Unfortunately our first post of 2008 is a bad one. So far about 260 people have died in violence in Kenya after President Mwai Kibaki claimed victory and took the oath of office in elections EU observers claim “have fallen short of key international and regional standards for democratic elections”. At least 50 have been killed in a church blaze set by government supporters attacking opposition supporters inside. More here.
Here’s a history of Kibaki’s rule and primer on the past 5 years. More background here.
Thinker’s Room has two excellent pieces on the origins of the violence here and here. As Thinking Room notes, the violence began as a political powersharing deal between Kibaki and Odinga who united against the ruling party KANU led by Daniel arap Moi – who was constitutionally barred from seeking another term. The coalition won, and Kibaki took power. Unfortunately he broke the gentleman’s agreement known as the Memorandum of Understanding made with Odinga’s party, thereby setting the stage for today’s violence which has become ethnic in character.
Opposition supporters brandish crude weapons during protests in Nairobi December 31, 2007. Reuters.
The roots of the violence are not political, but tribal – and that’s what makes this particular outbreak especially dangerous. Kibaki is Kikuyu and the leader of the opposition Raila Odinga is Luo. As the Beeb article accurately notes, “With patronage and corruption still common, many Kenyans believe that if one of their relatives is in power, they will benefit directly, for example through a relative getting a civil service job.”
Tens of thousands of armed people are now heading to the Burnt Forest region which has a long history of tribal violence. This area appears to be in the southwestern part of the country, bounded by Eldoret to the north, Kisumu to the west and Nakuru to the southeast.
Local reaction here.
More at this blog aggregator here including these blog posts:
We’re halfway there. Halfway to Nairobi. In a few hours we’ll leave Amsterdam and land in a city that I don’t recognize from the news online. People waving pangas, policemen all geared up and ready for battle…I won’t lie, I am scared about where we are headed.
RibaCapital reports that things may be improving, at least in his area.
Today (01/01/2008), is relatively peaceful and atleast from Eastlands in Nairobi where am publishing this article, I have not heard a gunshot or even seen smoke in the skyline, neither have I seen crowds running and shouting as was the case for the last few days.. I hope this continues to be the case…
Gerald Baraza isn’t as conciliatory:
Now this is our message to the fraud regime of Mwai Kibaki: You are not our president! You do not speak for us! We do not recognize you! You can torture us if you want, you can break our bones, you can kill us if you want but we will never recognize you as our president. We will fight your illegitimate regime to the last man!
Yes, it’s the people’s revolution!
Thinker’s Room lives next to the Nairobi slums and posts pictures of the aftermath. He also notes this – which I find particularly troubling:
Nairobi Women’s hospital reports sharply increased incidences of rape, gang rape and sodomy based purely on numbers of people that have accessed their services. Considering the public transport system has ground to a halt I shudder at the thought of the actual numbers on the ground.
Kenyan Pundit continues writing during a news blackout imposed by the government (yeah, that will settle things down. Right…)
Ethnic cleansing going on in Rift Valley. Kikuyus been targeted all over the province. Guys are being hidden by friends – I have first hand reports of this. My friend’s mother’s house was burnt in Molo last night. Where are these people supposed to go? Meanwhile, ODM supporters in ODM strongholds being beaten, raped, and killed arbitrarily by GSU officers. How does the “government” expect to heal these divisions once they have achieved their objective? Why are the two sides willing to pay such a high cost? We are just now recovering from Molo clashes of 1992! I’m frustated about the lack of options.
He also questions the government denial of the scale of the violence:
Alfred Mutua, the government spokesman, continues to be in la-la land talking about incidents of violence “here and there.” Actually, he is beginning to remind me of Baghdad Bob when the Iraq war started.
Across the border Tanzanian bloggers are following events very carefully. Tanzania does not have the trouble with tribalism that Kenya does since the “Baba ya taifa” Julius Nyerere stressed national unity over tribal politics, often at the point of a gun during his rule.
Reginald Miruko has some stunning pictures of the violence including this one:
And this one:
Some pictures (NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT) here picked up via Mashada, Africa’s online community.
UPDATE: 5:45pm EST
The Wife and I are switching between Fox News and CNN. Even the ticker tapes at the bottom are ignoring events in Kenya, although I note that both news websites have it in their top 3.
Is it compassion fatigue? Dean’s World poster Arnold Harris no doubt speaks for many when he writes:
Aside from the politically correct, who are paid or coerced into showing such concern, who in hell in the West really cares what happens in a place such as Kenya?
And on another note, who in the West seriously expects Africans to act other than the way they do?
Don’t want to be macheted? Stay out of Africa, and leave those people alone to work out their own destinies. Which they did for all the ages before there even was a chrisian America.
That means stop trying to bring them democracy. Stop trying to feed them. Stop trying to get rid of the AIDS and other viri that infect much or even most of their populations. Stop trying to enlighten them. Just leave them alone to be whatever nature, their own strengths and their own weaknesses, intended them to be.
The people of Kenya are human beings. They do not deserve the fate that awaits them if chaos takes hold in Kenya.
UPDATE: 9:00pm EST
Kenyan Pundit is reporting that things are looking grim in the Burnt Forest
From a KP reader:
“Approximately 40-50K people are holded up at the compounds of ST. PATRICKS CATHOLIC CHURCH and ARNESENS HIGH SCHOOLl, both in Burnt Forest. There is no running water, food and ELECTRICITY has been cut. THIS MEANS THAT PEOPLE CANNOT RECHARGE THIER CELL PHONES and soon we’ll not be able to contact them. Also, due to the chaos/anarchy in these compounds, means that people, especially women are not any safer than if they were out in the chaos. There has been reports of rapes and molestations. I’ve also heard that the Eldoret highway has been closed by thugs an d that there is no transportion, hence people cannot leave this area. My family in that area feels very helpless and we can only ask that we spread the world and try and get some security in the area.”
Meanwhile Samuel Kivuitu, the chairman of the Election Commission that certified the results admitted that he acted under pressure.
“Some PNU (Party of National Unity) and ODM-Kenya leaders put me under pressure by calling me frequently, asking me to announce the results immediately,” (Kivuitu said)
I should make it clear that there is a difference between taking to the streets to fight for democracy – and ethnic clashes which advance no political agenda. The latter is happening in Kenya, and the only “winners” of the genocide that is looming will be hyenas and vultures.