Saturday, January 9, 1999
The Co-ordinator of the Green Belt Movement,
Prof Wangari Mathaai, argues with the guards outside Karura Forest before violence erupted yesterday. Several people were injured during the fracas. (Pic: Joseph Mathenge)
MPs, Maathai beaten at forest
By STEPHEN MUIRURI
Protesters were whipped and beaten
when they tried to plant seedlings at the gates to Karura forest
Violence flared after a three-hour
confrontation during which security men refused to allow the
demonstrators into the forest, parts of which have been allocated
to private developers.
The attack came after Professor
Wangari Maathai, coordinator of the Green Belt Movement, who had
arranged the demonstration, tried to plant a seedling at the gate.
The protesters, who included Mr
Joseph Muchara and Mr James Kamau Mwirigi were beaten with rubber
whips, clubs and stones.
Prof Maathai was later taken to
Nairobi Hospital and treated for a deep cut to the head, which
needed four stitches. It was caused by a blunt object, like a club,
said Dr Daniel Gikonyo.
Other demonstrators, who included
MP Mr James Orengo, took to their heels when the violence began
and were chased 200 metres from the gates.
Some journalists, who had their
equipment damaged, were also whipped and sustained bruises.
The windscreens of three vehicles
were smashed: a BBC Isuzu Trooper, a Green Belt Movement Land
Rover and a Pajero.
About 20 protesters led by Prof
Maathai, Mr Orengo, and MPs Peter Kamande, Moses Mwihia, Njehu
Gatabaki and former Kiambaa MP Kamau Icharia, had gone to the
forest to try to plant seedlings on the land that has been
allocated for development.
They were faced by about 200
security men who were armed with bows and arrows, swords, pangas,
clubs and metal bars.
Police later said they were not to
blame for the attack, adding that Prof Maathai's group had wanted
to invade private land.
Before the protesters had arrived,
five policemen drove in and briefly conversed with the security
Apart from the policemen, no body
else was allowed near the steel gates.
The MPs left as Prof Maathai,
journalists and other casualties drove to Gigiri police station to
lodge a formal complaint.
The injured were then driven to
hospital, where they announced they would return to the forest to
plant the seedlings on another day.
Prof Maathai will need to be kept
in hospital for observation for two or three days because she had
lost a lot of blood, said her doctor, Daniel Gikonyo.
Divisional police boss Mr Francis
Munyambu and other officers later visited the scene of the attack
and left without talking to anyone.
The security men said they had been
given clear instructions not to allow anyone onto the land.
Their leader shouted to the
protesters, "We have a court order barring strangers from
coming here. We are ready for a bloody fight if you want to force
your way in. We will crush you like rats!"
Referring to the court order issued
by a High Court judge against interfering with the allocated land,
Prof Maathai said:
"It is unfortunate that courts
are being used to legitimise grabbing of public land. Grabbers are
now hiding be hind court orders which we will never recognise."
MP Mr Orengo asked why the police
refused to arrest the attackers for being in possession of
offensive weapons, contrary to the law.
He blamed Police Commissioner
Duncan Wachira for the incident, saying his officers were aware of
the impending attack and "that is why they refused to arrest
Mr Mwihia challenged President Moi
to issue a public statement on the Karura saga.
Mr Gatabaki said the forest
belonged to Kenyans and they would not allow it to be grabbed.
Link : http://www.nationaudio.com/News/DailyNation/090199/News/News7.html