My Child, We Thought You Were Home
10 months ago, 29 Nov 02:22
Monday, October 16 ended as all days do in Nyanza: with a Lake Sunset. Where everything catches a golden warmness. The sky became, as it does each evening, a high continent unto itself, a complex of detail and liquid with its own valleys and rivers — sour pink, punchy details, milky swaths. It became pure and furious. That particular sunset marked the end of that day’s heavy demonstrations throughout Nyanza. And cruelly ironic in its magnificence, it marked the end of another life taken by police brutality. This time, his name was Michael Okoth. At approximately 2pm, the eighteen-year-old died near Kondele in Kisumu City with a gunshot to his neck. At the mortuary, his grandmother wept and wailed, speaking to him over his body. “We thought you were home. My child, we thought you were home. We didn’t know you had gone out to see the protests.” * Momentum was strong but unclear. Green leaves, fastened to the front of almost every bicycle, motorcycle, and bus, were a good omen: change and activity, or perhaps protection like hyssop. Limber boughs of siala, oboke, even fluttering puffs of papyrus speeding through roundabouts. But there were also bad omens: men banging on an empty billboard holder, which sounds like gunshots without the warmth. Men slapping large black PVC pipes on the ground, which sounds like gunshots without the chill. “Ua! Ua! Ua!” they said. The politicians must have known what was coming. Kisumu County Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o tried to allay fears: he’d spoken earlier to the “Kisumu Business Community,” assuring storeowners that the demonstrations would be done comfortably by noon. When he and his convoy arrived at the big roundabout at Kakamega Road bus stop at 11am to find the crowd waiting, his face was flat and closed. Silent, with an occasional wave; thinking on top of his black Land Cruiser. He, his Deputy Governor, and the Speaker of the County Assembly roused the crowd. They sang. They said the right things. But then they told protestors that the demonstration was to remain here. That it was not to crawl into the town center and to the regional office of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the organization they were protesting. They should have known it would not be easy to inject peacefulness into this crowd. They should have known this before the sun even rose, when there were already tyres set up to burn, with long sugarcane stalks bending into them like a dynamite wick. By 7am, already a black pillar of smoke rose from the bus stop. The crowd soured. Protestors waved fingers at their politicians and tapped their watches. They turned and started towards the IEBC office anyways. Reluctantly, the Land Cruisers followed. * Hakuna maandamano bila tear gas. * The convoy of Kisumu politicians led two rallies: one in front of the IEBC offices, and another here, right under the highway overpass. Demonstrators circled the roundabout at Kondele, calling “No reforms!” and responding “No elections!” After the results ...
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