Independent reporting on human rights, environmental and conflict issues

Pulling the Railway Line

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A young man hacks at bolts holding the railway line together in Kibera slums. © Anne Holmes

Residents of Nairobi’s Kibera slum continued to pull up the railway line late into the evening and all morning until an agreement was struck with police. Community leaders came into the slum to discuss an end to the operation, and later this afternoon opposition leader Raila Odinga asked people to be patient as he and the president came to an agreement over the cabinet.

Yesterday evening as people came home from work, an eyewitness said several thousand people gathered to join in the destruction of the train tracks. This morning, residents continued to demolish them with the aim of throwing the entire track into the river a hundred meters below. This is the second time Kibera residents uproot the line. In January they removed 2 kilometers of this route, which leads to Uganda, to decry the use of Ugandan troops in the bloody repression of opposition protesters.

Many present at the scene today explained that they were doing this in protest against President Mwai Kibaki for having promised them 500,000 jobs which he did not deliver in his first term. Unfortunately for those who do have jobs, the destruction of the train tracks has made their lives more difficult as they used this route to get to work in town. Now with major congestion problems and local buses barred from downtown, commuters will spend more time getting to and from work, and further congest traffic.

The protestors and opposition party, ODM, may have made their point clear, however, as the two leaders seem to be making moves to select a cabinet by Saturday of this week, according to press conference statements today.

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A boy sits on the railway line which residents of Nairobi’s Kibera slums tore up in protest of stalled negotiations © Anne Holmes

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