Kenyans take shelter from London riots

Riot police tackle a mob after cars are set alight in Hackney/ AFP

LONDON, Aug 8 – Hundreds of Kenyans living in London have been caught up in the city’s riots – sheltering with friends and staying inside to avoid violence.

 

As night fell in London on Monday, the looting and burning got worse, a pattern seen in the three days of violence in other parts of the city.

The riots have spread to Hackney, Clapham and Peckham , Croydon, camden town , enfield and some parts of Birmingaham. These have been triggered after the first protests in the Tottenham on Saturday following the death of a man shot by police.

A Kenyan living in Croydon where a landmark furniture building and cars were set on fire spoke of her concerns; “Croydon is miles from Tottenham and i really didn’t expect this to flare up here.

We’ve watched as it progresses after the last few days and as it gets dark it tends to get worse,” she said.

“For most of the day it’s been a standoff – like a faceoff to see who will blink first.”

Ngethe WA Ngethe the chairman of the UK lobby – Kenya Movement for Democracy and Justice – who lives in white city called on Kenyans to keep safe, echoing the acting Police Commissioner’s call for parents to ensure their children were off the streets.

He also called for police not to surrender the streets to criminals who are causing distress to peace loving citizens.

“These are criminals and there is no excuse for property damage, public disoder whatsover. Communities need to hold up and take control of the young people! This is impunity and must be dealt with before it escalates to the state we have across some Africans countries,” he said.

Other Kenyans expressed their views via social networks: A kenyan who lives in Lewisham area had this on her status “Army, Police, Fire Brigage’ Where are you?”

Another Kenyan living in East London posted on Facebook “Bring the Army back from Afgnistan” We are under siege.

The Police have been heavily criticised for the way they have responded to the situation.

Unlike Kenya where police use Water canons or rubber bullets to scatter riots, the Metropolitan Police have rulled any use of such tactics.

Across the Kenyan Community, people sort of understood why the initial riots started in Tottenham after a young man Mark Duggan was shot by the Police, – there was a deep and, in some cases, valid resentment for police in Tottenham area.

“But the attitude of most people in London and within the community on the third evening is that at first it may have a political point but by now, people are saying it’s not political, that people are getting involved in this behaviour just because they can.And its criminal!”

“Kenya London news was swoped by Kenyans calling to get information as were other media houses. What was clear was incredible fear as gangs go on rampage looting and burning properties.

Its heartbreaking for Kenyans in London to see their neighbourhoods destroyed, to some they spoke of memories of their motherland during the 2007 political violence that saw 1,500 murdered and thousands displaced.

“I got a call from my friend warning me to try and get home quickly,” Rebeca who left Kenya for London five years ago told us. “Transportation was chaotic and the chaos escalating.”

The political Leaders in the UK led by the Prime Minister David Cameron and Ed Miliband have cut short their annual summer holiday to come back and address the situation.

London will host the 2012 Olympics and the pictures of a city on fire are not particularly a good message to visitors to London.

Community Leaders across London are urged to keep an eye on their community members and call for help if required.

(This article was contributed by Agnes Gitau is the CEO for the London Africa Media Network contact agnes@lamn.co.uk)