At least five people were killed yesterday in a day of chaos marked by violent confrontations between police and supporters of Nasa leader Raila Odinga who had turned out in large numbers to welcome him back into the country at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi.
There were conflicting reports on how the five lost their lives with police saying they were lynched as they looted property and Nasa insisting they were shot.
Scores of others including police, journalists and ordinary wananchi were injured in the mayhem.
A police source said at least four people died on Landhies Road, near Muthurwa and that the bodies were recovered at the market.
Nasa politician Johnstone Muthama claimed eight other people suffered gunshot wounds.
Four of the dead are believed to have been shot as they tried to set ablaze a police water cannon deployed to prevent Nasa supporters from marching into the city centre.
An attendant at City Mortuary said the facility had received one body.
But police spokesman George Kinoti said the deaths occurred before officers arrived at the scene.
‘‘We are aware that sections of the mob accompanying the Nasa convoy looted property and five persons were killed by stoning in different incidents after having been caught stealing by enraged crowds,’’ said Mr Kinoti in a statement.
“Two were stoned along Landhies Road, two next to Country Bus station and one along Racecourse Road,” he said, adding that the incidents were being investigated.
Television pictures showed one man who had apparently been shot in the left leg writhing in pain on the bonnet of a car stuck in traffic, his clothes soaked in blood.
The chaotic scenes marked the return of Mr Odinga from a 10-day tour of the US, where he had gone to explain his position on Kenya’s election crisis.
The windscreen of his vehicle was smashed by rival youths at Muthurwa.
A police truck and a matatu were also set ablaze in the chaos.
Transport and businesses were paralysed all day on roads leading to and from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with many travellers missing their flights.
Kenya Airways, on whose flight Mr Odinga had flown in, said in a statement that their clients who were affected would be rebooked on the next available flights at no extra cost.
Mr Odinga’s plane landed at the airport shortly after 11 am and he left for town at about noon.
Speaking at Upper Hill after more than four hours on the road, Mr Odinga said the chaotic scenes were a sign of the start of what he called Kenya’s third liberation.
“Time for third liberation has just started and all the signs witnessed today are an indication of a falling government,” he said.
“I want to thank my supporters for coming out in large numbers to welcome me after my trip. I came back with good news and instead of Uhuru Kenyatta welcoming me he has sent the police to beat me up and my people,’’ he said.
Siaya Senator James Orengo said: “We planned for the arrival of our leader very well, police thought that they would foil our plan but we have managed. Everything has gone on well as planned.”
He added: “I have never seen a country where police are deployed to suppress the will of the people but they have done very well because international media such as the BBC and CNN have captured everything.”
Former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale said: “We will support Raila Odinga as long as he stands for the truth and on the right side of history.”
Police set up blockades on roads leading to and from the airport to prevent Nasa leaders and supporters from accessing the facility.
All vehicles destined to the airport were stopped and searched. The only ones allowed without a search were those bearing diplomatic number plates. Even government vehicles were not spared.
But even with this elaborate security, some ardent supporters of Mr Odinga managed to sneak to the airport where they danced and sung as they waited for their leader.
Mr Odinga was received by a number of leaders led by Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o, Ledama ole Kina (senator, Narok), MPs Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja), Junet Mohammed (Suna East), Florence Mutua (Busia), Chris Wamalwa (Kiminini), John Mbadi (Suba North) Godfrey Osotsi (nominated), Rose Nyamunga (Nominated senator) and Babu Owino (Embakasi East).
Mr Odinga did not speak at the airport, only waving his fly whisk as he entered his vehicle to start the journey to the city.
Because of the security cordon, the journey to the city was slow and businesses along the roads they used were closed while others were vandalised and property destroyed.
Police used teargas and water cannons to try to disperse crowds at various points along the route. However, Opposition leaders claimed live bullets were used.
Before the convoy left the airport, Nation reporter Brian Moseti was assaulted by policemen, suffering injuries on the leg.
At Rikana Supermarket on Jogoo Road, police were trying to push back crowds who had lit fires on the road.
The crowd diverted through Makongeni estate and assembled near Burma market where a minibus belonging to Forward Traveller’s Sacco was set on fire. Just next to it, two hand carts were set on fire on the road which was strewn with stones, vandalised property, broken bottles and burning tyres.
Police abandoned a truck, which was set ablaze on Jogoo Road at about 3pm.
Mr Odinga, the main challenger in the battle for Kenya’s presidency, pulled out of the October 26 repeat election citing lack of reforms.
The incumbent Kenyatta won but three petitions challenging his victory were brought before the Supreme Court which will give its ruling on Monday.
Police had banned Nasa supporters from the airport, citing security reasons and saying only Mr Odinga’s family would be allowed. But Nasa vowed to defy the ban arguing the airport was a public place.
Hundreds of the Nasa leader’s defiant supporters started moving towards the airport in the morning in hired buses, private cars and on foot.
Mr Odinga had planned to pass through the City Centre on his way to Olympic Grounds in Kibra constituency where he had scheduled a rally. His convoy moved at a snail’s pace as his supporters engaged police in running battles.
From the airport, the convoy joined Mombasa Road and turned to Likoni Road at the Southern bypass interchange. Police blocked it at the Jogoo Road junction but the crowds fought back using stones.
The convoy entered the city centre through Landhies Road and Haile Selassie Avenue.
At Muthurwa, Nasa supporters engaged with another group said to be Jubilee supporters and Mr Odinga’s car was pelted with stones in the melee.
Even journalists were not spared as a car belonging to Nation Media Group had its windscreen smashed by a tear gas canister lobbed by the police.
The car , which was carrying reporters Silas Apollo, Brian Moseti, photographer Denis Onsongo and driver Nicholas Musyoka, was attacked at the Likoni roundabout.
But it was at the Jogoo road and the City Stadium roundabout where police battled the protesters directly. The road remained under a lockdown as police blocked entry and exit routes.
The officers were forced to shoot in the air to disperse the group, which was adamant and marched on to the centre of the city Nasa had initially planned to hold the rally at Uhuru Park but police cordoned off the park and declared it a no-go-zone for anyone including journalists.
Wananchi who usually rest at the recreational park were chased out while a handful of Nasa supporters who had gathered at the venue were tear gassed.
Most businesses within the Central Business District however remained open up to around 3pm.
Additional reports by Brian Moseti and Samuel Owino