Kenya: Schools and shops reopen despite opposition calling for new protests

Activity picked up somewhat on Thursday in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, where schools and some shops reopened despite calls for protests against high prices and government policy for the second day in a row.

The Azimyo coalition called for three days of anti-government mobilization from Wednesday to Friday as part of a protest movement launched in March that has sometimes been marred by vandalism, looting and violence, leaving at least twenty people dead.

In East Africa, Kenya’s economic engine slowed on Wednesday in the first of these days of action, fearing fresh overflow.

Clashes broke out between groups of protesters and police in various places in the country, and two people were killed in Kisumu (West), according to a hospital official.

On Thursday morning, activity in the Nairobi business center has resumed to some degree, although, AFP reporters said, its usual frenzy has still not returned.

“Life is getting back to normal, I see some shops are open. This has to stop because it is very bad for the economy,” said Godfrey Monony, a 45-year-old urban planner who returned to work after staying at home the day before.

“Today it is almost normal, not normal yet, but we are getting closer,” said Charles Muru, 51, who has reopened his kiosk to sell books and newspapers. But he believes “the demonstrations must stop” because they paralyze the country and “hurt”.

Opposition supporters demonstrate in Nairobi, Kenya, July 19, 2023 (AFP – Luis Tato)

Public schools that were closed on Wednesday in the country’s three main cities (Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu) have reopened by government order.

Clashes broke out on Wednesday in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, the towns of Nakuru and Mombasa, as well as pro-Odinga strongholds of Kisumu, Homa Bay, Kisii and Migori in the west of the country.

Two people were shot dead in Kisumu, according to the director of a city hospital.

Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki said more than 300 people were arrested across the country.

Elected in August 2022 on a promise to support the most disadvantaged, President William Ruto has faced growing opposition, especially since he announced in early July legislation introducing new taxes that add to the daily hardships of Kenyans.

Opposition supporters demonstrate in Nairobi, Kenya, July 19, 2023 (AFP - Luis Tato)
Opposition supporters demonstrate in Nairobi, Kenya, July 19, 2023 (AFP – Luis Tato)

The government has been criticized for brutal police action, including the firing of live ammunition.

Thirteen Western countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, expressed their concern at the “high level of violence” during the latest demonstrations in a joint statement on Tuesday, and urged the various parties to “peacefully resolve their differences”.

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