Trail of destruction, death and injuries as unrest rocks Nyanza

Protestors barricade Kisii -Kilgoris Highway on 12/7/2023 during Anti-Government protests. [Sammy Omingo,Standard]

Chaos rocked Nyanza region as mass protests by different groups led by Azimio la Umoja Coalition protesting the high cost of living turned violent, paralysing most activities.

Two people were shot dead while three others are nursing gunshot wounds at various hospitals across the region as violence, shootings, arrests, destruction of property and blockade of roads dominated protests.

In Kisumu, a man was shot dead in Kondele, while in Migori, another man succumbed to gunshot wounds at Migori County Referral Hospital.

Among those nursing gunshot wounds include a form three student in Migori shot in his legs around the Oruba area.

Unlike last week’s protests that only featured in a few towns in the region, Wednesday’s protests spread in nearly all towns and major centres, bringing activities to a standstill.

This came as response from law enforcement came under scrutiny over alleged use of excessive force targeting protestors and journalists covering the unrest.

In Kisumu, Standard Group journalist Collins Oduor was assaulted by police officers, as he covered protests. He sustained injuries on his legs, and his equipment was destroyed by the officers.

In the region, by 7am, protestors had lit bonfires and blocked roads in Nyamira, Kisumu, Kisii, Migori, Sondu, Homa Bay, Kendu Bay, Siaya and Bondo towns.

While the protests were still peaceful despite heavy police deployment, protestors resorted to playing mini-football matches on closed roads. Later on, chaos intensified after police began dispersing them.

Traders were left counting heavy losses after several stalls and shops went up in flames in Jua Kali area. They claimed the fire started after police officers hurled teargas canisters at them, which sparked the blaze.

Efforts by Kisumu County Government’s fire brigade to put off the fire were futile after they ran out of water. The rescue was worsened by the boulders placed on the roads, which prevented ease of movement.

It took a police water cannon and the firefighters to put off the fire that spread across several stalls, destroying property of unknown value.

“I have lost millions through the fire. I had just brought a new consignment of spare parts, and it is unfortunate what has happened,” lamented one trader.

At Jaramogi Teaching and Referral Hospital, a man allegedly shot by police officers in Kondele was undergoing treatment even as other victims got first aid.

Protestor shot

In Migori, a protestor was shot in the thighs as police moved to disperse protestors who had blocked the Migori-Kisii highway.

The man was first admitted to Oruba Nursing Home in Suna West Sub-County before being transferred to Life Care Hospital in Migori town.

Business premises remained closed while the Nyanza regional music festivals, set to commence Wednesday, July 12,, were pushed to Thursday.

Protestors expressed their disappointment with President William Ruto’s leadership and claimed he had made false promises of addressing cost of living during his campaigns.

They said the president does not care about the welfare of youth. “We feel cheated. We are facing hardships more than before,” said Alfayo Onyango, a boda boda rider.

They lamented the high cost of fuel as boda boda riders said it was hurting their business.

Charles Osewe Bunge la wananchi chair in Migori County, said since maandamano started, they are not happy about the force placed on them by police.

In Nyamira, business was paralysed as residents demonstrated against the high cost of living by barricading roads and engaging police in cat-and-mouse chases.

The affected areas included Keroka and Nyamira towns where anti-government demonstrations were conducted.

Several pupils who had gone to school sought refuge at Nyamira County Headquarters after chaos intensified. Several schools in the region asked parents to pick up their children from the school.

Royal Metropolis Academy, situated on the outskirts of Nyamira Town, issued a notice to parents, advising them not to send their children to school because of the tension that had started building in the area as early as 6 am.

During the demos, Justus Omiti, a personal assistant to ODM Treasurer Timothy Bosire, was arrested and detained. In Kisii, most businesses remained closed as anti-riot police officers patrolled the town and environs. Locals kept barricading different streets and roads, engaging police in running battles.

The government had deployed more than 40 GSU officers with a water cannon on site.

At Daraja Mbili market, bonfires were lit, with the Kisii-Nyamira Road remaining closed. Matatus playing different routes also kept off the roads, leaving boda boda riders to ferry passengers.

A few leaders led protests by marching across streets of Oyugis, Kisumu and Migori before they were dispersed.

Other activities affected by the protests include transport businesses and learning, as most vehicles were kept off the roads. The ever-busy Kisumu bus park remained deserted.

[Reports by Clinton Ambujo, Anne Atieno, Erick Abuga, Stanley Ongwae, Isaiah Gwengi and James Omoro]