This was a big weekend for the Kibera Walls for Peace Project! It began with our huge inaugural event on Saturday afternoon and evening. We rented a big stage and tents, and the crowd enjoyed musical performances by local musical artists, dance competitions, refreshments, and speeches about the project and about peace for the election. The Kibera Hamlets youth spoke about the project and performed acrobatics, dance, theater and music for the large crowd, and each one received a certificate for their participation in Kibera Walls for Peace. Filmmaker Willie Owusu screened the trailer for the documentary he is making about the project and we showed slideshows of the murals. I publicly thanked our youth participants, the 140 individual sponsors in the US and the Open Society Initiative of Eastern Africa, our biggest sponsor. Asante sana!! (thanks so much!)
We had some tense moments early in the event when we were literally invaded by a two huge trucks full of supporters of the ODM political party who wanted to overrun us in order to hold a rally. Big men jumped out of the truck and demanded that we turn down our speakers so that they could broadcast their message. We refused, and big arguments erupted between them and us. They got on stage, grabbed the mic and preceded to make speeches. We were all very upset, as our youth peace event could not be seen as partisan; we have to be viewed as politically neutral in order to achieve our objectives of peace for the election. One politician, sensing they looked bad overrunning our event, professed support for our cause and handed over 5000 shillings (US$65) to the MC who happened to be up on stage at that moment, saying that the money was for our project. They then left the stage and we continued the event, but the drama was not over. The MC, who was not one of the presenters we had hired, wanted to keep the money and split it with several other presenters instead of handing it over to us. A huge argument erupted between him, several of our event organizers, and a mob of men from the political group that had invaded us. Men were shouting, pushing each other, and for several tense minutes it appeared that our peace event would descend into a violent riot. Meanwhile, the MC who caused the fight by stealing our money quietly snuck away.
Luckily, the mob left and calm was restored, and our event became peaceful once more. In a place like Kibera where poverty is intense and politics is saturated with corruption, greed and violence, incidents like these are all-too-common.