Tension In Kisumu As Police Hunt MPs

The Nation (Nairobi)
February 11, 2001


Kisumu town and its environs were under virtual curfew yesterday as heavily-armed police were deployed to scuttle a political rally planned by the Muungano wa Mageuzi movement.

Some Opposition MPs heading for the town to address the meeting abandoned their cars to evade arrest, while others spent hours in hideouts as police hunted them down.

Police fired live bullets and exploded several teargas canisters to prevent Mageuzi activists from entering the Moi Stadium, the venue of the rally earlier outlawed by the Government.

At least 10 people were injured, four of them seriously, as police battled the activists led by the Mageuzi architect MP James Orengo. Most of the victims were hit with batons, but unconfirmed reports said some suffered gunshot wounds.

Armed police officers who had sealed off the stadium, confronted Mr. Orengo at about 5.30 p.m., as he led his supporters to the stadium. Mr. Orengo was quickly whisked away by his security detail. Police were still pursuing him around the Chemelil sugar belt as we went to press last night.

The convenor of the Kisumu meeting, Mr. Dan Omondi, said 10 people suffered head and leg injuries and were taken to local hospitals.

The police also detained a matatu and a taxi believed to have been used by the Mageuzi activists. Business was disrupted at the Kisumu bus park as transporters withdrew their vehicles.

Earlier, Runyenjes MP Njeru Kathangu's vehicle was stoned near Awasi township as he drove to Kisumu. His cell-phone went dead after the attack.

Nominated MP Peter Anyang'-Nyong'o escaped arrest by jumping into a speeding matatu on the Maseno-Kisumu road. Three of his aides were arrested and his vehicle impounded.

Prof. Nyong'o later sought refuge at the offices of a media company, where he remained holed up for several hours as police officers searched for him.

Speaking to the Sunday Nation by cell-phone, Prof Nyong'o said he was driving from his rural home to Kisumu when he noticed a strange car trailing him near Maseno.

"I knew they were police officers. I asked my driver to slow down and I jumped into a matatu headed for Kisumu. They thought I was still in the car and blocked it, only to find I had melted," said the Mageuzi supporter.

He said the Kisumu Rural Social Democratic party secretary, Mr. Joram Amolo, driver Charles Odhiambo and an unidentified youth were arrested.

As Prof. Nyong'o escaped the police, his colleagues, Mr. Orengo, Mr. Moses Muhia (Gatundu South), Dr Mukhisa Kituyi (Kimilili), and several other activists remained at his rural home to monitored police moves by cell-phone.

Kinangop MP Waithaka Mwangi (Ford-People), who on Friday evening escaped arrest in Kisii town by jumping into a matatu, was yesterday holed up at a secluded hotel in Kisumu's Industrial Area. Mr. Mwangi said he had lost contact with his colleagues.

Kisumu town remained tense most of the day as police erected roadblocks everywhere. They had sealed off the Kenyatta Sports-ground and Moi Stadium to keep away the Opposition activists.

Police sealed off both the Moi Stadium and the Kenyatta Sports- ground, fearing the convenors might change venue.

Anti-riot police patrolled the town centre and the residential estates in lorries and Land-Rovers, while their plainclothes colleagues searched for the Mageuzi activists.

At Nyamasaria, youths allied to Mageuzi shouted slogans and played hide-and-seek with the police.

Mr. Orengo and his team had not arrived at the venue by 3 p.m. and his supporters waited from a safe distance as police kept vigil. Pitched battles erupted between Mageuzi youths and riot police at Nyalenda at midday, when those chanting in Dholuo, stoned police officers.

Five youths were severely beaten and six arrested with serious injuries. A police officer was also seriously injured when he fell off a speeding Land-Rover. He was admitted to the Nyanza Provincial General Hospital.

Police confirmed 16 suspects had been arrested in connection with the disturbances and will be charged in court tomorrow.

Trouble erupted when youths marched from Ring Road towards the Kisumu-Nairobi highway and were confronted by policemen with a sniffer dog. They were heading for the Moi Stadium, about 250 metres away.

On seeing the officers, they hurled stones at them, and the police cocked their rifles