NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Hundreds of protesters in Kenya blocked one of Nairobi’s major highways with burning tires to protest government demolitions of the homes of more than 7,000 people and the closure of a major food market.
Police used teargas and water cannons on the protesters, who then looted shops and parked cars.
“Police responded to a rowdy group that was destroying property on the road,” said Nairobi police chief Philip Ndolo. “If they have grievances they should express them through the right channels. We will not tolerate destruction of property,” Ndolo said.
The government had on Thursday closed Korogocho market which served an estimated 100,000 people who depend on it for their livelihoods and fresh vegetable produce, said Patrick Maina, the market’s chairman. He said the market serves several informal settlements.
Residents of Kariobangi, a poor informal settlement, woke up Monday to the sound of bulldozers crushing their rickety structures made of metal sheeting, said resident and human rights activist Habib Omar.
The demolitions continued through the week and displaced thousands of residents, who are sleeping out in the rain and cold because Nairobi has restrictions on movement due to the coronavirus.
The government claims that it owns the land where the demolitions took place. The Kenyan government ignored court orders that barred it from evicting the slum residents because the same government had issued allotment letters to some of the residents who have lived there since 2008, said Omar.