Thursday, January 17, 2008

Thursday in Nairobi's Kibera slums

Well I spent a few hours today, in almost the same spot as I did yesterday, watching the protests unfold in the Kibera slums.

It started off with just a few people at about midday. In fact at the start of the whole thing, there were probably many more Press than there were Protesters, and there were certainly three times the amount of police as there were civilians - protesting or not.

It was a small group initially, a couple of them had slingshots and were lobbing a few stones up the hill at all of the assembled GSU officers who were carrying batons in one hand, riot shields in the other, and more than a few had AK47's slung over their shoulders. Basically it was a bit of taunting of the police and some chanting of "Kibaki must GO" and "No Raila, No Peace" and a spot of dancing (some great spinning manoeuvres and headstands, can i say!), and not a lot else.

The police started off with making a front line blocking the road into the area with their trucks and then tried to keep those in the slum already - in, and those who were trying to get in - out.

Then as the protesting crowd grew, they starting collecting a bunch of rocks and piling them into the middle of the road - I assume as ammunition against the police if they felt it was required - and then they built themselves a large bonfire on which they threw plastic sheets and old tyres and made lots of black smoke.

It went on like that for quite some time but then the police seem to have had enough at one stage, and perhaps decided there were now too many of them in the group, so they began to fire tear gas, one canister after another, to try and disperse them.

As the tear gas canisters hit the floor, some didn't explode immediately, and the protesters tried to throw them back at the police. One of the canisters landed only half way down the hill between the group protesting and the mass of police and one of the protesters thought he'd try his luck and sprinting up the hill, he tried to grab the can and throw it back.

This little manoeuvre brought a big cheer and a laugh from the crowd behind us looking down on all the theatrics but sadly the police were not nearly so amused and about twenty of them ran at the guy and began firing into the air. Anyway he broke a sprinting record and shot back down the hill and back into the crowd at the bottom without any damage.

Then a small group of police got into a LandRover and drove down towards the bonfire site firing tear gas as they went and then a few live rounds in the air for good measure just to scatter the protesters. This went on for some ten minutes or so and then the LandRover retreated back up the hill and the protesters reassembled.

About fifty riot police arrived at one stage all dressed up in their best 'Ninja turtle' outfits , but after standing in a huddle and looking threatening at the protesters for about half an hour, they obviously decided this group just weren't worth their fine padded outfits and they piled back into their Mutant Turtle Truck and headed off for more action elsewhere.

I left shortly behind them (as I was desperate for a coffee and needed to get to school to pick up my son), so I'm not quite sure what happened after that but on summing up I really do believe that these people were really very peaceful and just want to be heard.

In my opinion it is most definitely the police who seem to be causing the majority of this unnecessary violence.

I watched one of the police with his AK47 slung over his shoulder and a long whippy stick in his hand whacking anyone and chasing them down the hill into the slum if they dare defy the orders to stay either side of the 'front line',

I do realise the police feel threatened by the taunting and the stone throwing, but is it really necessary to disperse people with the live rounds - especially when 10 minutes later they're back, I assume again and again, until someone gets killed and they have to give in.

Personally I saw nothing more than a lot of shouting, a few rocks thrown, a few people whacked, and a lot of eyes streaming from the countless canisters of tear gas that were fired down the hill. Apart from that, whilst I was there anyhow, that really was it.

All I can hope for is that it stayed in that 'stand off' for the rest of the afternoon, although I haven't yet seen the evening news to confirm whether it did or didn't.

Well, Hey Ho, yet another day of it tomorrow.
Mmmmmmmmmmm, might just stay in bed and pretend it's not happening.
Don't suppose it'll all go away if i do though!


aims said...

Have seen you around - love your name - and have popped over since you visited me...

Oh lord girl -

I'm one of those people who puts up her hands, blocks her ears and wants to run run run when I hear about what is going on in your country. It tears so much at my heart that I've had to back away...I'm sorry - I really am. You need support - and ears - and hearts ....and I run...

But I'll be back - those toilets on the other page looked interesting...:)


Hey Aims, nice to see you over here. Sorry my blog is so depressing at the moment but sadly that is life around these parts just now but I'm still keeping the fun stuff going on the other side on my "Mobile Mzungu" blog.

Don't suppose you want me to send you a full catalogue of what is available for sale on the side of the road, besides broken second hand toilets of course!! :-)

otidaveus said...

Hey was just in the neighborhood and thought of reading through your lines.....must have been such an experience. I leave it everyday.......but are you doing anything about it.....just thought should ask .....


Oti - hi there, and what do you suggest we should do? Kofi doesn't seem to be getting anywhere so how can we help?

otidaveus said...

Well Kofi is just that Kooffii.......and truth be said between the 2 so called "leaders" they are not thinking about the mwananchi or "wanjiku" for that matter, it about the power and how much one can keep aside for him and the clan.
For starters we could invite more people up in here and I can aure you we'll think of something as in terms of help. People dont realise that this has and will continue to affect all of us and it's up to the mwananchi now (not the Hyenas) to take charge.
You may be doing something bout it I dont know but the more people we have up in here the more the ideas we'll get.
Was just a suggestion you probably have your hands full with your own shidas..........nice meeting you though...


You're right there Oti - it's most definitely up to the mwanainchi now. If I get any brainwaves, I'll be sure to let you know.

otidaveus said...

That'll be nice .......