27 February 2013

Kenya: Kibera Residents Fear Repetition of Election Violence

Photo: The Star
Burundi government through ambassador Ezechiel Nibigira, has urged the Kenyan government and the electoral body to ensure March 4 general election is peaceful (file photo).

Many residents of Kibera, Nairobi's biggest slum, may not be participating in Kenya's presidential and parliamentary election next week. They're leaving town for fear of a repetition of the violence that hit the country in 2007.

Kibera, one of Nairobi's largest slums, experienced some of the worst violence during Kenya's post-election crisis in 2007.

Morocco, a musician living in Kibera, describes what he saw.

"They were throwing stones at the riot police...and so stones would hit our windows," he says. "Nobody got hurt. They didn't jump inside but it was scary, you know, at night. If they are crazy during the day, you can imagine at night. Everybody had insomnia."

For the 2013 elections, Morocco will stay in Nairobi to protect his property.

"Houses that were left unguarded were looted and were burnt," he recalls. "So we've taken all of the equipment away from the studio for a while."

Morocco is sending his 13-year-old sister, Elizabeth, to stay with family in western Kenya, where most of Kibera's residents hail from.

It is a pre-election migration many from Kibera will make, including Morocco's watchman, Hezbron.

"He's trying to save up some money so he can take his wife and kids to the countryside and when he saves up enough money he'll go himself too," Morocco says.

The average resident of Kibera makes around two or three euros a day while bus fares to western Kenya cost about 10 euros. Morocco suspects prices could get even higher before the vote.

Still, Hezbron is determined to get his family out.

His neighbourhood in Kibera, Gutwakera, was hard hit in 2008.

"It was really sad, a lot of people died, there was no food," Morocco says. "He doesn't want that to happen again. In his neighbourhood they already have guns and stuff."

Hezbron, if he can afford to join his wife and children, will forego the opportunity to cast his vote. Like many who are leaving Kibera for the election period, Hezbron did not register to vote upcountry.

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