alexa Police disperse protesters, turn on journalists - Daily Nation

Police disperse protesters, turn on journalists

Sunday December 14 2008

Members of the civil society in when they went

Members of the civil society in when they went to demand the release of Mars group civil society chairman Mwalimu Mati and his wife. Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE 

By ALPHONCE SHIUNDU

Police have turned their heat on journalists after they dispersed protesters at Ufungamano House in Nairobi.

On Sunday, they unleashed police dogs and lobbed teargas canisters at the battery of journalists who were recording their showdown with the protesters.

Journalists had no option but to film the advancing police officers from the safety of their vehicles.

Oscar Foundation had organised the meeting to discuss the arrest of civil society activists during Friday's Jamhuri day celebrations.

Also, the protesters intended to use the meeting to decry the rising food prices, the bill aimed at gagging the media and to push for a follow-up on the extra-judicial killing.

However, workers at Ufungamano said police cordoned off the area from 6.00 am to prevent any meetings.

"No meeting is going to be held here, keep on asking why and you will know what I mean," Mr Nasio J.K. told a protester in a brief argument before they were dispersed.

Mr Kamau Kingara the executive director of Oscar Foundation who was leading the protests termed the police actions as "outdated ." "They are just out to intimidate us. It gives you a picture of what would happen if the President [Kibaki] gave the Bill a nod," Mr King'ara said.

Police had also cordoned off Uhuru Park leaving many families that visit the park with no option other than to sit on the benches and grass outside the Park.

The huge green police trucks and Landrovers packed at the entrances of the park, coupled with the anti-riot police in full gear evoked vivid memories of similar scenes witnessed early this year.

Other officers could be seen sleeping on the grass within the park while others patrolled the grounds to ensure no-one went in.

Uhuru Park is usually a favoured venue for family outings after attending church every Sunday.

The protesters then moved to Lang’ata police station where some of their colleagues are being held. Similarly, the news conference that they were holding was disrupted when teargas was lobbed at them.

Having been thrown out of the police station, the group moved and blocked all lanes of Lang'ata road, next to the Army barracks (Maroon Commandos).

One of them stripped momentarily on the road while she changed into a white t-shirt. She was wearing a black one with the message: Wakenya tumechoka (Kenyans are tired), enough is enough." Others wore those emblazoned : "No tax for MPs, no tax for me, Mta-do?", "Kenyans are hungry, where is the maize" and Wakenya tunataka haki yetu (Kenyans want justice).

The noon incident caught many motorists unawares. However, police came to their rescue and dispersed the protesters.

Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale (New Ford Kenya) was caught up in the huge snarl-up.

"Things will get out of hand. It is apparent that we as leaders have ignored the people for a long time," he said.

He said that the media should be left to run its affairs without interference, but he was at pains to explain why he did not support the removal of offensive clause from the Kenya Communication (Amendment) Bill 2008.

Some of the motorists interviewed feared that the protests would all generate to the violence that was witnessed early this year.

"Do we have to end and start years with teargas and riots. Something is definitely wrong and our leaders have no clue about the magnitude," said a motorist who declined to be named.

Public pressure has of late been piling on the Government, to come up with policies which urgently address the problems in the country.

The apparent disrespect shown to the President, Prime Minister and the Vice President during the Jamhuri Day celebrations, when crowds booed the leaders when they gave their speeches, has been cited as evidence of simmering grievances in the society.