Kenyan police have fired tear gas at children protesting against the seizure of their school playground by a property developer.
Around 100 primary schoolchildren and a small group of activists pushed over a newly built wall that separated playing fields and the school buildings, close to the capital Nairobi’s main domestic airport on Monday.
Around 40 armed police accompanied by dogs dispersed the protesters by firing tear gas canisters, an Agence France-Presse news agency photographer at the scene said.
Dozens of children were caught in choking clouds of tear gas before being forced to shelter on a pedestrian bridge over the main road to escape the fumes.
Macharia Njeru, chairman of the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, said the incident would be investigated.
“Teargassing children is inexcusable,” he said.
Well-known local activist Boniface Mwangi told Al Jazeera from Nairobi that a “school playground is a necessity, not a privilege.” Mwangi was present at the scene and witnessed the confrontation between schoolchildren and police.
Monday was the first school day since the wall was built during the holidays.
Mwangi said the children had returned to school for their first day of classes for the new year to find that they could not gain access to the school playground.
“They decided to go around the playground, which has a very big fence … They found developers had put up new gates surrounding the playground,” Mwangi said.
“The children were peaceful and all they wanted was access to their playground during break time. The children walked peaceful to the gate … and police responded with tear gas. A few of them were injured.”
The children were aged between eight and 13 years old.
Nairobi, a city of more than three million people, is rapidly growing and land prices are rising at some of the fastest rates anywhere on the continent, according to real estate experts.