NGO that advocates stable, secure and peaceful communities where human rights and dignity are respected and upheld.

Mr Opondo also urged security agents not to use excessive force when handling protesters.

A change of tack by police also saved a number of businesses from being vandalised.

Instead of waiting for the protesters to make their way through the city centre as they did last week, the police cordoned it off, blocking demonstrators at all access points.