Riot police tear gas school kids
Kenyan police yesterday fired teargas at children as young as eight when they protested against the seizure of their school playground by a property developer.
About 100 primary school children and a small group of activists pushed over a newly built wall that separated playing fields and the school buildings, in the capital, Nairobi.
Most of the children were aged between eight and 13.
About 40 armed police accompanied by dogs dispersed the protesters by firing teargas, an AFP photographer at the scene said.
Dozens of children were caught in choking clouds of teargas before being forced to take shelter on a pedestrian bridge over the main road to escape the fumes.
Children screamed as police officers in riot gear and waving truncheons pushed them back, some children panicking as they sought water with which to rinse their burning eyes.
At least five children received medical treatment and one policeman was seen with blood pouring from beneath his riot helmet.
A senior police officer at the demonstration, Mwangi Kuria, told Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper that officers had been deployed to "safeguard the property", and that rocks had been thrown at his men.
Said Kuria: "This is disputed land but they should not use the children."
Two activists were detained by the police, Kenyan media said.
Macharia Njeru, chairman of the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, said the incident would be investigated.
"Teargassing children is inexcusable," he said.
Activist Boniface Mwangi said a "school playground is a necessity, not a privilege".
Some of the children carried placards protesting against the "land grab".
The incident sparked angry reactions on social media, including Twitter with the hashtag "#OccupyPlayGround".
"Shame on the government for assaulting children with teargas to protect the corrupt," politician and former presidential hopeful Martha Karua said on Twitter.
Yesterday was the first school day since the wall was built, during the holidays.
Nairobi, a city of more than 3million, is growing rapidly and land prices are rising at some of the fastest rates on the continent, according to real estate experts.