Protesters petrol-bomb matatu

Thursday December 17 2009

Clashes between hawkers and police turned costly when a bus that plies the Mathare-town centre route was petrol-bombed  on Thursday. The hawkers at Globe Cinema roundabout were protesting their eviction by the riot police. Photo/CHRIS OJOW

Clashes between hawkers and police turned costly when a bus that plies the Mathare-town centre route was petrol-bombed on Thursday. The hawkers at Globe Cinema roundabout were protesting their eviction by the riot police. Photo/CHRIS OJOW 

By WALTER MENYA

At least two people were injured, one of them seriously, when protesting hawkers hurled a petrol bomb into a bus in Nairobi on Thursday.
An uneasy truce between the hawkers and police exploded into chaos again as protesters engaged riot police in running battles.

But the police and some hawkers were quick to point an accusing finger at the outlawed Mungiki sect for triggering the mayhem.

The incident, at the Globe Cinema roundabout, left bus driver Mr John Ndung’u suffering from serious burns and his conductor Mr Maxwell Otieno slightly injured.

There were no passengers in the bus at the time.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the Mungiki had infiltrated the demonstrators and were responsible for the violence.

He also said that initial findings indicated the protesters used a petrol bomb.

“The hawkers would ordinarily have no problem with vehicles and this points only to Mungiki, but we shall investigate to see if the protesters are linked to the sect,” said Mr Kiraithe.

“We shall soon get a clearer picture of what really took place,” said the police spokesman.

According to the bus driver, the protesters hurled the petrol bomb into the vehicle as he waited for his turn to pick passengers at the Globe Cinema roundabout.

“I saw the protesters running away from the police towards where I was parked. They started attacking the six vehicles in the queue,” said the conductor, Mr Otieno.

Hurl something

He said he then saw one of the demonstrators hurl something wrapped in a piece of cloth into the bus. The object exploded, setting the vehicle on fire.

Mr Ndung’u, who was in the back seat at the time, suffered serious burns to his hands and legs and was taken to hospital.

The bus was extensively damaged despite the timely arrival of the Nairobi City Council Fire Brigade.

The hawkers were battling the police for the third day running in a bid to gain access to the central business district, culminating in yesterday’s confrontation.

Former local government minister Karisa Maitha banned hawking in the city centre in 2004 and the traders were relocated to designated markets.

However, they have slowly been making a return to the central business district, especially in the evenings, inconveniencing pedestrians as they block the pavements with their wares.

On Thursday, General Service Unit personnel and riot police were deployed to the city centre and managed to chase out the hawkers, who vented their frustration on the bus.

Five protesters were arrested in the mayhem.