I was glad to see photographs of Raila Odinga getting their hands dirty, Raila visiting wounded protesters in hospital and Nagib Balala helping to stretcher a dead body into an ambulance having lead a demonstration in Mombasa yesterday. Perhaps opposition party politicians faced with the reality of the ODM demonstrations claiming lives each time they are staged, has played a part in calling off the rallies for now, though some say; ‘They don’t care if 500 are killed or 5,000, as long as they get what they want in the end.’ It would be nice to be able to give the politicians the benefit of the doubt. Particularly sad was the news that a 13 year old was among those shot dead in Kibera yesterday, presumably caught in the cross fire. Police have also been personally threatened with violence and death by ‘peaceful protesters’.
As last week went on, international pressure mounted on the police to allow the political rallies to take place, though the more one read behind the news headlines, the more sinister the suspiciously organised demonstrators seem to become, unflinchingly intent on causing chaos and destruction in the various towns and cities across the country.
Sadly the rallies degenerated quickly from initially being peaceful ‘mass’ shows of support for the opposition party and an unfair election, to small gangs of youths terrorising, looting and attacking innocent people with pangas and sticks, whilst goading police who are simply out doing their difficult task of; ‘protecting lives and property’. The rallies recently have resembled unlawful mob justice. Absolutely nobody I know, or have spoken to in Kenya expressed any interest in attending the ‘mass action’ demonstrations. This may be because they had jobs to go to and a living to earn, but also they have expressed shock at the violence, disillusionment with the ‘leaders’ and downright fear. Simmering under the surface it seems that tribal antipathy has been purposefully stirred up with hate text messages and hate emails circulating, even intertribal death threats too leaving Kenyans feeling terrified.
Having said all of the above – it is also important to stress that violence in Kenya has thus far taken place in town/city centres and slum areas. Tourists who have been brave enough to visit to the country since the problems started would have been largely, if not entirely unaffected, only possibly aware of disruption during transfers between game parks and hotels, or being shuttled to and from airports. For the intrepid few, it could be the ideal time to visit Kenya, with knock down prices for some safaris and beach holidays plus relatively empty hotels! Tourists and foreigners are still not in any way targets in this political drama and we still have high hopes for some sort of resolution soon.