Roundup: Anti-government protests ease in Kenya
NAIROBI, July 21 (Xinhua) —
Normal business resumed in most parts of Kenya Friday after the country was rocked by continuous street protests starting Wednesday over the high cost of living.
Most major cities and towns, including Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, and the coastal city of Mombasa remained relatively peaceful Friday.
Friday was the last of the three-day protests Azimio la Umoja (Resolution for Unity)-One Kenya Coalition leader Raila Odinga had called over the rising cost of living after President William Ruto’s government enacted a Finance Bill that raised taxes on various products, including fuel.
In Nairobi, most schools and businesses reopened and officegoers trooped back to their workplaces, providing much relief to various businesses.
Tom Mboya and River Road, some of the busiest streets in downtown Nairobi, were once again teeming with people as business thrived.
So was the case on Kenyatta and Moi avenues in the central business district where traders opened their shops with no fear that they may be attacked.
Commuter bus operators put their vehicles back on the road, as the number of travelers increased. Anti-riot police officers patrolled most of the streets in the national capital and other towns, ready to engage protestors when the need arises.
“I am happy business is back to normal. At least I can ferry passengers from Kitengela to the city center without fear,” said Moses Kariuki, a conductor with Rembo Shuttle Sacco, which plies the route.
And as normalcy returned across Kenya, several Azimio politicians arrested by the government over the protests were charged in various courts for “conspiring to commit subversive activities.”
In Nairobi, a legislator and at least four opposition supporters were arraigned in court and the prosecution demanded they be denied bail, noting that they might interfere with witnesses.
Chief Magistrate Lucas Onyino, however, released each of them on 100,000 Kenyan shillings (about 704 U.S. dollars) bail.
Odinga is currently recovering from a severe flu which he said kept him away from taking part in the three-day protests.
“I am currently battling a strong flu hence keeping off public engagements and all meetings,” said Odinga on his Twitter handle.
As many parts of Kenya experienced calm, there were pockets of violence in some regions, in particular opposition bastions in Kisumu, and slums in Nairobi. In Nairobi, police battled opposition supporters in Kibera and Mathare slums.
The officers engaged youth in running battles as they used tear gas to disperse them.
The youth had barricaded roads with bonfires and threw stones at police officers, who blocked them from reaching the central business district where opposition leaders had asked them to converge.
As the crisis persists, a Kenyan manufacturers’ lobby said the sector was losing up to 20 million dollars daily due to the protests that disrupt businesses. “Investors rely heavily on a stable political and social environment that assures the safety of their investments while guaranteeing that business operations will not be disrupted. Kenya’s reputation as an attractive investment hub is at risk following these demonstrations,” said Rajan Shah, chairman of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers.
Ruto on Friday told the opposition that the government would not allow them to sabotage the economy using protests. He asked the police to remain firm and deal with rioters who were destroying public property and livelihoods.
Interior and National Administration Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki said Thursday in a statement that the government had arrested more than 300 people who had engaged in the protests. Kindiki added that security agencies remained alert and would increase operational activities to ensure normalcy returns across the country.
Inflation in the East African nation stood at a high of 7.9 percent in June, which is above the 7.5 percent target set by the government, due to the high cost of food items and fuel, with the latter worsened by doubling of tax on fuel to 16 percent.