Independent reporting on human rights, environmental and conflict issues

Nothing is Sacred

Women cry during the mass funeral. © Anne Holmes

I started my day yesterday morning at the city morgue. ODM had called for a mass funeral and people who lost family members in the conflict gathered to load 28 coffins into cars and trucks. We made our way down Ngong road toward Ligi Ndogo Sportsground in Woodley, not far from Kibera, where others waited. At the outset, the procession comprised of maybe 200 people, but as we walked along the road, the crowd grew and grew as others joined the march and by the time we reached the Sportsground, there were close to one thousand mourners walking en masse alongside the funeral procession. The mood was somewhat joyous despite the occasion, as people felt a certain victory at being able, for the first time since the election, to stop the flow of traffic and march in the streets without police breaking up the crowd immediately. People sang songs, chanted political slogans, held signs up and many donned t-shirts which said “Kenyans for Justice,” Kenyans Decided,” or “The Fight is Not Over.” Some members of the crowd chased after an unarmed lone policeman at one point who ran away in terror. At another time they confronted a group of four policemen who had weapons, shouting at them. The police shot their guns in the sky, but even with weapons, a crowd that size could have killed them in an instant and they were visibly petrified. ODM members were able to contain the crowd and avoided any violent clashes.

The funeral services began with family members gathering around the coffins, crying together. Then some speeches were made in honor of the dead. Everyone listened in silence. A long line of mourners passed before each coffin, paying respect to the dead, as others listened to the speakers. I crouched down and made my way toward Raila Odinga to get a photo when I started to hear a commotion outside the grounds. The ODM leader consulted with his wife and advisors and looked agitated so I decided to go outside to have a look at what was going on. When I reached the street, A large truck of riot police had arrived at the bottom of the road and another group of police was at the entrance of the street to the left. Apparently, some kids had started some trouble, bothering cars passing by, and the police had arrived on the scene en masse. Teenagers started to throw rocks as religious leaders and ODM members tried to dissuade them. Many of those who lay dead inside the funeral services were Luos from Kibera killed by police gunfire and emotions ran high. A group of 20 some men jogged up and down the street singing a song. Then, the police got out of the truck and made their way toward the crowd of people that had gathered in the street. They began firing tear gas at them and the usual exchange ensued: rocks vs. tear gas. This lasted a few minutes. Then the police fired tear gas directly into the funeral services, overshooting the first round, then sending at least 4 canisters directly into the crowd of mourners just as Raila Odinga was making his speech. Panic set in, he was quickly escorted out, two coffins fell off the tables. The crowd started to rush out of the field, carrying coffins, holding handkerchiefs to their faces to calm the effects of the gas as the motorcade quickly filed out. Everyone was baffled.

A crowd gathered in the street, police left and men started to throw rocks into the nearby state-owned post office building, breaking all the windows and terrorizing workers who remained in the building. Two women locked themselves in an office, as people began to loot and tear apart a car. They set fire to the cars and the building, looted what they could find inside, and tore down the protective wall outside. When police moved in, the crowd ran down a street toward Kibera, tore down an iron fence on their way, and disappeared. Meanwhile, police were able to rescue the people who remained trapped inside the burning building and firefighters set to putting out the flames.

It is difficult to understand why the police decided to shoot tear gas into a crowd of peaceful citizens, mourning their dead together as their leader was giving a speech. The act was one of disrespect beyond comprehension, and in the words of a local journalist who happens to be Kikuyu, clearly, to the police, “nothing is sacred.”

A man whose brother was shot by police shouts at GSU standing outside the morgue. © Anne Holmes

Young men confront a small group of GSU on the way to the funeral. © Anne Holmes

A terrified policman shoots his gun in the air to frighten people. © Anne Holmes

A truck with coffins in it makes its way along Ngong road for the funeral procession. © Anne Holmes

Mourners pay respect to the dead. © Anne Holmes

Women cry during the mass funeral. © Anne Holmes

Mourners rush out of the park in panic after tear gas was fired into the funeral. © Anne Holmes

Youths throw stones into the windows of a state-owned post office in retaliation. © Anne Holmes

Two cars were set on fire as well as a state-owned post office building. © Anne Holmes

A young man shouts in front of the fire. © Anne Holmes

A riot policeman stands guard. © Anne Holmes


3 Responses to “Nothing is Sacred”

  1. marwan khory says:

    marwan khory

    Man i just love your blog, keep the cool posts comin..

  2. […] Royal Dutch Shell plc .com wrote an interesting post today on Nothing is SacredHere’s a quick excerpt…was joyous despite the occasion, as people felt a certain victory at being for the first time since the election, to stop the flow of traffic… […]

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