Don’t flee, we’re in control, Police tell city residents – PHOTOS
The government on Thursday sought to assure Kenyans of security ahead of Tuesday’s elections as it fought to stop the mass exodus of people from urban centres to their rural homes for fear of a possible outbreak of violence.
Interior Affairs Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho and Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet asked Kenyans to stay put where they live and vote without fear because security agents will be on the lookout for anyone intent on causing trouble.
Dr Kibicho said preparations by security agencies started one-and-a-half years ago and that there should be no cause for alarm.
“They looked at scenarios and situations and have conducted joint training and simulated a number of situations in case of any violence,” he said.
PROTECT ALL KENYANS
Mr Boinnet said his officers would protect all Kenyans irrespective of political affiliation and urged those fleeing towns to return and vote.
“We shall be responsive to all the needs of our people. In instances where there is requirement that we respond robustly we will be in strict conformity of the law,” he said at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre where he was with Dr Kibicho and Government Spokesman Eric Kiraithe.
As they spoke, Nairobi residents continued to travel upcountry in large numbers with buses plying Western Kenya route reporting record numbers. Similar movements have been witnessed in Naivasha, Nakuru and Eldoret.
A spotcheck on Thursday at various bus stations in Nairobi revealed long queues and hordes of passengers eager to catch the next bus headed for rural areas, with some saying they were going to vote, while others said they were fleeing for fear of violence.
At Kangemi bus stage, Ms Mercy Atieno, who was with her three children and some household luggage, said she had been waiting for a bus home in Nyanza for hours but that all were fully booked.
“I left my house in Ruaka, Kiambu, very early in the morning hoping to catch a bus to travel home in time to vote on Tuesday. I am from Ugunja and I registered there so I am going back to vote and then I will be back,” she said.
The stage was crowded with many families patiently waiting for the next bus. Most carried their personal belongings including mattresses and beds.
Mr Daniel Gitau, who lives next to the Kangemi bus station, said the stage had been congested since last week and the situation was getting worse each day.
The busiest hours were in the morning between 6 and 8 o’clock and in the evening with most of the passengers drawn from Kangemi, Warugu and Kawangware travelling to Luo Nyanza, Kisii and Western.
“I live here and I have seen so many people coming here to board vehicles. They are largely from the Western part of the country. In the early morning and evening, the buses are enjoying a boom,” said Mr Gitau.
Mr Kennedy Livondo, a ticketing official at the Kangemi stage, said that most of the travellers had registered to vote in Nairobi and would therefore be locked out of the election.
“Most people travelling are from the Western region. I have not seen anybody from the Rift Valley or Kiambu. This place normally gets full with passengers to as late as 9 pm,” he said.
FEAR OF VIOLENCE
At Country Bus Station in Nairobi, Mr Alex Muema, a ticketing official for buses plying the Matuu route in Machakos, said most people were going home for fear of violence.
“Most of our passengers are women and children and, even though they say that they are registered at home, many are going home for fear of an eruption of violence,” he said.
Mr Justus Tora, a ticketing official at Marlboro Bus going to Kisii, Migori and Sirare, said the passengers travelling since last week were more than those who do so during December holidays but that most were women and children.
“We used to have few passengers travelling but now they are many to the extent that even the buses that used not to operate have now been brought in to meet the demand,” he said.
Mr Earnest Mutiso, a registered voter in Kangemi, said he was only seeing off his wife who will cast her ballot in Masii and that he had no plans to travel.
A resident of Kangemi, whose name we cannot reveal for security reasons, said groups of young men were going round houses pretending to preach peace but were in fact threatening residents who do not belong to their tribes.
“These groups of young men numbering 100 have been going round in Kangemi and some parts of Kawangware with pangas saying that they are preaching peace. They converge on the Mau Mau Bridge and mostly come from one community,” he said.
The young men, some of who carried hate leaflets, had scared away residents, he said, adding: “They are going home with their votes and most leave with their belongings fearing for their lives. Some have been threatened where they live.”
Another resident who lives in Kawangware 46 claimed that she had been threatened with a machete by her neighbour, forcing her to flee.
“They showed me their sharp pangas and told me that if my man wins, they will cut me into pieces with this,” she said.