Update | 5.27.16
As the only journalist who witnessed the teargassing of 200 students in Kibera, I felt a profound sense of responsibility to share their story while bringing breath and depth to the larger issue of free speech, marginalized communities and the abuse of power in Kenya.
Special thanks to Public Radio International and Global Post for publishing my work today, Boniface Mwangi for sharing my initial coverage of Monday’s protest (500+ retweets), all the journalists who pushed their editors to run my piece and finally, the students at staff at Silver Spring Secondary School for speaking openly and honestly with me earlier this week.
- Katie G. Nelson
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Author's Note | 5.25.16
As a full-time freelance journalist, I find it very difficult when my stories -- which are often self-funded - fail to make it to publication.
In the past two days, I’ve contacted more than a dozen news outlets with the following story and photographs. None of those outlets chose to publish my content and many never replied to my pitch.
If you’re a media outlet that is interested in purchasing content or images from Monday’s protest in Nairobi, please contact me at email@example.com
- Katie G. Nelson
200 students teargassed in Nairobi protest
Katie G. Nelson
Kenyan police fired teargas into a secondary school Monday afternoon amid growing demonstrations demanding reform to the country’s electoral body before the 2017 general elections.
Around 200 students were in their classrooms when anti-riot police fired a teargas canister over a cluster of tin-roofed houses and directly into the Silver Spring Secondary School compound.
Police were attempting to control group of protesters who placed burning tires on a road in Kibera, a sprawling informal settlement – or slum – in Nairobi. It is unclear why the officer fired the canister into the school’s vicinity, which was in a mostly residential area more than 1,000 feet away from the blocked thoroughfare.
Screaming students poured out of the single-story secondary school overwhelmed by the pungent smell of teargas. One student carried a female classmate who had fainted while others attempted to find water to wash the toxins from their face and eyes.
“They are throwing the tear gas everywhere,” said Isaiah Nyongesa Director of Silver Spring Secondary School. “Our teachers were just inside the classrooms teaching. I don’t understand why they are targeting the school.”
“You can’t interfere with the learning process. They are innocent they are students after their education,” he added.
Monday’s protest was part of a growing movement calling for the reform Kenya’s electoral commission before the country’s 2017 general elections.
Leaders from Kenya’s opposition party, the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), claim the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is rife with corruption and party bias, making it unfit to preside over the upcoming presidential vote.
Raila Odinga, CORD opposition leader and unsuccessful 2007 and 2013 presidential candidate called for the removal of key members of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, adding that protests wouldn’t stop until the entity was disbanded.
Protests were also staged across Kenya on Monday including demonstrations in Mombasa and Kisumu, a rural town near the border of Uganda. Several people died during Monday’s protests according to local media outlets.
The Kenyan government is closely monitoring political movements amidst fears that both parties could instigate ethnically or politically motivated violence ahead of the 2017 general elections.
Kenya’s 2007 elections were marred by such violence after incumbent President Mwai Kibaki – a member of the ethnic majority – claimed victory over opposition leader Odinga. Kibaki’s contested victory set off a wave of ethnically-based violence that left hundreds of Kenyans dead and as many as 600,000 displaced.