The aftermath: Traders counting huge losses after cases of looting

Empty shelf after Naivas Supermarket was looted on Tuesday. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

Traders and key business sectors are counting heavy losses as calm slowly returns to the country after days of protests.

Several shops and supermarkets were broken into by thugs, who also targeted unsuspecting pedestrians.

In the coastal region, the countrywide protests dealt a big blow to the fragile tourism sector poised to enter its peak season next month with hotels reporting cancellations of bookings.

Players in the multi-billion hospitality industry said some tourists who had checked in for a long stay cut short their trips due to concerns that the protests could turn ugly.

Conferences in major towns were either cancelled or scaled-down, leaving players in the developing meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions tourism (MICE) and suppliers with losses.

Sarova Hotels and Resorts Managing Director Jimi Kariuki said violent protests were widely aired worldwide, hurting the country’s image and reputation.

“Bookings are at risk of slowing down and or being cancelled as a result of what has been seen worldwide, which is not good for tourism,” said Mr Kariuki.

The veteran hotelier said although there were no reports of attacks involving hospitality staff, tourists, or properties, source markets, especially tourist insurance firms, become jittery.

“As we enter into the tourism peak season next month, we are continuing to monitor the situation and are hopeful the situation will continue to be calm,” added Kariuki.

Other reports also indicated that anti-Finance Bill protests also forced the Lewa Conservancy Tusk Trust to cancel this year’s Lewa Safari Marathon.

“This decision has been made in light of the current situation in the country… We have postponed the event,” said the organisers of the event that brings in athletes from across the globe.

The race started in 2000 has raised Sh1.3 billion. It attracts professional runners and amateur enthusiasts from around the globe keen to support wildlife conservation.

In Naivasha, traders have been left counting losses running into millions of shillings following the protests.

Businesses reopened in Naivasha town amid tight security along major streets as those affected tried to come to terms with the violence and looting.

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This came as a total of 123 suspects, including 15 minors, were charged at the Naivasha law courts with raiding Naivas supermarket, EPCO Hotel, and the office of the area MP, stealing and destroying property worth over Sh70 million.

At the Naivas supermarket, over 100 workers were sent home as the management embarked on the process of assessing the damage.

The proprietor of EPCO Hotel Wanjiru Kahura said she lost goods worth millions of shillings following the looting by youth.

She said that her sin was hosting the MP’s office which the youth were targeting, adding that all her 40 rooms in the hotel were vandalised.

“They first vandalised and burnt down the MP’s office before turning to my hotel and looting bedding and other personal effects,” she said while calling for compensation from the State.

In Nakuru, traders noted that they had lost huge income after closing down their businesses.

Mwangi Kimani, the chairperson of Nakuru Book Sellers Association, explained that the protests were massive but without violence as witnessed in the past.

“On Thursday, we had to close at noon. Despite this, we have to pay workers, whether they work or not. We have to pay their housing levy too. That drains revenues from businesses,” said Mwangi.

The traders, however, took issue with the police noting that they provoked peaceful protesters.

The sentiments were echoed by John Mbugua, a trader along Nakuru’s Kenyatta Avenue, who lectured some of the officers who stopped by his premises while dispersing the youth.

“I told the commanding officers point blank that they were the cause of mayhem. Before they came, the town was very peaceful as protesters marched. Immediately they arrived, it was like they were yearning for an opportunity to lob teargas and shoot in the air,” said Mbugua.

In Nyeri and Nanyuki towns, two supermarkets owned by Kieni MP Njoroge Wainaina were targetted, with goods worth over Sh200 million looted.

In Mathira Constituency, the home of area MP Eric Wamumbi was spared but his livestock and chicken were taken by unknown people who invaded the compound in the evening.

Embu town residents vandalised the KRA offices and also looted computers and electronics as a way of crippling their efforts to collect taxes.

In Western, trade was paralysed in several towns and urban centres.

There were also destruction of properties in Kakamega town during the running battles pitting protesters and the police.

In Nyanza,  a number of businesses were looted.

Sulwe Appmart in Nyalenda estate was looted by protestors.

Homa Bay Giant Traders Association Chairman Jack Nyambega said the business community in the area suffered unprecedented losses during the demonstrations.

In Eldoret, several traders were yet to come to terms with the losses they incurred.

Major nightclubs and restaurants and shops were also looted.

[Reports by Antony Gitonga, Kennedy Gachuhi, Anne Atieno, Sharon Owino, James Omoro, Philip Mwakio, Brian Kisanji, Sammi Mose, Bruno Mutunga, Lynn Kolongei and Muriithi Mugo]

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