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Kawangware ‘Ongwaro’ residents pick up pieces after chaos

Traders whose businesses were destroyed during the violence that hit Nairobi’s Kawangware in the wake of the repeat presidential election started rebuilding their structures Wednesday.

An uneasy calm returned to the area even as tension remained palpable.

Smoke was still smouldering from the shops that were set ablaze by gangs on Sunday night at Congo and the road was littered with stones. Most businesses lining the main street remained closed while a charred bar stood as a reminder of the cruelty of the attacks.

DECEPTIVE CALM

The many matatus on the roads and the crowded streets gave the illusion that all was well and business was back to normal. An air of almost tangible deceptive calm enveloped the area.

In Congo, for instance, groups of youth lined the road. People looked scared while others refused to grant interviews for fear of victimisation.

At least three police trucks were stationed in various parts of the area. At the Msalaba stage, those whose stalls were destroyed and property looted had rebuilt and were back to work, although hesitantly.

Mr Danston Karanja, a cobbler, has lived in Kawangware for more than 10 years. He got married in Kawangware and now has a family. He is no stranger to political violence.

His stall was burnt in the 2007-2008 post-election violence and last Monday, his stall was torn down and goods stolen.

“I’ve rebuilt and opened business, but, I’ve only brought out half the stock because I’m afraid they may attack us again. I have a customer base here, so, if I close, I lose my customers,” he said.

BUSINESS WAS HARD

On a good day, he said, he takes home about Sh1,500 from his business but following the repeat election, business was hard and he was struggling to raise even Sh500 a day.

Mr Francis Kanjiachi, who has lived in the area for 20 years, was also affected by the clashes. He said he hoped to rebuild his stall in the next one week.

“This is my only source of income, but I don’t have the money to rebuild immediately. I think I’ll be able to rebuild within a week if I get money and if no more violence occurs,” he said.

Kawangware has been a violence hotspot during the election cycles in the country. Yet the residents have lived together for more than decades. Luhya, Kisii, Kikuyu and Luo communities are the dominant residents of Kawangware.

“It is very sad because the people we have lived with for such a long time turn ugly. It would be understandable if it were people coming from outside to attack us. But, why our own people?” said a resident who sought anonymity.

In a separate interview, some residents admitted knowing the people who are perpetrating the violence.

POLITICIANS ARMING YOUTH

Fingers have been pointed at political leaders who are accused of arming the youths who commit these acts.

But Kawangware is not the only area that suffers such acts of violence. Other hotspots in the city include Mathare and Kibera.

While the violence not only leads to loss of lives, livelihoods are disrupted and the economy takes a beating.

After the August 8 General Election, some 55 people have lost their lives with many more injured in election violence-related cases, according to AFP.