After media images of protesters being forced back with tear gas and water cannons, today’s planned mass demonstration at Uhuru Park has finally been called off. The sad irony of this rather forceful reaction on the part of police is that many of the “protesters” were doing nothing more than holding branches of leaves and sharing their opinions peacefully.
Peace, however, is a word hard to come by in a country where words like genocide and ethnic cleansing are being tossed around to describe recent events. The ethnically driven violence can be seen everywhere from news reports to inflammatory remarks on networking sites such as Facebook. The government has even taken to sending out text messages to the populace reading, “The Government of Kenya advises that the sending of hate messages inciting violence is an offense that could result in prosecution.”
Initial reports indicated that the cancelled rally was being postponed until next Tuesday, January the 8th; however, some news outlets are now reporting that ODM has merely put off the demonstration until tomorrow. It isn’t yet clear if and when the rally will take place.
ODM supporters were initially upset that the rally had been called off without any reasons being given. It now appears that Nairobi has Desmond Tutu to thank for Odinga’s decision and subsequent agreement to sit down in talks with Kibaki and the PNU. That may be difficult, however, as the Government has said that they do not want international interference or assistance.
Current events are not only affecting the immediate lives of people in Kenya but also the economic future of the nation. In addition to burning out businesses throughout the country, the current unrest has also potentially damaged the tourism industry and has already caused the value of the Shilling to fall against the Dollar.
For now, things seem quiet with some businesses even opening earlier this afternoon for a few hours, but the pall of another potential rally is definitely in the air. The headline in each of today’s local newspapers was the same, “Save our beloved country.”
Perhaps the Daily Nation put it best, "Kenya is a burnt-out, smoldering ruin. The economy is at a virtual standstill and the armies of destruction are on the march. In the midst of this, leaders - who are the direct cause of this catastrophe - are issuing half-hearted calls for peace, from the comfort of their hotels and walled homes in Nairobi, where they are conveyed in bullet-proof limousines."