At least five people were reportedly shot dead and others sustained gunshot wounds on Wednesday during protests across Kenya over the high cost of living.
The protests initiated by opposition supporters also grounded business activities in different parts of Kenya on Wednesday.
Some of the protests turned violent as police lobbed teargas to disperse supporters of the main opposition, Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Alliance Coalition. At least one police vehicle was torched by angry protestors.
In the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, businesses remained shut and most citizens were kept off the city center for fear of violence. The central business district, which is usually crammed with people, remained deserted.
Transport was also at a standstill as public commuter vehicle operators kept their vehicles off the road.
"I only made the first trip at 5.00 a.m. and parked the vehicle for fear of violence. I can't risk," said Grace Kamau, a conductor with Rembo Shuttle whose vehicles ply the Nairobi City Center-Kitengela route.
The urban settlement was among areas surrounding Nairobi that witnessed violent protests on Wednesday, with demonstrators blocking roads, burning tires, and engaging police in running battles.
Similar scenes were witnessed in Mlolongo, Machakos County, where protestors blocked the Nairobi-Mombasa highway, the main road between Nairobi and the port city of Mombasa.
"We regret to inform you that a section of the Nairobi Expressway toll services has been temporarily halted at Mlolongo, Syokimau, and SGR Toll Stations due to the ongoing demonstrations. Efforts are underway to restore normalcy to the road," MOJA Expressway Company, which runs the road, informed users in a statement.
Nyeri in central Kenya, one of the political bastions of Kenyan President William Ruto, witnessed protests for the first time since the opposition started to call for them in February. Tens of thousands of residents marched on the streets of the town, calling on the government to bring down the cost of living.
Protests were also witnessed in Kisumu, Kisii and Nyamira, in western Kenya, where demonstrators blocked roads, forcing police to disperse them using rear gas.
Inspector-General of Police Japhet Koome, on Tuesday, outlawed any protests across the country, noting that the police would firmly deal with any lawbreakers. "Demonstrations have not only left a trail of destruction of property but also death of innocent citizens and law enforcers."
However, the protests happened despite the warning as citizens complained of the high cost of living.
Kenya's inflation stood at 7.9 percent in June, having surpassed the government's target of 7.5 percent. The higher inflation is blamed on rising prices of commodities like sugar, oil, food, and cooking oil.
On July 7, the protests between opposition supporters and the police led to six deaths in different parts of the country, according to the police.
The government, in a bid to raise more revenue to cut external borrowing, sought to implement various taxation measures, among them increasing tax on fuel products from 8 percent to 16 percent and imposing a housing levy of 1.5 percent for all employed citizens.
While the High Court has temporarily blocked the new law or the Finance Act, the new fuel tax was implemented, leading to an increase in commuter fares and prices of various basic commodities.
This has worsened the plight of citizens.
Raila Odinga, the opposition leader, said in a statement released in Nairobi that the Wednesday protests were a success. "As we had said, Kenyans returned in the second wave in new masses on board in search of a better life for themselves."
Odinga said Azimio had planned for a public rally in Nairobi, but organizers were violently attacked and would-be attendees shot at.
"In order to protect our people and avert more injuries and loss of lives, we have taken the strategic decision not to proceed with the rally at Kamukunji (in Nairobi) this afternoon. In any case, the people have made the point," he said.
Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa), a business lobby, said on Wednesday that the economy was losing up to 3 billion Kenyan shillings (about 21.2 million U.S. dollars) every day the protests were held.
"For a struggling economy reeling from the effects of prolonged drought, general elections, and economic slowdown compounded by global challenges, Kenya can ill-afford political activities currently at play," Kepsa said in a statement issued in Nairobi.