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February 16, 2019

Four years on: The day Kenya's brave school children were teargassed but prevailed against land grabbers

Pupils of Lang’ata Road Primary School react when teargas canisters were hurled at them as they protested on January 19, 2015. / PATRICK VIDIJA
Pupils of Lang’ata Road Primary School react when teargas canisters were hurled at them as they protested on January 19, 2015. / PATRICK VIDIJA

It is exactly four years today since the anti-riot police lobbed tear gas canisters at Lang'ata primary school pupils and activists protesting against the grabbing of their playground by a faceless private developer.

The said developer had hived off part of the primary school playground and erected a wall fence.

But the pupils together with activists organised a demonstration on January 19, 2015, attempting to bring down the wall.

Read: Police use teargas to disperse Langata pupils fighting for grabbed playground

They managed to pull down a section of the wall but stayed at the site awaiting the outcome.

Part of the wall separating the school from Weston hotel was demolished.

The anti-riot officers were deployed against the demonstrators and lobbed canisters of the irritating and chocking gas at them. 

The protest resulted in a huge traffic snarl up on Lang'ata road which was sealed off.

The school's headteacher Peter Mugo said that the wall was constructed in four days starting December 9, 2014.

The construction was approved by City Hall.

The then Lands CS and now Kitui County governor Charity Ngilu said that she believed the land belonged to the school and that they would find out who took over the land.

The action attracted robust outrage from leaders, terming it as brutal, inhuman and repugnant.

It also received wide media attention with local and international press giving it a lengthened coverage.

The United Nations Children's Education Fund (Unicef) also condemned the act saying the right to play is every child's right.

It said the right is articulated in Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Also read: Firing tear gas at children was a show of 'brutality beyond words' - Raila

The National Land Commission's preliminary investigations finally revealed that the land belongs to the school and was protected from grabbing.

Lang’ata OCPD Mwangi Kuria was later suspended.

In the end, the pupils' and teachers' bravery prevailed, setting a precedent which proved sheer determination can keep land grabbers at bay.

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