At around 3 p.m. two leading members of opposition leader Raila Odinga’s party entered downtown Nairobi. Their presence attracted a small crowd of people who began following them. Riot police immediately shot tear gas into the crowd to disperse people and drove through town ordering everyone to go home. Most shops closed and offices emptied of employees as riot police chased small gatherings about town and often arbitrarily sent tear gas canisters into the air. There was a report of one womn carrying a baby being hit on the head with a tear gas can and falling to the ground. But things remained fairly non-violent on the part of civilians, and downtown Nairobi was a virtual ghost town. Elsewhere, the situation was brought to a boiling point.
I was in Nairobi’s most notorious slum, Mathare, early this evening where a mob nearly left one man beaten to death, and blocked passage through the neighborhood, throwing rocks and brandishing machetes. Police came in behind us just as we were arriving to disperse the crowds, but as we were leaving, the mob had reappeared at the top of the hill. Police used tear gas, beat men with sticks, and fired live ammunition, though to my knowledge no one was hit by bullets. Nairobi’s slums are stricken with extreme poverty and it is difficult to see how the violence that has erupted has anything to do with the stolen election. Rather, I would venture to guess that discontent has festered for so long that tempers have flared easily in the poorest parts of the capital as anger has spread throughout the nation over the rigged elections in December.