Strike call in Kenya ignored


Kenyans largely ignored an opposition call to strike on Monday, re-opening shops and returning to work as they shrugged off demands for demonstrations against President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election and against the killing of protesters.

Cars, buses and motorcycles returned to the streets of Nairobi and the western town of Kisumu after days of quiet due to fears of violence after last Tuesday’s vote. Kenyatta beat rival Raila Odinga by securing more than 54 percent of the vote, official results show.

A Kenyan human rights group said on Saturday 24 people were shot dead by police since election day. The government put the number of dead at 10 and said they died “in the course of quelling riots and unlawful assembly”. All deaths would be investigated, it added.

Allegations by Odinga of widespread electoral fraud raised tensions in the East African country, where some 1,200 people were killed and 600,000 displaced in widespread ethnic violence after he lost a flawed 2007 election.

Relief at relatively muted protests this time, along with the re-election of a leader seen as pro-business and pro-growth, helped the stock market rise 2.5% on Monday. Shares have now climbed nearly seven percent since the August 8 election.

In Kibera, Nairobi’s biggest slum and an opposition stronghold, many residents appeared to be observing the strike but minibuses wove their way through rubble-strewn streets and some food stalls as well as phone and money outlets opened.

Ken Nabwere, a Nairobi resident, said he had little choice but to return to work even though he supported the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition which called the strike.
“I was supposed to vote and leave the rest to the politicians because if I was to boycott work today those guys don’t pay my bills,” he told Reuters. “I would advise others that unless you have permission from your boss, then you better go to work.”

Kenya, a country of 45 million people, is East Africa’s economic heart. International observers said the vote was largely fair and a parallel tally by domestic monitors supported results showing Kenyatta won by a margin of 1.4 million votes.

Protests erupted in areas of Nairobi and Kisumu where Odinga has strong support. The Kenya Red Cross said it treated 177 people, of whom 108 had serious injuries, since voting day.

Kenyatta reiterated an appeal for the opposition to shun violence and take complaints to court.
“I truly believe there is no single Kenyan anywhere who wants to see violence, looting and demonstrations that end up destroying property,” he said.

He also urged police to exercise restraint.

China congratulated Kenyatta on winning the election. Diplomats piled pressure on Odinga to either concede or take his challenge to court.

The opposition has ruled out the court option and says it will announce its strategy later.
“Whatever our leader will say tomorrow is what we will do,” said Stephen Omondi, an opposition supporter in Nairobi’s Mathare slum, holding a picture of a friend shot dead by police. “If he says go out, we will be on the streets. But if he says stay home then we will.”

Many in the capital’s Kibera quarter were backing NASA’S strike call. “It’s only a small portion of people working. People need food and money,” said 32-year-old community health volunteer Thomas Ogoni.

A small group of young men lit a fire of tyres and planks at a busy junction and danced round the flames. Nearby, a dozen women dressed in black and holding candles were sitting in the middle of road in a small peace vigil.

Business activity largely resumed in Kisumu, with some supermarkets open and motorcycle taxi operators out and about. Civil servants also returned to their desks.

Some opposition supporters said they remained determined to overturn the result but, for many, the priority was earning money after days of inactivity.
“No work, no food,” said Eric Wanjero, a motorcycle driver looking for passengers. “Business is disrupted still but I had to go out and make my living.”