FDC asks govt to intervene as Kenya protests spill into Uganda

Opposition supporters carry stones and chant slogans demanding lower taxes and a reduced cost of living in Nairobi, Kenya, on March 20, 2023. PHOTO/AFP

What you need to know:

  • Riots in Kenya called by Azimio leader Raila Odinga disrupted business at the Ugandan border district of Busia.
  • Kenya President William Ruto has said his government will not condone impunity after yesterday’s opposition protests paralysed business.

The Opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has asked the government to intervene in Kenya’s situation before it escalates.

The party’s deputy spokesperson, Mr John Kikonyongo, noted that Uganda is a land locked country and almost 90 percent of its imports come in through Kenya’s Mombasa Port and that when Kenya is not stable, it automatically affects Uganda in terms of trade.

He advised that the government lobbies the East African parliament and diplomatic relations at a lower level to prevail over the situation that is likely to affect the country’s economy.

“We interest the government of Uganda to think about the situation in Kenya more seriously, they shouldn’t take it for granted because it has a lot of effect on our economy. If there is a way of working out a solution despite being a foreign country, I believe it is high time they came in with whatever they could do,” Mr Kikonyogo said.

While addressing journalists at the party headquarters in Kampala yesterday, Mr Kikonyogo appealed to Ugandans to store some essentials to prepare in case the situation in Kenya worsens.

“When there is a war in Kenya, automatically Uganda is in danger as far as our economy is concerned. We cannot go into their internal affairs but we must pray to God that whatever happens there doesn’t affect us.” he said.

Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga yesterday called for weekly protests, as clashes erupted between police and supporters demonstrating over the country’s cost-of-living crisis.

Kenya protests spill into Uganda, disrupt business

Riots in Kenya called by the leader of the opposition coalition Azimio, Mr Raila Odinga, have disrupted business at the Ugandan border district of Busia.

Supporters of Mr Odinga were for the better part of yesterday engaged in running battles with Police in Kisumu Town, Homa Bay Town and some areas in Nairobi’s estates.

As the mayhem unfolded in the morning, the road leading to Kenya remained deserted as drivers and transporters parked their cargo trucks and fuel tankers in fear of being caught up in the riots.

Mr Abdallah Mahina, a cargo truck driver, who was destined to Nairobi but parked his truck on the Ugandan side for fear of being attacked by rioters, said: “I arrived here last evening and was advised to park because of the uncertain political situation in Kenya.” 

Mr Mahina said he had learnt a lot from the 2007 protests that broke out shortly after the late Mwai Kibaki was declared winner.

“We had some Ugandan drivers who were killed and as result, we, who are driving Ugandan-registered trucks, cannot venture into Kenya as of now,” Mr Mahina added. 

Mr Abdu Saja, who transports fresh food from Uganda to Kenya, said he had parked his truck due to the ‘uncertainty’ along his route.

“I was taking fresh foods to Mombasa, but I cannot cross the border to Kenya because of the riots,” he said. 

Mr Saja added that he was supposed to deliver pineapples to Mombasa yesterday (Monday) amid fears they would rot because they are perishable. 

Mr Michael Kibwika, the Busia Resident District Commissioner (RDC), said whereas they have not seen any security situation that threatens to spill over into Uganda, they had put in place what it requires to handle any eventuality. 

Mr Kibwika, however, added that he had noted a drastic reduction in the number of fuel tankers and cargo trucks crossing from either side of the border.   The riots come as a direct response to the former Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairperson, Mr Wafula Chebukati, who announced Dr William Ruto as the president-elect in August last year.

Mr Odinga challenged the outcome at the Supreme Court, a case that they lost on grounds that their suit lacked sufficient evidence to nullify Dr Ruto’s election.

Later, Mr Odinga blamed the Ruto-led Kenya Kwanza Alliance for failing to lower the cost of living, seven months after being in power, while urging President Ruto to bring back the subsidies which were synonymous with his predecessor (Uhuru Kenyatta’s) administration.

Kenya is Uganda’s main supply route for essential goods, including fuel. Other destinations include Rwanda, DR Congo, Burundi and South Sudan  Mr Kenneth Ojambo, a resident at the border, said if the riots continue, they may disrupt the fuel supplies into the country, as he had reportedly not seen any fuel tanker cross into Kenya from Uganda since morning. 

Mr Bashir Kise, a money changer at the border, said since Monday morning, he had not received any customers buying or selling local currency, since his business targets travellers.

He said: “Bus companies have parked, which has affected travel across the border and affected our businesses as moneychangers.” 

Mr Kassim Namudia, a clearing agent, said the reduction in the number of trucks crossing the border due to the riots rendered them without work.
Busia’s main market, which handles the bulk of cereals destined for East and Central Africa, was equally affected, according to Mr Wilson Bugembe, a trader.

According to him, on a busy day, the market receives about 300 trucks of maize and beans, which wasn’t the case yesterday.

Ruto condemns protests

Kenya President William Ruto has said his government will not condone impunity after yesterday’s opposition protests paralysed business.

Speaking during the swearing-in of Solicitor-General Shadrack Mose at State House Nairobi, Dr Ruto said Kenya will be governed by the rule of law, adding those that feel aggrieved should address their concerns within the confines of the Constitution.

“Allowing ourselves to operate outside the law is condoning impunity...there is no end to it because if we go down that slippery route. It could end anywhere,”  the president said in reference to the protests led by Azimio leader Raila Odinga.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua who spoke in Mombasa while receiving food donations from the World Food Programme, said the protests were bad for the economy.

Additional reporting by Winnie Atieno