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Covid-19 to Maandamano. Nairobi…three years later

On March 27, 2020, an order from the Executive Office of the President under former president Uhuru Kenyatta went into effect when he ordered for a nationwide curfew to be instilled to prevent the spread of the deadly Corona virus, alias Covid-19.

Uhuru Kenyatta banned the traveling into and out of Nairobi and four other surrounding counties as well as ordered the closure of businesses and schools that did not provide essential services.

Fast forward to March 27, 2023, Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Alliance’s leader Raila Odinga led the second opposition demonstration to demand the lowering of the runaway high cost of living as well as demonstrations against the presidency of President William Ruto which was an alleged result of a stolen election.

Nairobi News, now therefore, draws parallels, over how both events affected the capital city of Kenya, Nairobi:

  1. Millions of Kenyans actively chose to remain indoors- At the height of the pandemic, millions of Kenyans chose to obey orders to remain indoors for their own health safety. Despite a few groups here and there shrugging off the health protocols and guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health, overall, the streets of Nairobi were largely empty except for essential workers. Similarly, during the March 27 Maandamano Monday, thousands of business owners chose to keep their premises locked and thousands more workers opted to remain indoors to avoid running into demonstrators who sometimes turn violent. This was despite the government assuring them that they would provide adequate security and that Monday was not a public holiday as had been announced by Raila Odinga. Today, the streets of Nairobi’s Central Business District had sparing foot traffic in the morning and empty roads compared to the heavy traffic witnessed in town daily.
  2. The economy of Nairobi County was severely affected- Uhuru Kenyatta announced tax cuts on value added rates as well as corporation tax. He also ordered 100% tax relief for Kenyans earning up to Sh 24,000 to give millions of families the capabilities of providing for themselves across the country, leading to an economic shrink by 5.7%. These were among the measures that also affected the revenue collection bottom line of the city by the relevant authorities. In the March 27 maandamano and its preceding March 20 one, Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja said that the city lost nearly half its daily revenue due to the demonstrations that kept working Kenyans away from work and their businesses. According to Governor Sakaja, Nariobi lost Sh 30.3 million on March 20, saying that if the government let Azimio La Umoja continue with their biweekly demonstrations, the city will lose more revenue.
  3. Deployment of law enforcement officers- In March 2020 and the ensuing months, law enforcement officers were tasked with ensuring that Kenyans were adhering to the orders and health guidelines instituted by the president and the Ministry of Health. They were also tasked with apprehending those breaking curfew and covid mandates such as staying at home, masking up, maintaining social distancing and avoiding large gatherings. During the 2023 maandamano, police were also deployed to the streets to break up large gatherings and prevent them from gaining momentum to demonstrate in support of the opposition. Several police vehicles and officers were spotted along several streets in Nairobi; and were ordered to arrest anyone demonstrating or found carrying crude weapons in the name of maandamano.

The opposition demonstrations are set to take place every Monday and Thursday until President William Ruto meets three conditions outlined by the opposition. They include lowering the high cost of living as he had promised and failed to do, having the Independent Electoral and Boundaries’ computer servers opened to the public to show who legitimately won the August 2022 presidential election, and the stopping of the replacement of a number of IEBC commissioners in a process the opposition termed as unlawful.

Also read: Business as usual for Ruto, Gachagua, Sakaja despite Azimio protests

American televangelist Guillermo Maldonado visits Kenya