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Many opposition supporters in Kenya seem to have heeded to calls by their leaders to boycott products of three companies they accused of working with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government to defeat electoral justice in recent polls.

Lawmakers allied to the National Super Alliance (NASA) on Friday named and shamed leading telecom Safaricom, edible oil maker Bidco and milk processor Brookside as the companies, while experts and business lobbies condemned such boycotts as detrimental to the Kenyan economy already struggling amid the prolonged election season.

“We have begun the liberation of this country. Companies that decided to go to bed with the ruling Jubilee Party will not be left out and must feel the pinch of their actions so that next time they remain neutral in political situations,” said Junet Mohammed, an opposition legislator.

Top on the list of companies that have felt the pinch of the boycott is the country’s leading telecom Safaricom.

On Friday and Saturday morning, opposition supporters across the country lined up at the shops of Safaricom’s rivals namely Airtel and Orange to port their lines.

A spot check by Xinhua at three Airtel shops on Friday in the capital Nairobi found rare long queues of customers waiting to be served.

Safaricom is the market leader in the East African nation with a share of about 80 percent of the voice market and 99 percent of mobile money, according to the Communication Authority of Kenya. Kenya has 38 million mobile phone subscribers.

“Safaricom would never get my money again, not again. I am moving to Airtel and would even not use their mobile money,” said Bernard Omondi, a painter in Nairobi, who ported his line and transferred to Airtel.

Kenya’s mobile number portability allows subscribers to switch between mobile network service providers without changing their phone numbers.

At major supermarkets in Nairobi, some buyers interviewed said they intentionally avoided products of Brookside, which NASA politicians have isolated.

On social media, NASA supporters rallied each other on the boycott and shared stories of their actions.

“I have finally called it a day with Safaricom. That means if you call me on the line I won’t pick, that means we are done,” said Dikembe Disembe, a NASA blogger.

Another chided that he did not eat supper in his house after realizing his wife used cooking oil made by a company on the boycott list.

Deputy President William Ruto on Friday termed the move by NASA as an extortion scheme in the name of boycotting products of companies.

He asked the companies targeted to reject what he called “bizarre, extortion racket-styled economic boycott” and continue to meet their tax obligations to the government.

“As the government of Kenya, we advise Bidco and the other companies to reject the move and continue with expansion program that will increase jobs in the country,” he said.

Joseph Gacheru, a Jubilee supporter, dismissed the boycott, noting that it would not work. He accused the opposition of seeking to destroy the economy.

“The move is likely to hurt business community and will not even last long,” Gacheru told Xinhua.

Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) and Kenya Private Sector Alliance also asked the opposition to go slow on the economic boycott, noting the move would hurt the economy.

“Reasons for calling consumer boycott are always not due to political stalemate but by largely revolve around quality and they should not be done by political leaders,” said Cofek in a statement.

Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi, termed the boycott as detrimental to the companies and the economy in general, noting the move is not good in the country.

“This boycott has far-reaching consequences. It means job losses, lack of creation of jobs and even collapse of the companies,” he said.

NASA politicians have promised to name more companies in the coming weeks whose supporters should boycott. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

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