Mar 21, 2023
Kenya Opposition Leader Targets Safaricom, KCB in Anti-Government Protests
(Bloomberg) -- Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga called for the boycott of the nation’s biggest company Safaricom Plc and its second largest lender KCB Group Plc as part of his anti-government protests.
Odinga accused the two companies and a local media house of aiding President William Ruto’s government, saying they had become “enablers and facilitators of this brutal regime.” He didn’t give details to back his allegations.
Safaricom and KCB Group didn’t immediately comment on Odinga’s remarks when contacted on Tuesday.
Odinga, who narrowly lost last year’s presidential vote to Ruto and unsuccessfully tried to overturn the result in the Supreme Court, maintains that he won. He vowed to rally masses every Monday and Thursday to push the government to meet his demands, including doing more to bring down the cost of living and to ensure that the constitution of a new panel to oversee elections is done fairly.
Kenya’s inflation rate climbed to 9.2% in February and has been above the central bank’s target range of 2.5% to 7.5% since June. Economic growth in East Africa’s largest economy is expected to slow to 5.1% this year from 5.3% in 2022, according to International Monetary Fund estimates.
Ruto, on his part, says his administration is operating within the law and working to improve the battered economy he inherited in September and to create jobs for millions of young people. “Nothing extra-legal will be part of what we do as a nation,” he said at an event on Monday, following Odinga’s comments that suggested that the electoral commission panel was being irregularly reconstituted.
The Kenya Union of Journalists released a statement condemning Odinga’s call to boycott the Star Newspaper. “This is very unfortunate, with the remarks coming from a leader who understands the importance of free and independent press in promoting good governance and transparency in public process, which he is fighting for,” according to the statement.
A large police contingent was deployed in Nairobi from early Monday morning when Odinga said the protests would begin, and the authorities restricted movement in potential hot-spots. Many shops in the central business district remained closed, some schools cancelled classes and there was less traffic on the streets than normal. One person died in the protests, while 238 were arrested and 31 police officers were injured, according to the police.
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