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Mass Evacuations Continue

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A man salvaged an immaculate Kenyan flag within the ashes of a burning house. © Anne Holmes

Tuesday afternoon I was witness to a scene in Soweto Kibera, a slum of Nairobi, where an estimated 3,000 non-Kikuyus were asked to leave. Many packed their belongings and left their homes to take shelter by St. Judes Church as houses burned around them. Some Kikuyus came and burned some non-Kikuyu houses and these responded in kind by burning some Kikuyu houses. All across the country we are seeing communities pushing unwanted tribes out. In Nakuru the Luos and Kalengins pushed the Kikuyus out and burned their houses. In Naivaisha the Kikuyus were pushing the Luos out, and now all along the way towards Nairobi, the Kikuyus are ordering all others to leave. Where will they go and how will they start their lives again?

Yesterday in the towns of Kefri and Kikuyu, just on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kikuyu mobs attacked non-Kikuyus and burned their houses as the latter took refuge in the Research Centers in Kefri. Buses took countless families to the police station in Kikuyu for refuge but it is not known what will happen to them next. When we arrived at the station, a truck full of police pulled up, firing a tear gas canister straight into the crowd of refugees who were sitting on the lawn with their children, injuring one man. This was incomprehensible and a testament to how little the police are doing to help and how often they are against those suffering the most.

We were unable to get into the town centers because of security reasons and waited at the station to document the arrival of yet another bus full of refugees coming from Kefri. Then a police convoy agreed to take us into the research center in Kefri. When we arrived, there was a mob standing outside the gates. We got out of the car and when we turned around, the police had vanished. The mob came towards us. I was working with a team of Luo journalists and some Kikuyus had come with us to act as a buffer. The crowd grew very angry with us and we asked to be let into the Research Center for safety. The man at the gate refused. Our driver was identified as a Luo and the mob wanted to kill him and my colleagues as well. We managed to jump in the car and drive away as the mob stoned our car.

It has become increasingly difficult for us to do our work, not to mention dangerous. It’s a strange phenomenon that is particular to the Kikuyu areas where the press has time after time been thrown out, threatened, and even attacked. On a few rare occasions in the last week, some have been let in to document what is happening, others have risked being beaten or stoned just to get a few images. The Luos and Kalengins have seemingly not cared when we document them burning Kikuyu houses, looting their stores and attacking them, but the Kikuyus don’t want a bad image and perhaps prefer to be painted solely as victims. In this story, all sides have suffered and as always, it’s the women and children who bear the greatest brunt.

The dilemma now for us, the press, is this: if we can’t go in to these areas alone without security, and if the police is apt to simply abandon us in the middle of a blood-thirsty mob, there is virtually no way for us to truly document what is happening on the ground at the moment. Earlier this month I was accused of biased reporting in the comments on this blog. Now I will admit to it openly, but not by any fault of my own. I simply can’t get the pictures.

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3 Responses to “Mass Evacuations Continue”

  1. Adam Stanhope says:

    Yes, Anne – safety first.

  2. Ryan says:

    Stay safe.

  3. […] Mass Evacuations Continue When we arrived, there was a mob standing outside the gates. We got out of the car and when we turned around, the police had vanished. […]

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