Fear in slums as youth prepare for poll violence

Tension is building up in Kenya’s largest slum as the youth openly organise themselves for chaos or to defend their communities ahead of  the August 8 General Election.

In Kibera, the youth are positioning themselves in different zones and have selected their leaders.

In an unsettling confession, some of the youth on Tuesday told the Nation they would fight members of some communities should their candidates lose, to “send a message to the government and the world”.

That came a day after the European Union (EU) election observer mission warned of possible violence during and after the elections.

LEAFLETS SURFACED

Two weeks ago, leaflets surfaced in sections of the slum warning some communities not to wait for eviction but move out immediately if the preferred candidate is rigged out.

“This is the last time we are being rigged out,” said Mr Joash Okello. “We will not accept the outcome, come what may.

“We are just giving an early warning. It is no longer a joke.”

Distancing himself and his group from the outlawed Siafu gang, the outspoken youth leader said several community-based youth-empowerment organisations had turned their focus to the elections.

CRIMINAL GANG

“Siafu is a criminal gang and it has been terrorising us here in Kibera,” said Mr Okello. “They are anticipating violence … so that they have the opportunity to raid homesteads.”

In areas including Gatwikera and Kisumu Ndogo, strangers are stopped on the road and interrogated.

Roadside traders fear talking to strangers as they will be asked about it.

Some shopkeepers are opting not to re-stock.

To clear stocks, they demand that anyone buying maize flour must also buy another item — such as soap, sugar, cooking oil, et cetera.

MATHARE SLUMS

Mathare slums, the scene of chaos in the past week, was also tense with communities moving to clusters based on their community.

“Even within the same tribes, the people group themselves based on which aspirants they support,” said Mr Matayo Mulagasia, a youth leader. “It’s getting really uncomfortable.”

He said there were groups of youth in the six wards of Mathare Constituency who had armed themselves.

“They do so because there are rumours that the other communities have been armed and now everyone is suspicious of the other,” said Mr Matayo Mulagasia.

VERY DELICATE

“It is very delicate because chaos can erupt any time.”

In Mathare, just like Kibera, every village is dominated by a specific community. Over the years, fights have erupted at the Bonde “border” that separates Muradi and Area 4 from Mabatini, Kosovo, Kiamaiko, Area 3C and Mlango Kubwa.

Local youth on Tuesday expressed their fear that pent-up grudges could result in violence, saying it is easy to get away with crime during elections.

Police officers from the General Service Unit (GSU) have been patrolling the area.

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