28 June 2012

Kenya: The Love Protest Turns Activists Into Undertakers

Photo: Michael Kaloki/RNW
Protesters carrying a coffin symbolizing one of Kenya's many scandals.

Nairobi — An estimated 200 demonstrators held up traffic along the streets of Nairobi on Thursday afternoon. The Love Protest, the event may have been called, though many of its participants were bearing coffins.

A call "to Kenyans to reflect on their personal responsibility in building a better country" was the modus operandi described in a statement released by organizers, the civil society lobby group Kenya Ni Kwetu. They also indicated a need for "protesting the culture of impunity by our MPs".

Among the demonstrators was Leah Kinyanjui. "I am patriotic," said the psychology student at the University of Nairobi. "It is about time we show our ministers that we know our rights. We are tired of oppression."

The protestors held banners calling for peace in the country. They chanted and shouted, making their way towards the national parliament buildings.

Part of the action

"I took part in this protest because I own this country," said Anthony Mwangi, a local musician. "I need to stop doing things on the sideline and be part of the action, so that tomorrow all of us live in a free country."

The wooden coffins being paraded were inscribed with a series of financial and political scandals that Kenya has witnessed since gaining independence 49 years ago. They seemed to catch onlookers' eyes. Some businesses came to a short standstill as customers and proprietors took time out to watch the procession.

There were a few tense moments, too, as protestors passed President Kibaki's official office building. Presidential security personnel lined the fence around the building in an apparent move to ensure that the demonstrators not make their way into the area.

Taking it to Parliament

Upon arrival at Parliament, the protestors tried to gain entry, but were restricted by armed guards manning the entrance gates. Some threw their coffins over the perimeter's fence and onto the parking bay of the compound.

"I am here because I am a responsible and patriotic Kenyan, and I think it is about time we stood up and not allow ourselves to be oppressed by our leaders," said Sylvia Karuri, a student at The Kenya Polytechnic.

"They need to do what we took them to Parliament to do. We want to choose leaders who are going to take us somewhere. We have a vision and we want to get there."

No doubt the coffins reflected the turmoil Kenya has gone through and continues to face. Yet, the demonstrators seemed optimistic their shouts and jeers would be heard. And perhaps they would even contribute towards making a change.

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