Kenya police fire tear gas at children in playground protest

Kenyan police have fired tear gas at a crowd, which included a number of schoolchildren, protesting the closure of their school playground following its apparent sale to property developers.

The children, who were returning to Langata school following a two-week teacher’s strike, attempted to enter the playground area by breaking down a barrier, which appears to have prompted police to fire tear gas in an attempt to disperse them.

Reports state that at least 5 children have been hospitalised, and at least one member of the police was injured following the confrontation – and also that the police officer who led the police response to the demonstration has been suspended by the acting Inspector General of the Police.  A police spokesperson named as Masoud Mwinyi told Nairobi News that the suspension was necessitated by the use of tear gas against school children.

At least two protestors, named as education campaigners Boaz Waruku and Irungu Houghton, are also reported to have been arrested as news of the protests spread on Twitter under the hashtag #OccupyPlayGround.

This footage from Kenya CitizenTV – which has not been independently verified – shows what appears to be tear gas fired directly into the crowd:

The Nairobi News reports that the wall around the playground was built during the night on December 12, and that in a review the alleged “landgrab”, National Land Commission Chairman Muhammad Swazuri visited the playground last week and stated that he would liaise with the county government to have it open for the children when schools reopen.

News of the protest at Langata comes on the same day as another protest about an alleged school “landgrab” at the Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School, with clashes between youths alleged to be hired by property developers while children were still in their classrooms.