Chaos rocked downtown Nairobi on Monday as police tried to disperse traders protesting over a plot they claimed had been illegally taken over.
The kiosk owners and motor vehicle mechanics started their protest march shortly after they found that the area they were operating from had been cleared and fenced.
They claimed that the plot had been bought by a foreigner and was fenced off on Sunday night. Efforts by Starehe MP Margaret Wanjiru to calm them down failed.
The plot at the centre of the controversy is near Murang’a Road a few metres from the Nairobi River. It has for long been used as a makeshift garage.
The demonstrators turned unruly and started robbing passers-by and stoning motorists. They targeted matatus plying the City Centre/Eastleigh route. They pulled passengers out and robbed them.
They then pulled down the fence that had been erected around the plot and spread the iron sheets on Murang’a Road near the Globe Cinema roundabout.
Wooden posts and old tyres were used to light fires on Murang’a and Kirinyaga roads as businessmen in the busy area quickly closed their premises.
The Globe Cinema roundabout bus stop, which serves matatus serving estates on Thika Road, was quickly cleared and passengers were dropped at Ngara, where matatus were terminating their journey.
The resulting traffic jam affected Kipande, Kijabe, Kirinyaga, Tom Mboya roads, and Moi Avenue’s Slip Road as police battled to keep the crowd at bay.
Hail of stones
The rioters attacked journalists covering the protests and policemen in a truck fled under a hail of stones as their colleagues on foot returned the crowd’s missiles.
When the police eventually repulsed the rioters, Ms Wanjiru turned up, megaphone in hand, to try to calm down the youths and to help clear the roads.
However, it was back to running battles a few minutes after she left as police pursued the rioters into Ngara estate.
Town clerk John Gakuo said at a press conference that he had ordered the fence pulled down and that investigations were on to establish the plot’s ownership.