Tuesday, January 23, 2007

nairobi after dark

the forum has been both amazing and disappointing.

after i last wrote, the 20+ of us activists who witnessed the madness just over the fence we all call our temporary home, headed to the forum with naive hopes about gaining massive publicity for the destruction of the neighborhood next door. surely, as the world fricking social forum is being held in nairobi, the attendees would be interested in hearing of this horrible situation and would be motivated to do something to help, right? over and over again we were told that "this happens all of the time here." well, isn't this issue painfully similar to nearly everything else we 100,000 people are discussing here? isn't the purpose of this venue to work together to change these issues? some folks from independent media outlets were interested, and footage from someone stying here (the daughter of the woman from mill valley) was handed over to a media source who is supposed to air it sometime today (wednesday).

last night, after another full day of being reminded over and over again that the usa is involved with every single horrible thing going on in the world (either directly, or by modeling for others or supporting others who are oppressing people), and also being inspired by 3 women nobel peace laureates, we all congregate like we always do and share tea, chocolates or beer after the kids go to bed. a couple of american girls who had been filming and interviewing come back and explain that another slum is going through the eviction process and the people who are now homeless because of the destruction across our fence, have somehow aquired an attorney to help stop the bulldozing from demolishing the few homes left and to seek damages from the property owner for losing everything they owned. apparently, the property was sold to some asshole who wants to build a big hotel... surely to house western tourists behind a big fence.

at some point, the usual laughter and joking between the french canadians, us and our new spanish friends switched and we were informed that the bulldozers were returning again... and that this time, the people were being supported by their lawyer in blockading the street. about 10+ of us head outside our massive gate into nairobi after dark- something westerners are instructed NEVER to do. we had all been staying so long here, that the locals new a lot of us by name- especially ava's- and we had all grown to feel safe around here inlight of the police presence.

so folks head down the street about a block, to where the entrance to the 'informal settlement' is and the street was full of people discussing whether to help one another move their belongings out, or to stand together and block the entrance. within moments, the crowd began cheering and word spread that they had decided to block the streets. the lawyer informed us that he had instructed people to start big bonfires at the entrances, to keep the police out and people started getting really excited, regardless of the truckloads of police just across the street from where people were all gathered. they just wanted to buy time while their papers went through and it was great to see them working together.

i was back down the street talking the rest of our friends in front of the hostel. surely, the more white, western tourists i could send down to them, the more supported they would feel and the less likely the police would be to cross the line with force because of all of the cameras flashing away (one of my favorite people here is an italian guy who is a journalist living in columbia for the last 4 years). i am standing at the entrance of the hostel talking to the fench-canadians when i hear what sound like a gunshot. naturally, i panic because liz and all of our other friends are down at the end of the street and when i look in their direction, i see a clound of teargas crawling down the street.

everyone (including liz, who is safe) starts running our direction. one girl in her late 20's approached us coughing and rubbing her eyes so we got her some water and had her sit down to talk to us. she had lived in the neighborhood for 6 years and was lucky enough to have a friend to stay with. many were not so lucky- including many of the families, who had to leave their kids to sleep between the neighborhood bar/prostitute hang-out and the rubble of ther old homes, while they looked for a new place to live.

this is the most awful thing i have ever witnessed. the police set up camp just across the fence and several people had to move their tents because of the flying debris and the lound smashing of property that carried on all night. the usually lazy and sweet hostel dog was even so wound up that it bit a newcomer last night and would not stop barking.

i don't know what else to say other than that i am disappointed by the lack of media attention and concern by the people attending the forum. i am sure maybe we just have coincidentaly talked to the handful of random people that are too preoccupied with other things than to come out here and see the devestation themselves, but it is upsetting. i will let you know if anything makes it to the news... i keep trying to post on indymedia but the system is swamped... i found out where their tent is last night and will contact them today and update you all soon.

in other news, we are heading to mombasa on friday with about 20 other people from the forum and i can't wait to just sit in the sand.

No comments: