Kenya: “Uhuru Park Will (Not) Be the Kenyan Tiananmen-Zócalo”

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Tiananmen-style “lone figure confronting the Machine” photo from the NYT today from Nairobi.

Samwel Mohochi, director of the Independent Medico-Legal Unit believes it is not just the police, but Kenya’s government that is involved. “Our take is that there is state complicity,” he says. … Maj.-Gen. Ali gives a long, intimidating stare when asked if the reports will lead to internal investigations in his force. All those are horror stories, he says. We don’t investigate horror stories. We don’t have time for that.Globe & Mail, Dec. 25, citing Maj-Gen. Hussein Ali of the Kenyan police on allegations of summary executions by his forces raised by the KNHRC

One can indeed try to obtain a particular result by the use of violence or by speech aimed at securing the adherence of minds. It is in terms of this alternative that the opposition between spiritual freedom and constraint is most clearly seen. The use of argumentation implies that one has renounced resorting to force alone, that value is attached to gaining the adherence of one’s interlocutor by means of reasoned persuasion, and that one is not regarding him as an object, but appealing to his free judgment. Recourse to argumentation assumes the establishment of a community of minds, which, while it lasts, excludes the use of violence. –Ch. Perelman and L. Obrechts-Tyteca (tr. John Wilkinson and Purcell Weaver, University of Notre Dame Press, 1969); §13, “Violence and Argumentation” (p. 54 ff.)

A follow-up to

The East Africa Standard (Kenya) headlines its omnibus coverage this morning “A slow start in search for peace.”

Lead story in The Nation: “Kibaki’s Peace Plan.”

Yesterday, EAS had praised Raila Odinga, the challenger in the contested elections, for reportedly agreeing in principle to a national unity government, provided it was convened for the sole purpose of holding new elections within three months.

It reports that Odinga has meet with Desmond Tutu, but that Tutu has been unable to secure a meeting with President Kibaki.

The EAS reports, in part:

… prospects of an international mediation starting any time soon looked bleak when Raila and the ODM Pentagon met Tutu early in on Thursday, and accused Kibaki of rejecting mediators who have offered to help resolve the impasse over the presidential vote outcome.

The MP-elect is Raila, I think.

The Lang’ata MP-elect told international journalists that his team had identified former United Nations secretary-general, Mr Koffi Annan, South Africa’s Tutu and Ghanaian President and African Union AU chairman, Mr John Kuffour, to mediate but the Government was dragging its feet.

Chin-up, cockeyed optimism:

Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) has told tour operators that visitors to the country were safe despite the ongoing-post election chaos.

The business-oriented East African had predicted that the business climate would not be affected dramatically by the victory of either party, whose economic platforms, it said, are similar.

The EAS filed another story on diplomatic observers who “visited Kibera slums in Nairobi to assess whether police were using excessive force to disperse demonstrators.

Reasons to verify, verify, verify on this issue:

Orange supporters seem determined to repeat the mass mobilizations in the Zócalo in Mexico City following allegations (credible ones) of election fraud in Mexico in 2006 — while cribbing the concept of the “million man march” from the Washington, D.C. demonstrations of African American solidarity of recent years.

EAS describes the action in general terms and quotes the EU observer as noting “controlled behavior on both sides.”

The Global Metrosexual Times has 12 photos from the scene today.

Anti-riot police lobbed teargas at a charged crowd, shouting pro-Raila slogans, forcing them to flee.

The crowd was chanting, not the police.
The individual against the Machine: Iconic imagery. In Kenya, however, no main battle tanks yet.

The protesters re-grouped and emerged at Ngong’ Road from different junctions before matching towards town. Over 30 officers armed with clubs, guns and shields, arrived and barricaded the road. Following their team leader’s orders, they lobbed teargas while others fired in the air, forcing the protesters to flee.

No excessive force:

“In all objectivity, one cannot say that police officers are using force,” said the EU Head. Linden said the whole drama on Ngong Road was a matter of “provocation and reaction”.”The officers are simply following orders not to allow the protesters to go beyond some area. There is controlled behaviour on both sides,” he said.

The observers also suggested, diplomatically, that peaceful protests ought to be permitted, according to the EAS:

Speaking to The Standard in Kibera, Lindner said if demonstrations were violent, Kenyans and especially voters, stand to lose. “If today’s demos are peaceful, it would be good but if they turnout to be chaotic, voters would suffer,” he said.He said peaceful demonstrations would give room for dialogue between PNU and ODM leaders. “Without conditions, they should come together and dialogue,” he added.

The Nation seems to downplay the notion that “violent clashes” are taking place:

The President’s statement was made on the day demonstrations were also held in parts of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu but these were largely peaceful. But in Kisumu, two MPs elect, Shakeel Shabir of Kisumu Town East and Olago Oluoch of Kisumu Town West all of ODM were being questioned by police after they addressed the protesting youths.

EAS describes that incident as an “arrest” followed by a “release”:

In Kisumu, two MPs-elect — Kisumu Town West’s Olago Aluoch and Kisumu Town East’s Shakeel Shabbir — were arrested in connection with the protests but were later released.

A Rashomon effect may be emerging on how to characterize efforts to prevent a mass rally in Nairobi. The EAS characterizes the situation with an historical analogy: “Scenes not seen since 1991.”

Scenes not seen in Nairobi since the violent pro-democracy demonstrations of 1991 were replayed all morning and part of the afternoon with thousands of demonstrators battling with police. The chaos in Nairobi left at least five people dead, according to police, while the death toll kept going up in other parts of the country where election-related violence has persisted since Sunday. In Kibera, an AIC church building was burnt down and the local law courts partly razed as demonstrators tried all efforts to outwit riot police and get into Uhuru Park. Bursts of gunfire and exploding teargas canisters were heard on Karanja Road from early morning and on Ngong Road, where police on horseback, on foot and others using water canons fought hard to keep off the rioters.

Where is my American ambassador, sending someone out to whistle “The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You” to keep the police and demonstrators honest?

Are we going to see different international diplomatic blocs angling to bring about different end games in this stalemate? Again?

German Ambassador, Mr Walter Lindner, and Head of European Union delegation, Mr Erick van der Linden, drove to Kibera, on Thursday, as police barricaded roads leading to Uhuru Park. The two got the brunt of the demonstrations after teargas canisters were lobbed near where they were. “I am here to see that it is non-violent and I have spoken to ODM leader, Mr Raila Odinga that everything should be done to stop bloodshed,” said the German envoy.


But on Thursday, as the politicians dithered, Nairobi again soaked the brunt of the chaos as over 4,000 police officers fought demonstrators and politicians for the better part of the day to keep them from Uhuru Park, the venue of the one million-man rally.

“Streets choking in teargas”:

Also choked in clouds of teargas were parts of Thika and Juja roads. The height of confrontation was at Hurlingham Shopping Centre, where police stopped Pentagon members Mr Musalia Mudavadi, Mr William Ruto, Mrs Charity Ngilu and Mr Joseph Nyagah from marching to Uhuru Park.

The EAS reports on another incident

The leaders engaged police in an exchange of words before they agreed to cancel the meeting. “Kenyans should not get tired as we press for our rights. We know it is not going to take one or two days but we shall endure to the very end,” Mudavadi said. Ruto called on the Police Commissioner, Maj-Gen Hussein Ali, to respect the law and let Kenyans carry on with a peaceful demonstration.

On Hussein Ali, see also

Ngilu engaged a senior police officer in a heated argument demanding to know why his officers were using force to disperse the crowd. Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o pleaded with the demonstrators to retreat, but the charged supporters would not hear any of it and started chanting for Ugenya MP-elect, Mr James Orengo, to come and lead them to Uhuru Park. Some of the party supporters followed Nyagah towards Valley Road, where police lobbed teargas canisters to disperse them.

Uhuru Park:

Meanwhile, Uhuru Park was under siege all day as officers drawn from the regular, administration and the GSU units sealed off all entrances. They formed a human perimeter fence round the ground as other officers patrolled the recreation ground on horseback. The officers, armed with guns, wooden batons, teargas canisters and shields, arrived at the grounds as early as 5am.

More on the EU diplomatic effort. And my taxpayer dollars? How are they getting spent at the moment? Maybe the Times man in Nairobi has something.

German Ambassador Walter Lindner and the Head of the European Union Delegation, Mr Erick van der Linden, drove to Kibera to witness the events. Lindner said the German Foreign Affairs minister, Dr Frank-Walter Steinmeier, had spoken to Raila and Foreign Affairs minister Raphael Tuju, and urged that there should be no bloodshed because of the Uhuru Park rally issue.

National roundup:

Other towns and areas rocked by chaos included Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret, Kuresoi, Nakuru, Kakamega and Bungoma.

In Kisumu, two MPs-elect — Kisumu Town West’s Olago Aluoch and Kisumu Town East’s Shakeel Shabbir — were arrested in connection with the protests but were later released.

Violence rocked most parts of Mombasa mainland as rowdy youths engaged hundreds of riot police in running battles that saw one man shot on the head and scores injured.

Sounds of teargas, gunshots and burning tyres filled parts of Maweni, Kisauni, Bombolulu and Changamwe as GSU, AP and regular police battled crowds headed for Makadara grounds for a protest rally.

Protesters in Kuresoi burnt several houses at Karirikania farm, as hundreds others flashed twigs placards at Keringet, Olenguruone and Kiptagich trading centres.

“Twigs placards” I am guessing are picket signs.


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