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Exclusive: How residents of Kibera suffer in their shacks during demos

While many Nairobians have the privilege of shielding themselves in the comfort of their homes during protests – like the ongoing anti-government demonstrations by supporters of Azimio la Umoja – residents of Kibera slums have no such luxuries.

They often confront such events head-on, relying on their shacks for protection from chaos, mayhem and violence right at their doorsteps.

Most of the time, they inhale teargas right inside their homes since their shacks provide little cover from the elements of street protests, given that their dwellers are usually nothing more than rusty ironsheets and mud.

A police officer takes aim at protesters during anti-government protests along Joseph Kang’ethe road in Kibera, Nairobi on July 19, 2023. PHOTO | BILLY OGADA

For Lucy Akongo (not her real name), a resident of the sprawling slum, life has only gotten tougher and more challenging as a result of the anti-government protests.

“I am a casual laborer who does odd jobs like washing clothes, gardening and any other available job. Currently, I’ve been compelled to stay at home because of the violence that has frequently been erupting here in Kibera,” Ms Akongo told Nairobi News.

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“The demonstrations have made our lives harder. Many of us are forced to answer the call of nature on carrier bags and containers since we don’t have readily accessible toilets” she said.

Lack of income has left her unable to provide food for her children. She is now pleading with leaders to find a peaceful resolution to the political standoff.

A protester hurls a tear gas cannister at police officers during anti-government protests in Kibera, Nairobi on July 20, 2023. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL

Living in the slums in itself presents numerous challenges, including scarcity of water, with the added burden of having to pay for it, limited resources and non-existent drainage and sewerage systems.

Peter Okoth, another resident, says that he also lives from hand to mouth, while relying on menial jobs to support his family.

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However, the ongoing demonstrations have forced him to stay at home without any means to provide for his children.

The anti-government protests have occasioned disruption and frequent closure of businesses across the country, with Nairobi being severely affected.

A protester kicks away a teargas cannister during anti-government protests in Kibera, Nairobi on July 19, 2023. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL

This past week alone, many traders and businesspeople have been left counting huge losses with cases of looting and wanton destruction of property reported in various parts of the country.

Maurice Onyancha, a shopkeeper in Kibera, suffered huge losses after his shop was looted during opposition protests back in March. On that occasion, other traders and businesspeople similarly incurred significant financial losses at the hands of unruly youths.

That event left Mr Onyancha wiser and more cautions this time round amid the ongoing protests.

“I cannot open my shop because the youth might just loot it again,” Onyancha told Nairobi News.

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