Kenyan police used tear gas on primary schoolchildren who were protesting in the nation’s capital city of Nairobi on Monday. The students were demonstrating against an alleged land grab move from a powerful politician who intends to turn a playground they used into a parking lot. Video footage showed several of the children being torn away from the battle-like scene struggling for air and crying from the pain the tear gas caused.
Kenyan Journalist Boniface Mwangi said there was nothing that government officials could do to stop the playground from being taken away from the children, claiming that even the political elites are “scared of the politician” at the center of the move, according to Global News. Meanwhile, opposition leader Raila Odinga called the act deplorable and shared words of reprimand for the police brutality against the children:
This is brutality beyond words and greed beyond description. It is difficult to believe that police can actually deploy against primary school children and lob tear gas at them to defend a land grabber. This image of a nation determined to steal forcefully from its own children cannot be what we aspire to. It cannot be the legacy we want to bequeath the children.
The officer in charge of the scene at the protest, Elijah Mwangi, has reportedly been suspended, Global News notes. Conflicting messages were provided between the acting police chief Samuel Arachi and officer Mwangi. Arachi conveyed that the police would never allow the use of force “on any citizen” let alone on children. However, Mwangi said he was merely following orders.
“The guys who are stealing this land have guts. How do you justify stealing this land?” Mwangi asked. The playground is reportedly being sought for use in conjunction with the politician’s hotel, which is adjacent to the school that the tear-gassed children attend.
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter: @AdelleNaz.