THE turmoil in Kenya following the re-election of President Mwai Kinaki has left the Indian community mainly Punjabis and Gujaratis in a state of shock. The onslaught on business establishments, looting and burning of vehicles mainly trucks owned by Punjabis in Kenya has made the Indian community to stayput indoors.
Speaking to ET over phone from Nairobi, Parladh Singh Bhangras, CMD, Comecon Constructions, said that though the situation today was calm, there was no settlement between the warring factions. Punjabis numbering around 1.5 lakh in Kenya, he said, were mainly into transport, manufacturing, hotels and farming.
He said the meeting scheduled to be held today between the parties concerned had been postoponed till Tuesday next. Already, business had come to a standstill and many transporter’s vehicles had been torched in the clashes between the police and protesters disputing the relection of President Kibaki.
He said the Punjabi business community was apprehensive about the turn of events and many had taken refuge in homes with depleting rations.” We had never anticipated such an event and Kenya has the reputation of being one of the most promising democracies with a strong economy and one of the most sought after tourist destination in Africa.” Comecon, which has interests in hotel bsuiness with the group company managing one of the largest hotels in Kenya, Leapord Beach resort, has many cancellations following the clashes after the recent presidential elections. Comecon has an annual turnover of Rs 80-90 crore and this would be hit, said Mr Bhangra.
“Hotel bookings by and large has been affected and much of the Kenyan economy is primarily based on tourism,” he said.
He said prices of essential commodities like petrol and milk had shot up substantially and were now in short supply. The Punjabi community which was huddled indoors was apprehensive of moving out of their shelters and was feeling the pinch of depleting rations.
“Lets hope wisdom will prevail and the situation will come back to normal,” said Mr Parladh.
Another Punjabi who has interests in mining iron ore in Kenya , Harcharan Singh Ranauta, who returned to Chandigtarh from Kenya before the elections on December 27, and is also into exporting bicycles from Ludhiana to that countr,y said the turn of events would leave a scar on the minds of the people and business would be affected. Ranauta’s Copac group in Kenya which employs nearly 2,000 people including a few Punjabis and has mines at Voi between Mombasa and Nairobi, said work at the site had come to a standstill and people were now facing shortage of rations.
He said there would be as many as 200 Punjabi families in Kenaya with businesses of nearly Rs 100 crore each.Another Punjabi, Pritam Singh Panesar was the second largest rose grower in Kenya, he said.