NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 21 – Police were forced to shoot in the air and lob teargas canisters at a group of rowdy youths who were pelting them with stones when they went to quell riots at Woodley Estate.
A truck carrying building materials was burnt and scores of the youths wounded during Monday morning’s confrontation.
The youths said they were protesting the demolition of their makeshift kiosks and garages which were erected on a piece of land claimed by a private developer.
“We have been working here for the last 30 years, how can someone come up now and claim this land belongs to him? They have destroyed our livelihood and there is no way we can stand and watch,” one youth exclaimed.
Another mechanic who said he had been operating a kiosk on the grounds said; “It is totally unacceptable. It is the highest level of impunity we have ever had for the council to escort someone to come and bring down people’s businesses.”
The controversial piece of land is located on Joseph Kang’ethe Road within Woodley Estate.
Trouble started on Friday when city council askaris accompanied by armed Administration Police officers demolished the makeshift kiosks at dawn, causing a major confrontation which took police several hours to quell.
On Monday morning, a truck transporting building materials passed-by and the youths started shouting at its crew, accusing them of being used to deliver stones there to be used to construct a perimeter wall on the disputed ground.
That is when the truck was set ablaze and its crew beaten before they fled on foot.
Police from the Kilimani police station were quickly dispatched to disperse the rowdy youths who were chasing anyone trying to put out the truck fire.
“There is no way we will allow rowdy youths to destroy people’s property like this. That is why I sent my officers here and instead of obeying the police orders they started pelting them with stones,” Kilimani divisional Police chief Bernard Muli said. At least 20 people were in the confrontation.
“We suspect these are the people who set the truck on fire and they must face the law,” Muli said.
The suspects were whisked to the Kilimani police station where they were being interrogated as police prepared to press charges against them.
Muli did not reveal charges the youths could face when they appear in court later on Tuesday but a source within the Kilimani CID office told Capital News they were mulling charging them with causing malicious damage.
For the better part of Monday, there was tension on the disputed grounds where dozens of youths converged as some engaged anti-riot police officers in running battles.
“I am surprised such things still happen in this era. How can this be private property? Who allocated him or her this land because we have always known this is public property,” a Nairobi councillor Alex ole Magelo said and blamed the city council of Nairobi for allegedly colluding with a private developer to re-posses the plot.
“They have even by-passed a court order which was issued to stop any interference of these businesses yet someone still comes and destroys them,” Magelo said.
Dagoretti District Commissioner Cornelius Wamalwa however, defended the council, saying there was confusion on the day the demolition occurred “because the courts had issued two contradictory orders.”
“The police and even the city council of Nairobi askaris who took part in the demolitions are not to blame at all. We don’t dispute the fact that there was a court order issued to stop any demolitions, but people should also recognize the second court order,” he said.