Is Kisumu Kenya's Political Tinderbox?
It is an attitude that has built up over the years, giving the unfortunate impression that Luo lives do not matter.
Most notably is the heightened tension that engulfs the county during most election cycles or when there is significant political tension in the country. To put it aptly, Kisumu has assumed the title of ‘Kenya’s political tinderbox’
Smack in the center of the controversy is the Kenya Police. They have been accused of terrorizing and brutalizing the local citizenry whenever there are riots or demonstrations.
In 2013, shootings occurred in the wake of demonstrations against the Kenyan Supreme Court ruling on March 30 upholding President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election victory on March 4.
“Not only did the police open fire on protesters in Kisumu on March 30, but it seems they tried to conceal the evidence and intimidate the victims,“ said Leslie Lefkow, The Africa deputy director of Human Rights watch.
“It looks like the Kisumu police tragically haven’t learned any lessons from the last time they opened fire on protesters.”
During the violence that followed the 2007 presidential election, police used live ammunition unnecessarily against scores of protestors in Kisumu, killing 115 people. The killings were never adequately investigated or prosecuted.
Kisumu’s Kondele and the neighboring Nyawita settlement areas are usually the epicenters of unrest. Demonstrators barricade roads, burn tires, and loot shops.
Police also respond in kind by kicking, slapping, and whipping with sticks and batons anyone who crosses their path, irrespective of whether they are participating in violence.
Most recently when the nation anxiously waited for the landmark Supreme Court ruling that overturned President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election on August 1, the lakeside city was packed with security personnel ready to unleash terror in case Jubilee won and spontaneous demonstrations against the regime erupted.
The heavily armed squads were culled by celebrations that greeted the unexpected NASA court victory. With ominous insensitivity prior to the historic ruling, Nyanza Regional Coordinator Wilson Njega called a press conference to warn that police would not hesitate to use force including live bullets if residents demonstrated against Uhuru’s expected win.
Mr Njega had dodged earlier reports that body bags had been ferried to Kisumu prior to the General Election.Baby Pendo who was shot dead during violent protests has become the face of the struggle by the Lakeside City against police brutality.
Governor Nyong’o is quoted as saying “It is an attitude that has built up over the years, giving the unfortunate impression that Luo lives do not matter. It is a shame for the leadership”
The cycle of violence in Kisumu is not in doubt. What is in doubt is the governments determination to have the underlying issues resolved once and for all rather than sugarcoat and panel beat the issues.
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