So I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that today was the barometer day, a taking of the temperature (er pressure) and a chance to see which way things would go in Kenya. And after today’s demos I’m not sure anyone is any the wiser. There was trouble but then things petered out without things being concluded one way or the other. There’s quite a nice summary of the day here
Then President Kibaki gave a press conference and appeared to offer conciliatory words. Although his opening line was: “I am deeply disturbed by the senseless violence instigated by some leaders in pursuit of their personal political agenda.”
Are things getting better or worse? I don’t know. It was ugly but not nearly as bad as it could have been, is the general consensus.
In Kibera, I was met with the usual warmth. It’s one of the friendliest places to visit. Bullets were flying around my head at one stage as police got trigger happy clearing the burning blockades. But most people simply wanted their message to get out, rather than get heavy with any mzungus wandering into their slum.
So my day was spent following mobs trying and failing to get into the city centre. From time to time one or two hotheads would break away and try to smash their way into a shop. But each time they would be reined in by people who realised it was better to avoid being labelled “looters”. From time to time the police responded with teargas. For once their response was proportionate and went a long way to making sure things didn’t escalate further. Unusual here.
That doesn’t mean the whole thing was under control. In the heart of Kibera I met a young woman who had to beg for her life from an unruly mob. She was at choir practice when dozens of men burst into Kibera’s African Inland Church and prepared to burn the building around her. She escaped after saying she had nothing to do with the church – built with money donated by ex-president Moi – and was simply using it as a shelter.
A miserable reminder (after Monday’s tragedy) of how cheap life can be