A protest march led by Nakuru Town West Member David Gikaria was foiled after anti-riot police lobbed teargas canisters at the mob.
Gikaria who had been joined by Public Service Vehicle operators and market traders Tuesday was demanding that the county government reopen the Ukulima Market and the main bus termini that were relocated following the outbreak and spread of Covid-19 in March this year.
The MP who was flanked by the Chairman Nakuru Traders Association Mr. Simon Sangale said though Kenya and the world was gradually relaxing Covid-19 protocols aimed at checking the spread of the disease, Governor Lee Kinyanjui had resisted attempts to revive economic activities within the devolved unit.
A senior police officer who met the protestors outside the county headquarters asked them to disperse stating that the demo was illegal, and its convener’s action went against Health Ministry protocols to contain the virus.
However, the protestors stood their ground with Sangale saying they could not be denied permission to hold demonstrations and present a petition to Governor Kinyanjui and Regional Commissioner George Natembeya, yet the Constitution only required them to notify the police of their intention.
In the ensuing standoff, police fired teargas canisters into the crowd prompting them to scamper for safety.
Earlier, the placard waving and slogan chanting organizers of the protest march which began at Kenyatta Avenue had proceeded to the county headquarters where they were allowed to present their petition to a senior administrative officer in the governor’s office.
“We are also demanding the arrest of the people who are well known to have misappropriated Covid-19 funds but are still free. Instead of tear gassing us, police should be on the ground investigating, making sure these people are taken to court and jailed.
“We cannot allow impunity to take charge, with a system that does not care for the people of this county” Gikaria said.
He said Nakuru residents had been exposed to risks of Covid-19 infection as powerful personalities had transformed the pandemic into a cash cow.
Gikaria said hundreds of jobs had been lost and livelihoods adversely affected by Covid-19 economic shocks following closure of businesses and relocation of public service vehicles to the town’s suburbs.
“The matatu sector, mama mbogas and hawkers have taken the most severe beating of this pandemic. What the county administration needs to do is to ensure that the Ministry of Health protocols such as hand washing, social distancing and sanitizing are observed.
“They have more than enough enforcement personnel who can ensure compliance as we rebuild the county’s economy which also suffered major setbacks following a moratorium on logging,” suggested the MP
The MP claimed that he had severally reached out on phone to the governor over the issue but his efforts did not bear fruit.
He said the county administration was abusing the office by using security personnel to harass and disperse demonstrators whose right to picket were enshrined in the Constitution.
Gikaria alleged that fat cats and cartels that were making a killing from the pandemic were against reopening of the devolved unit’s economic activities.
“Some of these cartels have been awarded tenders to supply substandard relief food and are working behind the scenes to ensure that residents do not become economically independent any time soon,” he claimed.
“The governor should know that most of his voters are staring at auctioneers’ hammers as their businesses have either slowed down or collapsed altogether,” said the MP
By David Mururia