Thursday evening. Everything is normal. We are just enjoying our evening in the house and then I hear party chants from the compound next to ours. Well, there was banter that was clearly from what seemed like a low-key evening party. This was normal and we didn’t think anything beyond “today we won’t sleep well”. True to those thoughts we were not to sleep well.
As we were browsing through movies to watch, the noise was getting louder and it read mischief to a point that we got curious to know what was happening outside. Phyll went outside and peeped through the gate and came back inside with some info. Apparently, there was a gathering crowd there and tensions were rising. But as time passed by this became louder. The crowd was affiliated with the ODM party. She urged me to go outside and talk to our neighbor who was outside to know what was happening. I rarely leave the house after I have showered and activated my rest. But this time, I kitted up and left the house.
After a quick inquiry, I learnt that this was one of the ODM party primaries aspirants who had hosted his supporters for a meal in readiness for the party primaries the next day – Friday. As the excitement increased their self-control decreased. Their noise got louder and louder. This aspirant intended to host all his supporters in one place and then walk to the polling station in the morning. the polling station was right across the road.
I locked my gate and crossed over to the other side of the road from a dark vantage point where I could see my gate while under the cover of the shadows. There were 7 Aspirants for the ODM MCA Seat from Lucky Summer Ward. You know things are about to get thick when you notice businesses have closed early. While having a chat with my neighbor, supporters of one of the other aspirants drove to the gate of this other compound. At this particular point, we had supporters of 2 aspirants on the scene. One was Abdulahi and the other one was Ringo. Ringo is the nickname. It is a name I had heard several times since I moved into this neighborhood. It wasn’t a name that came with good vibes. Not to me. In fact, a great percentage of the residents hate this man with a passion. Whenever he comes around, and there are other aspirants in the area, blood is always shed.
Around October last year, we got our first initiation into political violence from an urban perspective when two politicians clashed within the shopping centers of Lucky Summer Ward. This was just 2 weeks after we moved into Lucky Summer. I wasn’t so interested in the politics and the happenings of this estate that much. But allegedly, one thing led to the other and someone died and several injuries were reported. The name that was featured on this was Ringo. This was 2021. With this came looting, malicious damage to property, and vandalism among other atrocities. The question that was constantly ringing in my mind was how inconsiderate someone has to be to wreak havoc in their own community. In their own neighborhood. I would later come to learn that this particular guy hired goons from the neighboring slums (Dandora & Mathare) who would ride in motorcycle convoys and leave havoc in their wake. I have accepted the violent nature of these people after staying with them for a while but to some extent, the ones occurring on the night of Thursday were not within my expectations. Those were things we saw on the news.
Fast forward to Thursday the 21st of April 2022. We’re just chatting and planning how we would be closing the court’s gates because there had been issues with insecurity and the chaos from the political issues. No sooner had we even figured a way out than Ringo’s campaign van came to the scene. There was a throw of words here and there. Pushing and shoving lasted about 5 minutes. Heavily built men threw words to each other in a mixture of sheng and Dholuo. I did not get their language but the language of violence is universal. This was not going to end well. Apparently, supporters of Ringo had jumped ship to Abdulahi’s & other aspirants’ sides citing violent tendencies. In the words of one noticeably tipsy lady who was in the group “Mimi pia nilikuwa kwa hii squad, lakini, Hii vita na vurugu ndio ilifanya niwachane na hii squad,” The violent tendencies were obvious to all. After several threatening words and “ngonjeni mtaona“, the van left off in a hurry and there was silence for a while.
Around ten minutes later, a crowd pulls up on the road. The road is just about 70 meters from where we were standing. Threats were being thrown around here and there. While the verbal chaos was erupting, a few men started gathering around my neighbor and I. There is a pub a few meters away and they were streaming outside the club. Some came with their bottles of beer and a few others with their mugs of Keg. From how calm and collected they were, I knew these were no ordinary men. At this point, I did a quick scan and figured that these guys had chosen the wrong court. These guys, we’re a mix of off-duty cops, plain cloth police officers, and security operators active and inactive like yours truly. A woman carrying a shopping bag was walking with his son about 4 years. The first stone landed slightly to her left. Like clockwork in a synchronized motion that even amazed me, several pistols were cocked and pointed in the air. A few seconds later the first gunshot was fired in the air. The woman tried to run but she tripped and fell because obviously, her mind reacted faster than her legs. The son left her. I remember shouting to her to wake up and run. Ringo’s people who were on the road were throwing stones toward our homes. Shattering glass, falling timber, stones hitting roofs and vehicles, and a storm of radio chatter and phone calls calling for backup from different agencies. Everything was moving so fast! It was a fight of stones versus bullets for the next half hour or so.
All this time my compound was a mess. The party next door was interrupted by the gunshots. These humans were just campus students who apparently had been ferried here to vote. This I came to learn about later. These guys jumped over the fence, onto our car, and onto the roof of our house. Over 50 people ran over the roof and the car and I can assure you nothing was the same. Some even let themselves into the SQ. They claimed to be hiding from whoever it was they were afraid of. At this point, I didn’t even know whether to be pissed off or to protect them. I just told them to stay inside there, in the dark, and shut up. There were tens of others on the roof of the house. These kids chose to hide on the roof against stones and bullets being fired.
After the calm, I pulled aside one of the students’ leaders and asked him how in the skies did campus students end up in this mess. All this time they’re saying “we’re comrades!” In my mind, up to this point, I’m asking myself how powerful that term “comrades” is out here honestly. So I rephrase myself and asked him if this was all worth it… The lad was so scared all he kept saying was these were students and that he was the one who was responsible for them. He brought a whole lot of students to Lucky Summer to nominate an MCA… Some of these kids did not even know where lucky summer was located on the map of Nairobi. It was almost midnight and there was no way these kids would return to campus at that time of the night. Meanwhile, I was counting our losses because here was our damaged car and who knows what else. After the calm, these students descended from the roof and some came to request we help them find their lost items, Identity cards, and phones they had apparently dropped while in the process of running for their lives. Another lady who was looking for her ID, told me that they had come here as advocates of peace. I found that laughable. She even admitted that there was no way this was a peace campaign! Well, they probably tried.
After throwing stones, Ringo’s team got tired or something, probably they feared for their lives against bullets. But they retreated. Several contingents of security agents came to the rescue. The flying squad came, patrol cars from Pangani, Kasarani, and Ruaraka were on the scene and the anti-riot police were ready in their full gear- teargas canisters included. Unfortunately, they came to where the party was and as miscommunication would have it, they thought that this was where the chaos was at. But even from the stones on the road, this was the team that was under attack. Everyone retreated to their houses, even those who were observing from the balconies of their houses. After a small meeting with the OCS and the agencies that had responded, we too went back to our positions. Word at the time had it that there was a gang on motorbikes from Langata headed towards an unknown location and the agencies were afraid that if they found their way here, the situation would be worse. As usual with every violence of this nature, blood was shed. Yet again. No one died.
Friday. Remember the roof ninjas? They broke several tiles and it rained heavily. So we woke up in some flooded rooms. The SQ for instance and one of the bedrooms. Costs of violence. The nominations got underway. But it wasn’t as peaceful either. We had to walk first in the morning and do a recce around the neighborhood lest we drive out and get our cars burnt in the chaos. It turned out that the polling would not be free and fair. The same chaos erupted from the same source as last night. It is alleged the aspirant ended up grabbing the polling equipment and ran with them. He would later be arrested and kept in police custody together with the equipment he had taken. This time around, tear gas was in plenty, running battles and the whole shebang. Someone got shot… on the leg… he survived. Later in the evening, we heard that the very same guy who caused chaos, threatened voters and returning officers, was announced the winner of the party primaries. We remained to repair our damaged roof, the hospital next door had damages of their own to repair. As for the car, as long as the campaign season is at hand, the bodywork will have to be pushed to September.