Major towns deserted as traders, service providers close for polls

Central Business District remained deserted. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Small and large-scale traders heeded the government’s call and closed businesses for the better part of the morning to allow their workers and customers to vote.

Across the country, shops, hotels and other businesses were closed, save for petrol stations, hospitals and MPesa shops.

It is a situation that saw some residents take the opportunity to sell beverages and snacks to voters who arrived at the polling centres as early as 5am. “I had to wake up early to be the first in the queue. I voted by 10:30am. I will open my shop at 12 noon,” said Monicah Karanja, an MPesa shop operator in Nakuru.

Public transport operators also changed their routes yesterday to transport residents to various polling stations at a minimal fee, with others not charging people living with disabilities, pregnant women, those with toddlers and the sick.

This happened as some boda boda riders who suspended their transport business blew whistles and horns to wake up people to go cast their votes.

In Baringo County, businesses were shut down to allow residents to go and vote. Public transport was also disrupted for the better part of the day, as residents went to vote.

Shops remain closed in Mogotio. Mr Samuel Kimei, a trader who operates a snacks store said yesterday was crucial for his future and he had to forgo earning in order to vote. Kimei said he arrived at Mogotio Girls Secondary to vote at 6am.  Most business owners in Kericho County closed down their enterprises as the residents flocked polling stations.

At Dons Petrol Station in Belgut constituency, Ms Mercy Cherono decried the slow business pace.
Nonetheless, Probox owners such as Evans Tonui had a busy day transporting voters to and from their stations. “Business is good. It’s better than any other day. I get Sh600 per trip from Kericho town to Kapsuser. Today, I am crossing the villages,” he said. In Nyanza, most traders were counting losses over the decision by authorities to compel them to close their businesses during the voting.

Perishable stock

All markets, as well as entertainment joints in Kisumu, Homa Bay, Migori, Kisii, Nyamira and Siaya remained closed for several hours with traders who had perishable stock, claiming that the closure had hit them with heavy losses. In Kisumu, all markets in the county were closed while the town’s Central Business District remained deserted.

Nairobi Central Business District remained deserted. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

At the Kisumu Municipal Market where residents buy cereals, only a huge padlock announcing its closure was evident at its entrance.

Customers who were unaware of the directive by the county government that all markets be closed were left stranded after finding no one at the market. Moses Odhiambo, a cereals supplier claimed he did not know that the market would be closed and had brought beans to the market, only to find it locked.

A few hours after the poll had started, traders who had cast their votes pitched tent at the entrance of the market as they waited for its opening that had been scheduled for 4 pm.

Hungry voters braved the long wait as hotels in the region remained closed. Only a few hawkers supplied bread and soft drinks to voters waiting in line.  Meanwhile, bars in all eight sub-counties in Homa Bay closed for 24 hours from early evening Monday to early evening Tuesday.

Homa Bay County Commissioner Moses Lilan said they had agreed with stakeholders to ensure bars remain shut to enable residents participate in the election.

“We have agreed with bar owners to shut their premises within the stated duration. Let anybody who operates a bar in this county be prepared,” said Lilan. In Migori, County Police Commander Mark Wanjala asked bar owners to close shop one day before elections and also warned firearm holders against going to polling stations armed. 

And in Mombasa, the CBD remained deserted. The main horticulture market Marikiti along Digo Road that serves the Island remained closed. Supermarkets, cyber cafes, car bazars, hotels and entertainment joints also remained closed.

Kisumu streets remained deserted. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

June Maiga, a vegetable vendor in Ganjoni area said that most of her customers came to her home to buy horticultural products because most of the shops are closed down. 

Meanwhile, most shops remained closed in Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia and Vihiga counties. A spot check by The Standard showed supermarkets, banks, hotels and markets were closed for the better part of Tuesday.

At Nambale in Busia, all shops were closed with the town looked deserted. Only a few public transport vehicles could be spotted. In Uasin Gishu County, John Cherutich a business owner, said he had decided to close his hotel to allow his employees to go to their various homes to vote.

 -Story by Kennedy Gachuhi, Nikko Tanui, Daniel Chege, Yvonne Chepkwony, Zablon Valentine, Sharon Owino and Harold Odhiambo, Joakim Bwana, Juliet Omelo, Jackline Inyanji and Lynn Kolongei