NAIROBI — Kenya police cracked down on an anti-corruption protest in the streets of Nairobi Thursday after accusing the U.S. government of funding political activists.
Hoisting giant foam babies, protesters demonstrated against leaders they say behave like children - a state they refer to as Kenya's “diaper mentality.”
Kenyan authorities had earlier banned the protest, citing security concerns and the “threat of terrorism.”
Kenyan officials also accused the U.S. Aid agency USAID of funding political activists in an effort to topple the Kenyan government -- and called for the foreign ministry to summon USAID officials to answer to the claims.
Protest leader and political activist Boniface Mwangi deflected the accusations. What are they afraid of? The government has the intelligence, the military, they have control over the state apparatus. So if they want to claim that I'm being funded, then they should say who's funding me. Name names. I can't topple the government on my own. But they're afraid of what is actually a popular uprising by the people who are disadvantaged,” he explained.
Soon after protesters arrived at Nairobi's Uhuru Park, police launched a first volley of tear gas, dispersing the crowd.
At least five protesters were arrested as police officers maintained their position, barring access to the park.
The same activist group has made a scene in Nairobi before, protesting high salaries paid to lawmakers by smearing pigs' blood outside parliament.
This time they had planned an address by a well-known rights activist, the Reverend Timothy Njoya. “So we came here to make a statement on the state of the nation. To assess how much we've been able to accomplish, but it seems that the police have made the statement for us, and they've made it very loudly and clearly,” he said.
Kenyan activists have loudly criticized the government for high levels of corruption, a restrictive media bill and for fostering a culture of impunity.
While silenced for now, demonstrators say they will not stay quiet for long.