Kula Baridi*

The London Demo was a very civil affair which drew people from across the Kenyan spectrum. There were Muslim women from the coast, so rarely seen on demonstrations like this, Luos, Luyias, Kikuyus, Asians, Europeans.

I had woken late as I had been blogging till late last night and when I did finally sleep I had dreadful dreams. Sleep interrupted. I had images in my mind of women drowning in fire when I tried to go back to sleep.

When I arose at some minutes to ten, I was worried I would be late but my partner said matter-of-factly, “Don’t worry. You know Kenyans and Kenyan time.” At ease I set off for the demo.

Arriving at Westminster I could see a crowd of Kenyans with banners. It seemed so alien to be meeting under these circumstances. One of the organizers told us that barriers had been placed outside 10 Downing Street and due to restrictions we would not be able to protest outside No.10. Instead, we would cross the road and stand behind a barricade and wait for the petition to be handed in and then go on to the Kenyan Embassy.

PhotobucketOutside Westminster.

A minutes silence was held outside Westminster tube to remember all those that had been killed. Everybody sang the Kenyan National Anthem in Swahili which was a bit of a hit and miss affair due to a slight dissonance caused by one group starting to sing later than everyone else. But it worked! And it was representative.

Afterwards, some people started chanting vigorously, “Kibaki Must Go! Kibaki Must Go!” An individual stepped forward to say that this was not what the demonstration was really about, “We want unity.” The chanting died down but a young Asian man in the crowd shouted rebelliously, “ODM!”

In the battle for Kenyan democracy divisions have appeared. There are the young and disenfranchised who proclaim “Democracy Now or Death!” and the older, wiser heads who call for unity. It’s a generational battle as well as a political and social one. The one thing everyone could agree on was that the corrupt old guard must go.

Two American tourists wanted to know what was going on. They had heard about Kenya’s turmoil and seemed genuinely interested in finding out what the real facts were and after hearing about the constitutional crisis facing Kenya due to the the courts being stuffed with Kibaki backers one of them said, “It’s really fucked up.”
Outside the Houses of Parliament, the Mother of Parliaments

We walked to No.10 chanting demo slogans like “We want justice! Stop the killing Now!” The police stepped in to stop us from raising banners along Whitehall due to anti-terror legislation. I asked somebody which act they were using and somebody said “I don’t know. I don’t even think that the police know!”

She was a sprightly grand-mother who had wrapped a scarf around her head to keep warm, I could only see her eyes. Incredible, I thought, that a woman of her age would come out on such a cold day to show her solidarity with Kenyan brother and sisters. Her grand-daughter was with her. The younger woman has family who live in Nairobi and her brother, Adrian Blomfield, is a Daily Telegraph journalist currently in Kenya covering the troubles. (See this article in which Blomfield covers the sexual violence taking place).

It was surreal. Here we were demanding that the British government respect the democratic will of Kenyans, but here in Britain 2008 the right to peacefully assemble and demonstrate is under attack.

For a moment I felt a terrible sense of impotence which quickly dissipated when I remembered that this is a matter for Kenyans to resolve, who needs Gordon Brown and his ridiculous ideas of coalition governments?
No. 10 Downing Street Police Move Protestors Along And Remind Us Not To Raise Banners

Members of Justice 4 Kenya went to No.10 and handed in a petition.

Despite the cold weather, spirits were high and there was a buzz of voices talking and sharing news and ideas on the situation. Chants broke out. “Kibaki! Dictator! Mugabi! Dictator! Museveni! Dictator! Stalin! Dictator!” With the usual “What do want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”

Leaving No.10

I was particularly amused when we reached a pedestrian crossing and one of the organizers insisted that we all wait for the light to turn green before we crossed! I thought, “Only in Kenya!” Earlier motorists had hooted in exasperation at the protest marchers as they trailed across busy roads around Trafalgar Square.

Outside the Kenyan Embassy.

On reaching the Kenyan Embassy there was a sudden flurry of police activity. I was approached by the police and asked if I knew who the organizers were. “It’s nothing serious, we just need to talk to them.” They had stipulations which included ensuring that we keep a path open for people to pass us on the pavement and restrictions on the use of megaphones, as there was only one in our possession the police said this was not going to be a problem.

A woman PC officer enquired about how many people were expected and how long we intended to go on. I reassured her that this was going to be a very civil affair, “We’ve walked from Westminster to here and everyone has obeyed every pedestrian signal on the way!” For goodness sake! I recalled the crowds trying to reach Uhuru Park in Kenya under attack. Here the police retreated to the other side of the road, observed us for some time and then disappeared, leaving one lone police officer to guard the Kenyan Embassy.

Safely ensconsed opposite the Kenyan Embassy

Debate was vigorous. People were not shy about taking the megaphone and expressing themselves.
Elly Odhiambo explained that the deterioration in Kenya was not due to tribalism but due to the election being stolen. “It was planned,” he said and reminded everyone of how Kibaki had appointed his judges a month before the election was held because he knew he was going to lose.

Later he told me about an interview he had given to the BBC where he had spelled this out but that part of the interview had been left out of their eventual broadcast. The western media don’t want to cover the intricacies of what is happening as perhaps the story of yet another “failed African state” is easier to push.

He broke the news that Kibaki had agreed to a coalition government which he explained was a ruse. Kibaki given this opportunity could do anything, including reappointing ministers who had been routed during the election.

This young woman expressed her dismay at the killing. “We are one people!”

PhotobucketDennis Otino led people in chants and said that Kenyan people have a dream, echoing Martin Luther King. He said that there was a dream that had been eluding Kenyans for 44 years, “We have a dream that one day Kenya will be a democracy!” A dream that also included universal health care for all.

PhotobucketKTN were there and interviewed a few people.

PhotobucketThis young woman had taken time off work to be here as she was “distressed” by what she was seeing. Later she led moving prayers for Kenya in which she called for peace. As a mother she said “we women who have carried children in our bellies feel pain when we see our children being raped.”

PhotobucketSharon from Justice 4 Kenya and friend lead demonstrators in song.

*Swahili for “eat cold”

Kenyans and friends of Kenya are being called to meet on 12th January 2007 at Downing Street.


3 Responses to “Kula Baridi*”

  1. 1 kenyanobserver January 6, 2008 at 8:01 am

    Good job covering the event. Keep up the good work.

  2. 2 kanyeka January 11, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Superb work keep it up!! i will send this to my friends here in kenya this is because the freedom of media is being muzzled here thus making as to express our view through this means.

  1. 1 Westminister, London England - January 5, 2008 « Kenya Is Bigger Than Anyone of Us Trackback on January 6, 2008 at 5:18 pm

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