Tue, 30 May 2023

NAIROBI, March 28 (Xinhua) -- International and local institutions on Tuesday called on Kenyan leaders to pursue dialogue as it emerged that anti-government protests are costing businesses in the East African nation up to 3 billion shillings (about 22.8 million U.S. dollars) in daily losses.

The chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat expressed concern over the violence in Kenya following opposition protests since March 20.

Faki urged all the political players to exercise calm and engage in dialogue to address differences that may exist in the supreme interest of national unity and reconciliation.

"The chairperson reiterates the total solidarity with and support to the government and the people of Kenya's efforts working towards national unity, peace and stability in the country," he said in a statement.

The protests called by Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Coalition leader Raila Odinga over issues including the high cost of living have resulted in the deaths of at least three people, damage of property and the interruption of economic activities in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, according to the police.

Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa), an apex body of both local and international investors, decried the losses arising due to the protests that have entered the second week.

"The weaponization of the country's economic drivers is occasioning unnecessary losses to the tune of about 3 billion shillings. For a struggling economy hard hit by effects of prolonged drought, general elections and economic slowdown last year compounded by global economic challenges, Kenya can ill afford the political activities currently at play," said the Kepsa.

It said its members have no political affiliations, and thus must be protected from any political machinations, adding that there is a risk of fleeing both local and foreign capital.

"We must protect jobs and revenue generated by all businesses for the sake of Kenya's progress. Kenya has been a beacon of hope and peace in the region, continental and globally and the only African country to have the United Nations headquarters among many other international organizations," the Kepsa said.

The Kepsa promised that it will promote peace and stability as it denounced the politicization of private-sector enterprises.

Odinga, however, defended their right to picket, noting that it is in line with the constitution. He accused State operatives of responding to the protest violently by enlisting goons and mercenaries to rain terror on innocent Kenyans. He condemned the attack and looting of property on former President Uhuru Kenyatta's farm Monday as well as a gas cylinder company associated with him.

He reiterated that the protests would go on, including one that is organized Thursday. "This struggle will march on, stronger and mightier until our demands are met: The cost of goods must come down; the servers must be opened and the reconstitution of the electoral commission must be above board, consultative and bipartisan," he told journalists in Nairobi.

The price of basic goods has increased significantly with inflation standing at over 9 percent, mainly caused by drought and global disruption of supply chains.

Meanwhile, Kenya's Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji on Tuesday asked the Inspector-General of Police Japheth Koome to investigate and arrest the masterminds of the protests.

Haji noted that while minor suspects had been arrested and charged, the leaders who planned, financed or incited the violence had not been brought to book. He gave the police 14 days to conclude the investigation and submit the report to his office for further action.

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