The Kenyan public is officially hot and bothered.Last monday Kenya practically stood still after the Police horrendously tear-gassed schoolchildren who were protesting over a playground. The children were accompanied by teachers and activists who were demonstrating after a wall had been erected around the grounds over the recently concluded Christmas holiday. The main issue surrounding the protest was that the grounds had been illegally grabbed by a nearby hotel to be used as a car park when according to legal documents it belonged to the school. The official tone by the government has been to raise questions as to why the children were there in the first place, suspend the police officers who issued the order for tear gas canisters to be released. Additionally the National Lands Commission and the Lands Ministry have been tasked to investigate how and why the wall went up in the first place.
From where I am standing there is nothing right about this situation at all. Activists who organized the protest indeed should not have used children or rather they should have stopped the children from being involved for their own safety. The Kenyan police especially recently has becoming more and more violent at protests and they should have used this information prudently. The activists are not the parents of those children and had no right to put them in harm’s way, even if it was not their intention they were well aware that it was probable. On the other side of the coin the fact that the children were not meant to be there does not make it acceptable for the police to use teargas on them or the other protests. Kenya promulgated a new constitution in 2010 that legalizes free assembly and peaceful demonstrations, if this document means anything to the authorities then the violence should not have taken place at all. The biggest question here is why was this particular protest so important to the state that the police had to get involved?
Kenya has a dark history of land grabbing and impunity where state officials use their positions in government for personal gain. Whether this was the case at this particular playground no one really knows. What is indisputably unforgivable is that the fact that the police fired teargas canisters at children whether or not they were protesting, some as young as 6 years of age. The Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has come out strongly to condemn the actions of the Police, and the hotel that grabbed the land. Again whether these offenders will face real retribution is anyone’s guess.
Here at Inspire Afrika we sympathize with the children of the school who were injured during this day. It is our deep prayer that it never happens again.
Photo Credits: Mashable.com, CNN