Kenyan Protesters Stand Up to Their Government's Inept Violence Control

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Months of unrest came to a head Tuesday as hundreds of Kenyans stormed the streets of Nairobi with coffins and red crosses to protest the government's failure to stop violence perpetrated by the militant Somali group al-Shabab.

Though past violence has been a problem, protesters took to the streets two days after al-Shabab gunmen hijacked a bus in the northern Kenyan town of Mandera and killed 28 non-Muslim passengers.

The protests, rallying support on social media with the hashtags #Tumechoka, meaning "We are tired" in Swahili, and #OccupyHarambeeAve are taking place on Nairobi's Harambee Avenue, a major artery on which the president's office is located. Protesters placed coffins at the gate of the office while police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, Reuters reported.

"One thing we want to do is put it clear to our leaders that the state of security is worrying for all Kenyans," Achieng Otieno, an information technology consultant who attended Tuesday's demonstration, told the Associated Press. "How do you explain someone coming from nowhere and shooting 28 people?"

Demonstrators set ablaze a cross made from smaller crosses in Nairobi Tuesday.
Source: 
AP
Demonstrators burn a cross made from smaller crosses in downtown Nairobi Tuesday.
Source: 
AP
Protesters carry red-painted crosses outside government offices in downtown Nairobi Tuesday.
Source: 
AP
Protesters carry mock coffins in Nairobi Tuesday.
Source: 
AP

Protesters are demanding Kenya's military deploy security forces in hot spots known for violence, the local newspaper Star reported. They're also circulating a petition demanding President Uhuru Kenyatta fulfill his promises to provide better security after last year's attack on Westgate mall by al-Shabab, which killed 67 shoppers including Kenyans and foreigners.

The militant group, linked to Islamic extremism, has carried out more than 100 bombing and shooting attacks inside Kenya since the country's military sent troops into Somalia in 2011. Kenyan authorities have also shut down mosques across Kenya, carried out mass arrests of Muslims and killed Muslim leaders in its effort to weaken al-Shabab.

The attacks are rising and sowing fear. But as the recent protests show, they're also catalyzing demands for action, putting pressure on Kenya's government to provide security for its citizens.

"We want to see top security officials dismissed because they have clearly failed to perform their duties," Hussein Khalid, a human rights lawyer, told Reuters.

"If the government fails to respond to our call, we will continue with this demonstration because enough is enough."

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Coleen Jose

Coleen Jose is a multimedia journalist and documentary photographer based in New York City writing on international news and U.S. foreign policy for Mic. Previously, she reported across the Philippines for GlobalPost and Scientific American. She has also reported on environmental exploitation as a grantee of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and examines the role of climate change in global security.

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