Last Monday, Kibera slum was a chaotic scene of stone-wielding protesters in conflict with Kenyan police forces armed with live ammo, water cannons, and tear gas. In the fourth so far in a series of weekly protests against Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), many protesters were prevented from leaving their homes in order to demonstrate peacefully in the city center. Calls for election reform have a long history in Kenya. The nation’s 2007 presidential elections led to what was widely termed “ethnic violence,” resulting in over 1,000 deaths and 600,000 displacements. Kibera, one of the world’s largest slums located in the capital of Nairobi, is home to the opposition leader’s stronghold and saw a disproportionate number of murders and displacement. As the August 2017 presidential election draws near, tensions are rising in Kibera once again.
The Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD), the leading opposition party, has called into question the IEBC’s ability to be fair toward all political parties in their monitoring of elections next year. This electoral body oversaw its first presidential election in 2013, and the results were hotly debated as partial, the election labeled rigged. Thus, CORD has called for dialogue with the Kenyan Jubilee government to consider disbandment and reconstitution of the IEBC in order to ensure impartial election proceedings next year. The government has refused to-date to enter into any talks with the opposing party on this issue. Additionally, the government has declared the anti-IEBC protests illegal even though the passing of the 2010 constitution allowed for the holding of peaceful demonstrations.
As the opposition’s stronghold, Kibera was especially targeted by local police forces on Monday of last week. As residents left home to join ongoing protests in another part of the city, they met with strong resistance from anti-riot police. Teargas was shot into the crowd immediately to disperse them back into the slum initiating conflict that would continue through the whole day. While many Kiberans sought refuge in their homes, many more began setting tires on fire to prevent the police from entering the slum and collecting stones as weapons against the approaching forces. Businesses began closing down. Power was cut in Kibera as the national power company called the area a blackout zone during demonstrations.