The Kibera Battlefield

As anger over the recent elections in Kenya escalates, feelings manifest in the form of violence and murder. I’ve been keeping a sharp eye on the news these past few days, with both interest in the outcome of this election and concern for the safety of friends who live in Nairobi. It seems things get worse each day with the leaders of both political parties accusing the other of violence. Outside nations, including the US, are now requesting that Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga work together to stop the violence.

In recent days, Kibera, one of the world’s largest slum has transformed into a war zone. This article highlights some of what has been happening in the past few days:

Defiance under fire in Kibera
By Josphat Makori
BBC News, Kibera slum, Nairobi

Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum, has been turned into one large battlefield. The sound of gunshots rent the air for most of a night and day of terror.From early morning thousands of residents engaged police in running battles as they tried to make their way to the city centre, where Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga had called for a public rally.

Thousands of residents carrying tree branches and chanting anti-government slogans defied the police.

They were met with hundreds of heavily armed anti-riot police who had been deployed on all roads leading out of the slum.

For the better part of the day it was a contest of might against numbers.

Police used tear gas canisters, water cannon and live bullets in an attempt to disperse the crowd that was protesting at the declaration of President Mwai Kibaki as the winner of the presidential election just concluded.

The crowds grew bigger and bigger as the day progressed, prompting the police to form a human wall to confront the crowds.

Marching and singing defiantly, the crowds at one point dared the police to shoot them as they started marching right into the contingent of policemen mounted in trucks or on foot.Arranging themselves in battle formation, the police cocked their guns and pointed water cannon at the crowd.

Still the youths surged forward, this time chanting even louder: “No Raila, no peace!”

Then the police started shooting jets of water and live bullets into the air.

For a while dozens of policemen were firing simultaneously, the deafening noise finally sending the crowd scampering for safety.

But a few minutes later the crowd regrouped vowing to fight on, no matter what it took.

“We are now marching to town, we know that change never comes on a silver platter,” one young man told me.

“There must be sacrifice and this is the cause we have taken up.”

“We are ready to die if that is what it takes,” another young man said.

Walking around Kibera, the picture was one of destruction and death.

The air was still filled with smoke from the smouldering houses, cars and car tyres that were burnt overnight by the protesting youths.One of the largest markets in the slum was burnt down, while property of an unknown value has been looted.

At least three people were confirmed dead last night even though residents claim the death toll is higher.

Police say they will intensify security to ensure peace is restored.

In statement to the press, Police Commissioner Maj Gen Hussein Ali said the force would deal firmly with anyone who engaged in lawlessness.

Meanwhile Mr Odinga blamed the violence on the government and electoral commission for what he claims is a trampling on the rights of people and a denial of their right to choose.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/12/31 19:12:48 GMT


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