The artists had spent weeks on the babies. There were fifty of them, and they were finished in the early hours of this morning. Carved from blocks of polystyrene, papier mâché for skin, they were carried down towards “Freedom Corner” of Nairobi’s Uhuru Park.
Photographer-turned-activist Boniface Mwangi had declared that this would be his last protest. “I want a normal life again,” he said, two weeks before the protest. He’d spent months organising it, pulling together the different facets that would speak out against “the state of the nation.” Railing against corruption, impunity, and poor governance, amongst other things, Mwangi feels that Kenyans need to grow up; he dubbed the demonstration “Diaper Mentality.”
By early morning, social media was abuzz with reports that the protest had been banned; Mwangi hit back citing article 37 of the Kenyan constitution, the right to assembly, demonstration, picketing and petition.
Several hundred protestors marched down Kenyatta Avenue, named after Kenya’s first president, Jomo. His son, Uhuru Kenyatta, was inaugurated as president in April last year.
As the protestors approached Uhuru park, they were met with police and anti-riot units. “The government does not want this protest to go ahead” said one commanding officer.
Soon after, volleys of tear-gas launched into the air, and the protest dispersed. The babies were left scattered around, and police officers kicked them to clear the road, before loading them into the back of police wagons. Some of the protestors would soon follow them, arrested by police, disappearing amidst wailing sirens.
For more about the Kenyan authorities' clamp-down on the freedom of expression, Patrick Gathara has a good write-up on his blog.