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Garissa residents want demos stopped

A section of Garissa residents now want the opposition Azimio Alliance leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga to call off the countrywide demonstrations that kicked off today and allow a peaceful settlement of their concerns with the government.

The residents said that the cost of living for the majority of Kenyans is unbearable, but added that the demonstrations cannot bring the cost of goods and services down. It was business as usual in Garissa town and its environs.

Addressing the press in Garissa town, Kenya livestock marketing council chair Dubat Ali Amey called for dialogue between the opposition and the government.

“It’s high time President Ruto and Raila Odinga start talking to each other and stop talking at each other. They should also ignore calls from their hardliners because, at the end of the day, they are the ones to take responsibility in case the country fails,” Amey said.

Amey said that there is nowhere in Africa where demonstrations have been peaceful.

“What we have witnessed in the past demonstrations is destruction of property and loss of lives. As a country, we cannot take this path of destruction,” he said.

Speaking separately, traders at the Garissa Open Air Market (Suq Mugdi) decried the high cost of doing business that has not only affected them but also their customers.

Hawa Hussein, who specialises in groceries, said that it was becoming extremely difficult to do business with the skyrocketing prices of commodities.

Hawa, who said that she was against the demonstrations to protest the high cost of living, however, urged President William Ruto to ‘listen to Kenyans’ cries and address their concerns’.

Mohamed Ismail, also a trader, regretted the turn of events in the country, saying that the leaders needed to sober up and allow for dialogue.

“Demonstrations will not help in lowering the cost of living. It will only make matters worse. My appeal goes to President Ruto to withdraw the 2023 finance bill and allow for renegotiation,” Mohamed said.

Meanwhile, Bus companies plying the Garissa-Nairobi route today withdrew their service for fear of being attacked by goons taking advantage of today’s nationwide demonstrations called by the opposition.

The management of the bus companies who talked to KNA said that they decided to park their buses because previous demonstrations have seen vehicles set ablaze, and the buses are no exception.

The Planet Bus Company Garissa office manager, Abdi Shale, said while they were in support of the peaceful demonstrations, they were totally against the destruction of property.

“As a bus company, we support our fellow Kenyans who are demonstrating because of the high cost of living, but we are totally against the manner in which the demonstrations are being conducted,” Shale said.

“In case your bus is stoned and damaged, no one (the opposition or the government) is ready to take responsibility. The windscreen alone costs over Sh70,000. We cannot risk our buses being damaged, and that is why we have decided to park them until normalcy returns,” he added.

However, passengers who had to travel to Nairobi and other destinations boarded Nissan Matatus, private saloon cars that were readily available.

They were charging an average of Sh2,500 to Nairobi, up from the usual fare of Sh1,500.

By Jacob Songok