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I-Reporters reveal how they escaped Kenya violence

  • Story Highlights
  • Post-election violence widespread in Kenya
  • Reports of horrific attacks, at least 148 dead
  • Witness says for protesters, "the only truth is the panga [machete]"
  • I-Reporters share personal stories, images from Kenya
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(CNN) -- Jayne Samuels was told venturing out of her Kenyan hotel could get her killed, but she was so desperate to get away from the tribal violence, she went into the streets searching for a ride. Help came from a surprising source.


"Vigilante security" from Nairobi's Kibera slum vent frustration over election confusion.

Friends in Kenya have repeatedly warned Daniel Pollack to "get ready for war." The Nairobi slum where he volunteers is filled with burned-out vehicles and other evidence of rioting. He says, in Kenya, "the only truth is the panga [machete]."
But Pollack believes he is safe and intends to stay.

These I-Report stories reflect starkly different responses to a single unflinching reality. Hundreds of people have been killed during days of tribal unrest, and the worst may be to come.

Samuels, an aid worker, says she is relieved to be out of harm's way. She arrived in Kenya December 8, volunteering in a village two hours from Kisumu. After violence broke out December 28, Samuels attempted to reach Kisumi, but never made it that far.

Samuels says she had to pay a gas station owner to get a ride to her hotel. Once there, however, the trick was getting out again.

Samuels could look out from her room and see rioting and looting. When police finally cleared the streets several days later, she was more than ready to leave. But her hotel concierge offered this dire warning: "You better not go outside. The police may shoot you dead on accident."

Undaunted, Samuels left her belongings inside the hotel and walked into the streets, hoping to find a ride to the airport. She came across a group of riot police and persuaded them to take her. Samuels says she is lucky they didn't ask for a bribe, because she was running very low on funds.

At the airport, Samuels discovered most inter-African flights had been grounded. She called the U.S. Embassy but officials there could offer no help and encouraged her to "stay put."

Then she got word of a small jet flying to Nairobi, with operators selling "cash tickets." She was happy to pay and get out.

Hers was not the only harrowing escape.

Hussein Dharsi and his family were finishing their vacation in the resort of Mombasa when the country erupted in tribal violence.

As Dharsi, his wife, Nazira, and their two young children drove to the airport, they were stopped by police who would not let them go any further without an escort. Dharsi says a hastily assembled security team, men with machine guns, put about eight or nine buses and several cars into a convoy. Video Watch what Dharsi encountered on the way to the airport »

They slowly made their way past sidewalks filled with shouting rioters, who pelted the vehicles with rocks. A pile of burning tires blocked part of the route. Dharsi says glass littered the road.

Once they arrived at the airport, however, Dharsi says the atmosphere was markedly different, "very calm, very serene." The family nervously awaited their delayed flight along with throngs of other visitors scrambling to leave Kenya. They were relieved to get to their home in Dubai.

Twenty-one-year old Pollack, however, is in no hurry to leave. He says he feels safe despite numerous warnings from the U.S. Embassy and local acquaintances.

Pollack, a New Yorker in Kenya to help build an orphanage, ventured out with his camera Wednesday. He submitted photos to I-Report, showing burned-out vehicles and eerily empty streets in Kibera, a slum of Nairobi. He expects the scene will be quite different Thursday.

"People are ready to riot," Pollack says. Members of the Orange Democratic Movement are planning a "million man" march Thursday, even though the government has banned it. Pollack says a Kenyan police officer told him people are "preparing for war."


Pollack says members of the Orange Movement are adamant that recent elections were rigged. "They feel wronged," he says. For them, according to Pollack, "the only truth is the panga [machete]."

Pollack says he believes he will be OK because, "it's a tribal issue; their problem doesn't have to do with me." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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