NAIROBI, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) — The street protests against Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) carried out by supporters of the main opposition party, National Super Alliance (NASA), turned chaotic on Friday in Nairobi and western parts of the country, hurting businesses.
What began as a peaceful march against electoral agency’s officials accused of bungling the Aug. 8 polls later turned into violent confrontation between protesters and anti-riot police.
The protests in Nairobi were marked by interludes of calm and running battles between police and opposition supporters who marched towards the headquarters of the electoral agency to demand resignation of senior officials.
Police fired tear gas canisters at rowdy protesters in a busy street forcing businesses to close and pedestrians to scamper for safety.
Heavy presence of security officers near the offices of the electoral body and strategic locations in Nairobi’s Central Business District forced the demonstrators to agitate peacefully.
The street protests in Nairobi had subsided in the afternoon though major business outlets like hotels and supermarkets closed doors to avert looting by criminal elements disguising as demonstrators.
There was uneasy calm in the streets of Nairobi on Friday afternoon as business owners and pedestrians remained alert to avoid being caught up in violent protests.
Heavily armed security officers patrolled the streets as traders started opening their businesses.
The situation was different in the lakeside city of Kisumu that became the epicenter of chaos when protesters stormed into a supermarket and engaged in a looting spree before police fired tear gas to chase them away.
Besides looting one of the largest retail chains in the city, protesters in Kisumu raided the premises of water utility and vandalized pipes thereby cutting off the supply of the commodity to residential areas.
The police were forced to lob teargas canisters and shoot in the air to disperse supporters opposed to the retention of the IEBC team ahead of the Oct. 26 vote.
Several of them broke into the supermarket, defied workers who tried to stop them and injured some of them. Property worth an unknown amount of money was stolen and the store’s windows smashed.
The protesters only left after police fired teargas at them after arriving in Land Cruisers and water cannon trucks.
The crowd left in the direction of Kondele where shops remained closed for fear of similar occurrences.
Hundreds of youthful protesters had on Friday morning blocked major roads in Kisumu thus paralyzing transport before the police chased them and restored order in Kenya’s third largest city.
Businesses incurred huge losses on Friday in many towns in western Kenya as opposition supporters heeded a call by their leaders to protest against the electoral agency ahead of October 26 repeat presidential polls.
The protests turned violent in the border town of Busia when mobs hurled teargas canisters at police officers hence triggering violent confrontation that lasted two hours.
Businesses came to a standstill in Busia town that neighbors Uganda as security officers engaged protesters in running battles.
The street protests against the electoral agency were largely peaceful in the Coastal city of Mombasa.
NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga and his co-principals were conspicuously absent when the street protests took off in their strongholds.
Several local leaders in opposition leaning zones led the protests and vowed to continue with the push for reforms in elections management to avert foul play in future.
The Opposition leaders instructed their supporters to continue with the demos every Monday and Friday until the IEBC heeds to the demands to effect changes at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
NASA is demanding among other issues the firing and prosecution of about 10 IEBC officials among them the chief executive officer, Ezra Chiloba.
NASA maintains there will be no Oct. 26 election as long as the current commission remains as currently constituted.