Chaos in Nairobi, Kisumu in day of tear gas and beatings

mass action protest maandamano raila nairobi cbd

Security officers remove barriers mounted by rioters along Tom Mboya street in Nairobi on March 20, 2023, during a mass action protest staged by Azimio la Umoja coalition leaders led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. 

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

At least two people were reported to have been shot yesterday during demonstrations by the opposition that were marked by running battles with the police, tear gas and beatings.

Looting and vandalism marred the mass protests called by the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party leadership in Kisumu City yesterday when police battled to drive protesters away from the central business district.

Pitstop Club was vandalised and looted while Imperial Sarova Hotel and Quick Mart supermarket were pelted with stones. Other areas that were affected were Post Bank and Naivas Supermarket and May Fair building as well as other small shops on Kenyatta Avenue.

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi arrested

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi when he was arrested outside City Hall, Nairobi city centre, on March 20, 2023.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

For the better part of the day, police engaged irate youth to an extent that, when the officers ran out of tear gas, they were forced to retreat as the mob charged at them.

Police also thwarted attempts by thousands of protesters to storm the Kisumu State Lodge with some of them being arrested in the melee. The State Lodge was cordoned off and motorists had to use alternative routes to access the city centre and Nyalenda Estate.

Tension was evident in the lakeside city from yesterday morning as locals and businesses closed their shops for fear of vandalism and looting. In Kondele, there was no sign of political activity as at 8.30am but by 9.30am, a section of youth had started barricading the roads with boulders and lighting tyres.

At the Kisumu-Kakamega highway, traffic was flowing smoothly, as well at Kibuye Market and Kisumu Boys roundabout but by 10am, only a few vehicles were on the road. There were reports that, by Sunday, protesters had already mapped out some business premises they associate with leaders from Nyanza who have rebelled against opposition chief Raila Odinga.

This forced Kisumu City Manager Abala Wanga to clarify that one of the most iconic buildings in the city centre, One Kentons Square, was not in any way owned by former Nairobi governor Evans Kidero who now supports President William Ruto.

“The correct position of the ownership is that it is owned by Kentons Limited which was founded in 1978 by Dr Ashok K Shah who purchased the parcel of land from Standard Chartered Bank,” said Mr Wanga.

PPolice tera gas

Police officers along Kenyatta Avenue, Nairobi as they engaged rioters in running battles on March 20, 2023.

Photo credit: Collins Omulo I Nation Media Group

In Homa Bay Town, two rival groups clashed during the protests. One group supported the protest while the other was opposed to it. In Siaya, Mr Odinga’s rural county, peaceful demonstrators presented their petition to the offices of County Commissioner Jim Njoka. The team was led by Siaya Township Ward Rep Obiero Otare and his Central Gem and Usonga counterparts Silas Madingu and Sylvester Madialo marched through Siaya town calling on the government to lower the cost of essential commodities.

It was business as usual in towns in Vihiga County. Traders opened their shops but lamented that business was slow due to the tensions caused by the call for anti-government protests.

Vihiga Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Billy Nyonje said the body had met the county security committee and was assured that their premises would be protected.

In Kisii and Nyamira counties, there were attempts by a handful of protesters to demonstrate but the regions generally remained calm. Some Azimio supporters in Nyamira briefly held demonstrations before being dispersed by anti-riot police. In Kisii, police kept guard at strategic points in the town. Traders went about their businesses, though the streets were unusually quiet, with most people shunning the town centre.

Four arrested

Four arrested outside Supreme Court on March 20, 2023. 

Photo credit: Kennedy Amungo I Nation Media Group

Coast region remained generally peaceful. In Mombasa, however, some residents of Bangladesh in Jomvu Constituency held demonstrations. They were largely peaceful with minimal police presence.

The Nation team did not observe any protests in Nyali, Kisauni and Mvita constituencies where businesses operated normally. In Lamu, Muslim elders and a section of clerics resorted to preaching peace and harmony while asking residents not to join the mass action to respect the coming Holy Month of Ramadhan. There were no protests in Kwale, Taita Taveta and Kilifi counties.

Save for Kitale Town in Trans Nzoia County, there were no protests in North Rift counties, with residents going about their business urging President Ruto and Mr Odinga to engage in dialogue and chart the way forward for the country.

There was tranquillity across Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Turkana, and West Pokot counties. Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago said the protests were unnecessary and were aimed at undermining President Ruto's government.

In Kitale town, however, protestors carried sufurias and waved placards as they poured onto the streets to protest the high cost of living, particularly the price of maize flour. Police lobbed tear gas canisters to disperse the demonstrators. Only a handful of supporters were marching to the County Commissioner's office to present their petition when anti-riot officers confronted them at Mamboleo Hotel.

Running battles ensued prompting traders to hastily close their premises. Students reporting back to school were caught in the melee in the town centre. Trans Nzoia police boss Patrick Lobolio said officers had been deployed in the town to patrol and ensure businesses were not disrupted.

In Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County - the hometown of President Ruto, business went on as usual, with people keeping off the protests.

A spot check in Baringo County established that businesses in the major towns of Kabarnet, Mogotio, Eldama Ravine, Chemolingot, Kabartonjo, and Marigat were not interrupted in any way and there were no protests.

Kabarnet's main stage was a beehive of activity with learners boarding vehicles to report back to their respective schools after the mid-term break.

Mr Richard Ruto, a resident of Kabarnet town, said that the county is grappling with a myriad of challenges including insecurity and food shortage which cannot be solved by picketing.

The same situation was witnessed in the key towns of Nandi County — Kapsabet, Nandi Hills, Kaptumo, Kabiyet, Kobujoi, Mosoriot, and Meteitei towns where a peaceful day was witnessed.

Chaotic scenes along Tom Mboya Street in Nairobi as rioters barricade and destroy road barriers during demonstrations called by Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga. Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

At the Nandi County Government offices, Governor Stephen Sang and his deputy Dr Yulta Mitej were busy conducting the swearing-in of newly appointed chief officers.

Anglican Bishop Paul Korir and church leaders who conducted prayers at the swearing-in ceremony asked Kenyans to shun the demonstrations.

In Lodwar town, residents kept off the protests, saying, they were hard-pressed by insecurity, which has disrupted their livelihoods.

Residents urged Mr Odinga to lead demonstrations to push for sustainable peace and security in areas affected by banditry.

High cost of living

“Those participating are after protecting their wealth. Raila has nothing to lose. The protests will contribute to the high cost of living,” said nominated MCA Elijah Kasheusheu.

In Nakuru County, the anti-government protests aborted after the arrest of former County Assembly Speaker Joel Kairu and County Orange Democratic Movement chairman Benard Miruka, who were leading the protests in Nakuru City.

The two were arrested after they attempted to stage protests along Kenyatta Avenue. Police officers confronted them around the Moi Road junction where they were arrested and bundled into a waiting vehicle. The two allies of Mr Odinga were taken to the Nakuru Central Police Station.

Naivasha town and its environs remained relatively calm with residents shunning the demonstrations. Even the usually volatile Karagita area was unusually quiet, with locals going about their businesses. It was business as usual in Kericho, Bomet, Narok and Samburu counties.

Reporting by Mercy Koskei,Macharia Mwangi Robert Kiplagat, Vitalis Kimutai Kalume Kazungu, Kevin Odit, Winnie Atieno, Rushdie Oudia, Ruth Mbula, George Odiwuor, Derick Luvega And Kassim Adinasi, Evans Jaola, Titus Ominde, Annabelle Obala, Patricia Kiabi, Florah Koech, Tom Matoke, Sammy Lutta, and Oscar Kakai