Saturday 5 January 2008

It couldn't happen here?

""They started cutting the church door with a panga [machete]," Githuthwa said. "They were from around here, and even knew some of our names. We kneeled down and surrendered. It was quiet, as we were all praying. We knew this was the end."

Mattresses soaked with paraffin were pushed through the windows and used to block the door. Matches were thrown in.

As the fire engulfed the wooden building, the women grabbed their children and jumped through the burning windows. Githuthwa pushed her two elder children out of the window, and then climbed out holding her three-and-a-half year-old daughter, Miriam, in her arms.

The Kalenjin youths were still waiting, "cutting people like firewood" as they emerged. "They snatched Miriam from me and threw her back into the fire..." "

(Xan Rice in Eldoret. GuardianUnlimited Thu 3rd Jan 2008)

"My car windscreen is smashed, for no apparent reason. The next morning, the same person comes back to do the side window. When I'm away, boys bang on the windows of the house, throw things at it and taunt my lodgers with racist and sexual insults. The young Slovakian woman calls the police; two officers turn up. One of them points at the culprits, who are still standing on the street within earshot, and asks her, "Was it them?"

She is horrified at the danger he has put her in and shakes her head. "No!" The youths laugh, the officers go.

...the house shakes with the force of bricks being hurled at the boards I've nailed over the front windows. The next night four youths knock on my door, 16- and 17-year-olds. When I answer, an older and much broader man appears from behind them and he is wearing a balaclava. He takes it off and makes a speech about how I "don't come from round here". How he's a working-class man and I've got no right to insult his comrades. I'd shouted at them the night before over the brick-hurling.

The younger lads try to drag me out of the house; I realise they are drunk. The man with the balaclava stops them. I realise he is sober. Momentarily, I feel safer. Then he punches me twice in the face - he is wearing special punching gloves with hardened knuckles stitched in.

He kicks me and bellows: "This is it, right? You've got two weeks to get them fucking Polish out the house or I'm gonna burn it down! Get it?" As I stand there bleeding, he points at me and says, "You're not bleeding"... "

(Ed Jones in Salford. GuardianUnlimited Fri 4th Jan 2008)

No comments: