Independent reporting on human rights, environmental and conflict issues

Tensions Return

A mob in Mathare North attacks a man they accuse of being Mungiki. © Anne Holmes

An overnight raid by police sparked a minor violent scene in Mathare North this morning. Sometime around 3 in the morning police entered a building by force and indescriminately arrested an estimated 80 persons, including women and children, over alleged default of payment on rent. The people living in the building were apparently IDP’s from the other side of Mathare who were living in an empty building.

Early in the morning, a bus which had taken a detour to avoid traffic on the main road was attacked by an angry mob in retaliation for the events in the night. They burned and took apart the bus over a period of several hours as crowds gathered around to watch. At one point a man with long dread locks appeared on the scene, just wanting to pass through, and the mob began to stone him and hit him with pangas, accusing him of being a member of the Mungiki sect. Chris Athana, a local journalist was able to save the man from lynching by pulling him to safety where police stood nearby. The Mungiki, descendants of the Mau Mau, used traditional to wear dread locks. This is no longer the case as it became clear many years ago that this was an identifying feature for the illegal sect which put their lives in danger.

ODM announced this afternoon that mass protests would take place next week if negotiations talks with Kofi Annan did not produce satisfactory results by Wednesday. It looks as though big trouble is on the horizon as talk of the PNU pulling out abounds, and rumors of militias forming around the country find their way onto the front page of the Nairobi Star.


One Response to “Tensions Return”

  1. PaulG says:

    Anne – many thanks for the enlightening post and congratulations on having this photograph featured prominently in the New York Times today. I couldn’t help but wonder, however, if this photograph was the right photograph for the real story in Kenya — is the story of this one man really relevant to the bigger picture and the threats of upcoming protests? Perhaps this is a better question for editors in New York or elsewhere, but I notice that you also lead your post with photograph of the dreadlocked man being attacked by a mob with at least one machete. Could you offer a comment (here or via e-mail) on why you chose this photo to lead this piece?

    Also, where do you stand on the topic of journalists intervening in situations like this? In a previous post you cast a favorable light upon the actions of a pair of journalists rescuing a man from a potential mob lynching, yet you don’t offer any insight in this case as to your rationale for not stepping in as this man was being attacked with a machete. Any comments would be wonderful, and help me understand what is undoubtedly a highly emotional situation forcing difficult ethical choices.

    Thank you,

    Paul G

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