FULL REPORT: Kenya – Threats to commercial interests will remain elevated in coming weeks as anti-government protests continue

East AfricaKenya31 March 2023

FULL REPORT: Kenya – Threats to commercial interests will remain elevated in coming weeks as anti-government protests continue

Written by:
Andrew Smith
Image credit: HakanGider/ Shutterstock

Torchlight Torchlight Predictions

  • Companies with ties to political elites will face elevated threats as politicians organise retaliatory attacks on rivals’ assets 
  • Divisions between government and opposition will increase likelihood that opposition-linked businesses will be targeted by new laws, fines and penalties
  • Government’s stricter response to protests will increase likelihood of further demonstrations proliferating beyond Nairobi and western Kenya amid perceptions of wider crackdown
    Locations of protests on 30 March


  • Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki issues a directive banning all protests in Kenya and increasing security at private properties and in areas where demonstrations are likely to occur. The measures will be effective from 31 March. (29 March)
  • Opposition leader Raila Odinga says protests on 30 March will go ahead, despite calls from religious leaders, human rights groups, foreign envoys, and the African Union to end demonstrations. (29 March) 


Odinga has called for protests every Monday and Thursday until the government reduces living costs and reopens the 2022 election results. The protests taking place today largely align with our assessment, involving several hundred to several thousand people, and restricted to the Mathare and Kibera districts of Nairobi, and in Kisumu, Homa Bay, Siaya and Migori in western Kenya. Clashes between security forces and protesters are also taking place, but on a smaller scale than those witnessed on 20 and 27 March. 

The government response however increases the likelihood that protests will emerge elsewhere in the coming weeks. Odinga’s coalition will look to exploit measures like the outright ban on demonstrations as evidence of a broader crackdown on opposition and critics. Indeed, Odinga regularly accuses President William Ruto’s administration of autocratic tendencies, including trying to convert his ruling coalition into a single party, appointing loyalists into key government and parastatal roles, and nominating a new electoral commission. 

Inflammatory rhetoric between Ruto’s and Odinga’s coalitions also means threats to commercial interests will remain elevated in the weeks ahead. For instance, gangs mobilised by politicians will likely conduct attacks on businesses affiliated with their rivals. Indeed, a gas plant and farm owned by Odinga and former President Uhuru Kenyatta respectively were attacked on 27 March. In response, Odinga supporters have asked Kenyan citizens on social media to identify companies connected to Ruto, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, and their allies, likely to launch retaliatory attacks. Given the significant commercial interests of political elites, foreign firms will likely see their assets targeted due to their connections to politicians.

Implications for Business

Security: Businesses are increasingly likely to see their facilities, infrastructure and project sites directly targeted by violence and criminal activity, including arson attacks and looting, in the coming weeks. Senior leaders will also likely see threats made against them online, though actual attacks are unlikely. Other personnel will be exposed to incidental security threats due to the increased probability of attacks on company assets. However, the wider anti-government protests are unlikely to significantly impact business operations as they are contained within certain areas of cities, though businesses and roads in their immediate vicinity will likely be closed.                              

Regulatory and financial: Ruto and Odinga’s increasingly entrenched positions will also raise the prospects that the government will target businesses linked to political opponents through new laws, fines and other penalties. For instance, the government is trying to implement a new privatisation bill that will allow it to privatise fully and partly state-owned enterprises (SOEs) without parliamentary approval. It is likely that SOEs with ties to opposition-owned businesses – for instance, companies awarded tenders by SOEs – will be targeted for privatisation. The privatisation bill in its current form would also offer opportunities for Ruto’s allies’ to increase their own stakes in liberalised SOEs.

Meanwhile, the threat of consumer boycotts of politically connected companies will increase the longer protests continue, causing financial losses. For instance, Odinga urged his supporters to boycott telecommunications firm Safaricom, the Star newspaper and the KCB Group on 21 March. 

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