, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 19 – Destruction, looting, gunfire, teargas and running battles were the order of the day on Tuesday, when mechanics and traders on Nairobi’s Kirinyaga road turned a disputed plot into a battleground with the police.
Even after covering trenches dug by a developer trying to evict them on Monday, the artisans woke up to find deeper ones dug on Tuesday, a sign that the private entrepreneur was determined to get rid of them.
The mechanics then vented their anger on motorists at the Globe Roundabout and even looted pedestrians in broad daylight, prompting a confrontation with the police.
For the better part of Tuesday, the mechanics and the traders were engaged in running battles with anti-riot police who detained dozens and injured many more.
“We are no longer dealing with mechanics and traders. These are criminals and we are dealing with them as such,” Nairobi Central divisional police Chief Tito Kilonzi, who led the operation, said.
Police lobbed tear gas canisters and used water canons to flush out the protesters who engaged them in a cat-and-mouse chase, even hiding in business premises and abandoned old cars at the garages.
Dozens of the protesters were wounded, many of them seriously during the day-long chaos while others were arrested and detained at the Central police station and Kamukunji.
Three of them were hit by teargas canisters while others said they were hit by the police who used batons to evict them.
“The police officers are being unfair, even when I tried to hide in an abandoned vehicle, one of them came and hit me several times, yet I had surrendered. He has even broken my arm,” a protester said from a police van.
Pedestrians crossing Nairobi River through to Ngara were the most affected as they were caught unawares and robbed.
Two elderly men, who tried to cross the river, were injured with one of them sustaining stab wounds on his head. He was later rushed to hospital in a critical condition.
It was evident; the mechanics were headed for a defeat in their quest to continue operating from the disputed ground because none of them was allowed to conduct business.
The deep trenches dug on Monday night and the destruction of their businesses complicated matters even more, because the place was in a total mess.
“The government is to blame for all this, whenever these trenches are dug at night, the people digging them are usually guarded by the police,” one of the mechanics said as he pondered his next move.
Those interviewed urged the government to provide them with an alternative site to do their business.
“We have been operating from here for more than 20 years now; how do they expect us to live?” Wilfred Malonza, 48, who had a garage at the site said.