Independent reporting on human rights, environmental and conflict issues

A Day of Quiet in Nairobi

An Ethiopian girl eats lunch at the refugee camp of Nairobi Fair Grounds. © Anne Holmes

The day was quiet throughout Nairobi with no reported clashes and people going about their business. No news is good news, as they say. The last two days we have been hearing reports that the Mungiki have been active in and around the Mathare region. Seven reported slashings occured in Baba Ndogo friday and the night before one man lost a hand in another incident. Today, the phone didn’t ring, my sources didn’t call to report or ask of injuries or deaths, and everyone seemed to welcome the bit of rest. Let’s hope it lasts and that ODM’s new call for nationwide boycotts takes this movement down a less bloody path.

I had a chance to take a survey of the Nairobi Fair Grounds refugee camp this afternoon. According to the official Red Cross tally there are 2,935 refugees currently residing in cow sheds and tents. Only one woman has left the camp since the crisis began to go and live with relatives elsewhere. The camp continues to receive refugees in waves. On Tuesday they received an additional 100 people because of protest violence and eight days ago 210 Ethiopian families arrived from Kiambio, which lies on the outskirts of Mathare. The camp is populated by many different tribes (except Luo) and citizens from other countries who came to Kenya to escape troubles in their own country. They have been threatened, menaced, attacked and pushed out by Luo over the last three weeks. Many fled when they received warnings. Others were not so lucky such as one man I spoke to who lost a son when Luo burned his house while the boy was inside.

My driver who walked with me around the camp shook his head in disbelief. It would have been impossible to imagine Kenyans as refugees in their own country 3 weeks ago, but now it has become a distinct reality and there seems to be no solution in sight. Children cannot go to school though I was told the government plans to bring teachers this Monday to start classes for the kids again.

Many complained that they did not have enough food and some alleged that Red Cross employees were taking new mattresses and donated goods to people outside the camp. One woman told me that some people still living in Kibera, which you can see from the camp, have apparently been coming in to get food as well, cutting short supplies to those living there.

I met also a group of Congolese refugees who stopped to speak with me in French wanting to know what I had observed. “Do you think a Rwandan genocide is going to happen here?” queried one. This is not the first time I have heard this and I hope that that is a completely ludicrous idea. A friend of mine who shoots for AP just returned from Eldoret and was showing me footage of the protests there over the last three days. At one point a woman passes in the frame shouting gleefully “Rwandan Genocide in Kenya!” He said that things have been quiet there because the Luo have successfully pushed out Kikuyu and grabbed all their land, so they are content for the moment.

Let’s hope things stay quiet tomorrow too.

This Kiyuku man lost a son when Luos burned his house while the boy was inside. He was at work when the incident occurred and was injured by machete to his foot when he returned to his neighborhood. © Anne Holmes


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