Kenya's Nairobi and Kisumu cities haggle over protests 'host'

Wednesday March 29 2023
Governors Anyang' Nyong’o and Johnson Sakaja

Prof Anyang' Nyong’o (left) the governor of Kenya's Kisumu county and Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja. The two have locked horns over the hosting of the weekly protests called by opposition leader Raila Odinga. PHOTOS TONNY OMONDI & WILFRED NYANGARESI | NMG


Governors of two Kenyan cities are haggling over which county should ‘host’ the anti-government protests that have been witnessed in the last two weeks.

The first protests led by opposition leader Raila Odinga were called on March 20, with his Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition demanding electoral justice and for authorities to lower the cost of living.

The protests have since escalated to two days a week, Monday and Thursday, in a move aimed at piling pressure on President William Ruto’s administration to urgently address these issues.

Monday’s protests led to deaths and destruction of property in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, and the lakeside city of Kisumu in the west of the country.

Kenya’s Azimio La Umoja leaders

Kenya’s Azimio La Umoja leaders on March 28, 2023 when they visited the Kenyatta family-owned farm which was raided by goons. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

‘No more protests’


Governors of both cities have since said no more protests will be accepted, except that Kisumu’s Anyang Nyong’o suggested the protests should happen in Nairobi.

“After detailed consultations with the Azimio National leadership and the County Executive Committee, I wish to make the following announcement that all public demonstrations within Kisumu County have from today been suspended indefinitely so that we can join the demonstrations in Nairobi,” said Prof Nyong’o in a statement on Wednesday.

In his response titled ‘Return to sender’, Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja condemned the move, saying his administration is working round the clock to enable the city county serve not just Nairobi, but the people of Kenya, and that it would not host any more protests.

Young men who invaded the Kenyatta farm

Young men who invaded the Kenyatta family-owned Northlands City and stole livestock on March 27, 2023. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

‘Totally unacceptable’

“The governor of Kisumu’s idea that he can export demonstrators to Nairobi and make our county the capital of demonstrations and associated mayhem is preposterous and totally unacceptable,” said Governor Sakaja.

“Nairobi has already hosted two of these demonstrations and borne the cost of the disruption so far.

“Nairobians have patiently put up with this and their taxes have paid for its aftermath.  In the spirit of devolution, I would advise the Governor of Kisumu, Prof Nyong’o to keep his demonstrations to his county,” said Governor Sakaja.

Change of tune

Later Wednesday evening, Governor Nyong'o issued a statement in which he changed tune and announced that peaceful protests would be held in Kisumu after all.

“We are encouraged by the resolve of our people to continue with the demonstrations. We have therefore been urged by our people to continue with the peaceful demonstrations tomorrow (Thursday) and we shall do so,” Prof Nyong’o said.

Kisumu, Nairobi and Mombasa command significant support for Mr Odinga. But they also lie on the key corridor of trade with neighbouring countries including Uganda.

Anti-riot police confront demonstrators in Nairobi

Anti-riot police officers confront demonstrators in Mathare in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on March 27, 2023 during protests called opposition leader Raila Odinga. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NMG

Mombasa calm

Mombasa has remained calm all the days of protests.  Any interruption of business activities hurts beyond Kenya’s borders.

Meanwhile, Mr Odinga has said protests will continue, defying calls for dialogue. He demands that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission opens its servers on data from last year’s elections which he claims the body rigged him out. He has also opposed the appointment of any new commissioners until issues around the conduct of the IEBC teams are investigated.

President Ruto, meanwhile, has condemned the protests as a smokescreen. He told the DW on Tuesday that the violent demos have had nothing to do with the plight of ordinary folk.

“The protests are not much about the cost of living. They are so much about some election results which is actually a settled matter. But because the cost of living is a pregnant, emotive issue, our competitors are trying to take advantage of it,” he said