Comment & analysis
The heart of the Kenyan Violence
2008-01-30, Issue 341
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Karambu Ringera, one of the few women to run for electoral office in the Kenya elections, gives a powerful vivid eye-witness account of the violence and the displacement.
When I left Nairobi for Nakuru to visit the internally displaced people's (IDP) camp, my aim was to be there for 2 days only. I arrived there on Wednesday January 23, little knowing that the events of that night would lock me in Nakuru for five days! On the night of January 23, all hell broke loose in Nakuru town. It was sad, scary and out of this world. I hardly recognized my country anymore. For three days, Kikuyus living in the Rift Valley were being evicted from their homes. The Nakuru violence was a spill over from Eldoret where many Kikuyus amng other ethnic groups had been evicted from their homes and their homes and property burnt. The week before, there had been similar clashes in Kisumu, once again targeting people from the Mount Kenya Region. The violence spread to Kericho, Burnt Forest, Elburgon, and areas surrounding Nakuru town. It was believed that Kalejins were in the forefront of these latter (Rift Valley) evictions and so, when loadfuls of Kikuyus landed into the Nakuru Show Ground (NSG) where these IDP were settled and attended to by the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), Kikuyus in Nakuru felt they needed to do something about it. To see lorry after lorry of people being dropped at the NSG left many angry.
What was more devastating were the stories of anarchy – burnt homes, slaughtered loved family members, raped mothers and daughters, as destroyed property. The Kikuyus organized themselves and on the night of 23rd they struck at Ponda Mali a few blocks from where I spent that first night. In the morning, a few dead bodies were found but more fundamentally, houses were burnt – this time mainly Luo and Kalejin houses. By Thursday, these attacks were spread to more residential areas around Nakuru town such as Ronda, Mwariki, Kaptembwa, Githima, Freearea, Lakeview, Lanet, Karatina, Kiti, pangani, Flamingo, and Mawanga) – a second IDP's camp was opened at the Nakuru Stadium for Luos and Kalejins. A 7pm to 7am curfew was also set up – the speed with which this curfew was set up saved Nakuru from more blood shed than had already been spilt. On Friday, a friend and I walked to the areas surrounded Langalanga residential area to see what had transpired the night before because we heard was a lot of gunshot sounds. We hardly slept that night because we did not want to be attacked or for the block to be set a fire while we were asleep. The newspapers said that 5 people had been killed but that day we found at least 12 bodies lying uncollected – some had been eaten by dogs overnight. Most bodies had deep cuts – some on the head, some with throats slashed, others with cut off limbs – it was ghastly!! Later in the day, a police Landrover was loaded full of bodies of dead people.
It came for a second round – we estimated over 40 people killed in just…… On Saturday, Nakuru town was a no go zone both day and night. Police and army personnel were all over the town. A helicopter was being use to comb the area and spot trouble points and dispatch soldiers there speedily. The roads were blocked and some people were attacking certain groups of people as early as 5pm. We all were advised to stay indoors. Sunday was more calm were I was although we kept hearing gunshots in the surrounding estates. I had to do what I had initially set out to do in Nakuru – visit the IDP's camp at the Nakuru Show Ground. I went there on Wednesday to arrange to go and hold peace talks with the people at the camp. I intended to work with the counseling groups as my entry point. When the coordinator of the counseling program asked me to explain my approach, I explained that I used a participatory approach where people speak from their experiences. I planned on using the circle model and three statements guide the dialogue. The three statements are: Peace for me is; Peace for me would be; and In the name of peace I commit to… (participants state a concrete action they will undertake) .
The women were asked to use these statements to guide their sharing. We used a talking piece (a piece of stick). Initially I had asked for about 20-25 people. I got 30 women. However about 15 of them had come the day before and had not been debriefed – so they had to leave the circle. Women who had not been debriefed were required to do so before doing any other form of talking to people about their experiences. We held the circle with the 15 or so women left. The main concerns for the women were their children's education; lack of enough food; and where they would go since they did not want to go back to their old places.
While waiting for the women to gather, I heard a child crying outside. He was crying with a lot of emotion – a child of about 6 years old. I walked over to him and started coaxing him to stop crying while at the same time asking him why he was crying. He was standing alone and I thought he had lost his mother or whoever was with him. After some time, he stopped crying – almost – and then I was approached by a pregnant woman who had stood at a distance watching us. She told me that she had pinched the child for running away from school. The school was across the main road outside the camp. The mother was angry with the boy for crossing the dangerous road (cars were driving by all the time) alone. She also wanted him to stay in school because other kids were there. I told the mother to be patient with the child for after all he had seen, he may have been afraid that when he comes from school he might fond the mother gone. The kid never told us why he ran away for school, even though I tried to ask him. All he did was cry. We tried to get his older brother to take him to school and stay with him there the rest of the day. I do not know whether the mother was able to enforce this because soon after, a KRCS personnel came and took away the mother and the child to talk to them.
The women we visited with started telling us what life was like at the camp. They said that they had a mug of porridge in the morning, no lunch, and very little dinner. The food at dinner was so little – "it is meant to keep the soul alive" – one old lady told me. The food is so little that even children do not get satisfied – so mothers normally shared out their own food to the children. Girls were known to exchange food for sex too. There was lots of sexual activity as evidenced by the number of used condoms found lying around the camp every morning – the KRCS medical team dishes out condoms at the camps. The disturbing part was the rapes that were happening at the camps. The women told us that at night men would scream to make people start running away in panic. Then they would time women and girls, catch them and rape them. So, women were being told to watch over their girls. Women were also being advised not to go to the toilets at night.
On Friday we were sitting in circle sharing when we heard gunshots. The women panicked and one of them worriedly asked "have they come for us here?" This made me realize how scared these people really were. Their fear was deep. I was sad that I could not be of any help in trying to alleviate it. We ourselves from the outside were sitting on edge not knowing whether we would be safe or not going back home. All I could do was encourage them, hope with them that things would change, and assure them that they were safe in the camp because it was guarded. This sense of security was short lived. On Saturday afternoon there was a panic stampede that took place because a run-away prisoner jumped in to the camp in white underwear, the dress code of the attackers of the people in their farms. The IDP thought the attackers had come for them right in the camp. The person who was the man screamed that the attackers had followed them into the camp and there was a stampede that caused the breaking of the NSG periphery fence – fracturing the delicate sense of security they may have felt in this place.
A lot of food and clothes had been donated to the KRCS for these IDP in the camps around Kenya. We saw many lorries loaded with stuff come to the camp. The KRCS also had an office in Nakuru town where they stored these things. The surprising thing was that the people told us they never received any good clothes. They got third rate stuff – the KRCS staff in the store selected clothes for themselves before letting the IDP get into the store to select – the women informed us.
The people also said that the store people let about 30 people to get into the small store and they gave the people only few minutes to select clothes. This meant that one had no time to select good stuff – so they ended up with old t-shirts and skirts. One woman who had brought in a selection of very good clothes found someone selling one of her dresses in the local market! In view of this, when the women told me that they need underwear and pads, I decided not to hand these to the KRCS office as I had done on Wednesday when I first went to the camp. Counseling is being done in the camps by many people. However when I asked whether there were any people talking about peacebuilding I was told "no one had thought of that."
I found my niche. So, I set up to come on Thursday January 24 to start the peace dialogue. Lack of information on where women can get help for educational needs of their children or for material needs is alarmingly much in the camp. At Nakuru many women came to ask me for assistance – where to take their kids for schooling; how they can leave the camp and reach their relatives; how they could earn a living – several girls were looking for househelp jobs (to be employed in people's homes) – and so on. One man approached me with a letter which had a female handwriting seeking assistance for relocation. Since I am from far (Meru – Nakuru is about 9 hours by car from Meru) and did not have the capacity to help, I told the women that they have to speak with the KRCS personnel in their camp so they can ask the questions they were putting to me. I know that the organization is meant to assist people the camps in various ways. So, I insisted that they talk to these people.
The Peace Circle Dialogue
We sat in a circle and I introduced myself, asked someone to open with prayers, after which I asked everyone to introduce themselves and say where they were from. We started off with 30 women, 15 eventually went for debriefing (they had arrived at the camp the night before), two of 15 were called to go to the hospital to check on one of them who had given birth to a baby (they said to me smiling: "we have been blessed with a new life even here"), and two others left for other business. In the end, we had about 10 women who stayed throughout the 2 and a half hour session. I introduced the peace dialogue idea and why we were doing it. I gave the three statements that were going to guide our dialogue, looked for a talking piece and then I began the process.
What emerged was very interesting. Each woman gave her story – most spoke about their history. Some gave incidents before the clashes (current displacement) as what gave them no peace, incidents that were exacerbated by the violence. Most were painful family issues – including wives being told to go where they came from because they were from a different ethnic group – being forced to leave with ones children because the children had the blood of the unwanted ethnic group. On the second day, the women were less personal and our discussions were more on what others had suffered. I was told of an elderly lady who was gang raped and then ripped open because the gangsters wanted to "see where they had been." The woman died. One woman came to me for assistance for her son who is beginning high school. She said to me, "one of the children has been taken to an orphanage. Now I need a place for my son who is attending a day school, but see where he is coming back every end of day. Please take him with you and help him get into a boarding school." At that moment I wished the community home we are building for AIDS orphans and other children in crisis was complete.
I would have taken this boy to stay there while we looked for a boarding school for him. I took the lady's contact so that when I got a school for the boy, I would call them. I have already asked the IPI Program Director to check out a school for this child whose name is Isaac Geita. His mom's name is Margaret Wambui. The women who followed the three statements guiding our peace dialogue had this to say about their view of peaceful being or otherwise and what they committed to do for peace. (i) I have peace when: Peaceful moments cited by these women included when they pray, read the Bible, and when they are able to provide food, shelter and health to their families, including being able to educate their children. (ii) Peace for me is: Some of the answers I got include: End of conflict and violence; all the children in this camp going back to school. Help for those infected by HIV/AIDS, widows, single mothers, and orphans. The women said that education is the only hope for their children considering all their property was gone and the parents were in no position to support them now that they had lost everything. (iii) In the name of peace I commit to: The women committed to praying for peace; supporting those who were in need like orphans; encourages each other to keep hope in God. The women felt that if they kept their hope in God, He would deliver them and prosper them wherever they are.
Before people massacre others, they dehumanize and demonize the enemy. While walking around Ponda Mali, area in Nakuru to see the results of the violence, we came across many bodies of dead people that lay all over the place. Two young people were walking past one body and they said "it is fat!!" They did not see this as a person – he had become an object, hence "IT.". Down the path we found another body and this time, a woman sold her tomatoes unbothered by the presence of a dead body near where she was selling. I wondered at this lack of … fear, respect… what did I expect them to feel for these departed ones – perceived as 'the enemy' by them?
It was sad to witness the disgrace we have come to as a nation – we have become so removed from our humanity – we have failed to see we were the 'other' we were butchering. To fail to 'see' that our humanity is inescapably intertwined with that of those whose lives we have cut short, is to fail to 'recognize' how inhuman we have become. I desire to participate in healing the broken cord that joins me to my sister and brother, no matter their ethnic origin; reconcile the severed human spirit broken by our fractured humanity.
Part of my reason for being in Kenya is to work for peace in Africa. Little did I know I would be doing this for my beloved country. I have already put in place a peace training program under Institute for Nonviolence and Peace (INPEACE) (INPEACE was launched in 2005 at the Women's Congress held in Nairobi that year). I intend to continue the peace dialogues in the IDP's camps that I started in Nakuru. I also intend to do a training for leaders, who will hopefully share what they learn with their constituents. Then I will start systematic trainings for civil society, with a focus to women and youth. I am already meeting with people and organizations willing to partner with IPI's INPEACE to run the trainings. The plan is to begin with trainings for women and youth in the camps and leaders and follow up with longer term programs for civil society and learning institutions. I also hope to continue helping with material and informational assistance to women and young girls in camps.
For those interested in supporting women and girls materially, IPI has been collecting clothes and food stuffs and taking to various collection points in Meru. However, from the experience of what the women in Nakuru told me, IPI will be distributing the stuff directly to women in their tents within the camps like we did the last time we donated underwear and pads to women and girls at Nakuru.
*Dr. Karambu Ringera was one of the few women who ran for elected office. She was the North Imenti Parliamentary Aspirant.
*Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at www.pambazuka.org
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hope and desperation appear to be an endless circle it is difficult to keep hope for our continent it does not seem to be able to cope
A History of Violence
Written by Muciimi Mbatia
Tuesday, 05 February 2008
In African folklore, there is a character that looms large for its polished deception, which guile often results in sizzling dramatic irony. The story usually culminates in a situation where the devious, meek-looking carnivore is entrusted with the care of the docile herbivores, often depicted as sheep.
There is likelihood that lore might imitate life in the on-going dialogue over the Kenyan crisis, particularly given the appointment of people linked to tribal violence as negotiators and engineers of peace.
William Ruto was recently appointed by ODM as one of its three negotiators in the Kofi Annan-led mediation efforts that aim to reconcile Kenyans after a spate of post-election violence. Given numerous accusations against him, alleging links to and inspiration of the violence in the Rift Valley, the question must be asked: Is Kenya entrusting its peace negotiations to a war-monger? If indeed William Ruto is a war monger, how can we expect him to negotiate in good faith in the larger interest of the country? As this description in Time magazine states, Ruto holds the key to this crisis . "William Ruto, part of Odinga's inner circle, and his ilk are key to this crisis. Yes, they attend peace talks, but they're accused of inciting ethnic violence on the side. Who is this man, Ruto?
William Samoei Ruto is the youthful and articulate member of parliament for Eldoret North. He is very good on the stump, and his urbane manner and mostly flawless English and Kiswahili set him apart from older generation of Kalenjin politicians who speak tortured versions of both these languages. A member of the Nandi sub-tribe of the Kalenjin meta-ethnic group, he shares a name with the legendary Kalenjin hero, Orkoiyot Koitalel Turugat arap Samoei, whose resistance to British colonialism led to his death at the hands of the British imperialist Captain Richard Meinertzhagen.
Many Kalenjins view Ruto as the reincarnation of Koitalel, or at least a descendant. Like Koitalel, Ruto is seen as defending Kalenjin rights; these are imagined in pre-contact terms when the Nandi numbered 30,000 and raided their neighbors with impunity. This myth is instrumental in understanding how Ruto was able to emerge as the foremost Kalenjin leader before he was even 40 years, dethroning former President Daniel who is seen as hailing from the Tugen, a smaller Kalenjin sub-tribe, and supplanting the likes of Nicholas Biwott, who hails from the less gallant Elgeyo sub-tribe of the Kalenjin.
Despite his shinning political star, Ruto has been accused of instigating clashes that have led to the displacement of thousands of people in the Rift Valley in organized violence. For reference, see Senior Counsel Mutula Kilonzo's interview on how violence in the Rift Valley was organized here.
To be fair to Ruto, he has not yet been tried and found guilty of such incitement or for his role as the kiptainik (leading warrior). However, there is a sizeable amount of published information that suggests a link between him and the violence.
Amongst other reports, he was cited for hate speech in a document called Still Behaving Badly: Second Periodic Report of the Election-Monitoring Project, published in December last year by the Kenya National Human Rights Commission (KNHRC). This report was but a tip of the iceberg. According to the Parliamentary Hansard of April 2007 on page 346, a former assistant minister for Planning and National Development, J. Serut, named Samoei (Ruto), amongst others, as the group that was inciting people in the Mt. Elgon area of Kenya. The violence in that area - and as far as Kitale - claimed 200 lives last year, mainly members of the Bukusu community who are seen, like the Kikuyus and Kisiis, as having illegally occupied land in the Rift Valley that "belongs" to the Kalenjin. A dozen policemen also lost their lives in the Mt. Elgon violence blamed on the so-called Saboti Land Defence Forces (SLDF).
Interestingly, a Fred Chesebe Kapondi, who was arrested and charged with the violence last year, was elected as Member of Parliament on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket. His charges are still pending in court and he will have to divide his time between parliament and the courts. Kapondi is in good company in the ODM. Ruto, and others such as Franklin Bett, a member of parliament from the greater Kericho district which has seen a lot of violence directed at Kisiis and Kikuyus, belong to ODM. Bett was also named in parliament by Serut for his role in fomenting violence.
While it could be argued that Serut was misusing parliamentary privilege to name individuals such Ruto, what is clear is that Ruto’s name keeps coming up whenever incitement is reported – in and out of parliament.
According to KNHRC’s report on the Constitutional Referendum published in September 2006, Ruto was once again named for incitement in the run up to the constitutional referendum of November 2005.
KANU Youth ’92, Kalenjin Warriors and Mayhem
Available reports show that Ruto has been mentioned in the same breadth with violence for a long time. Ruto made his considerable wealth as a leader of the Youth for KANU ’92, a dubious lobby group that was formed to support the Presidency of former dictator Daniel arap Moi. At the time the organization was formed, he was a Masters student in zoology at the University of Nairobi. He abandoned his studies to throw his weight with Moi’s totalitarianism and to take advantage of the free money flowing into the organization. This organization was famous for one thing: its bottomless pockets. It was never clear where the money came from, but it has been claimed that former Central Bank governor Eric Kotut, a fellow Kalenjin, printed paper money to finance Moi’s campaign.
Other reports allege that this money came from the Goldenberg swindle which started in the early 1990s, and in which the Kenyan taxpayer lost over Shs. 80 billion. If this is true, Ruto, his YK’92 colleague Cyrus Jirongo, as well as Musalia Mudavadi, the finance minister at the height of the heist, have a good motivation to prevent a government that might prosecute them.
Aware of this murky past, the British have slapped a ban on Ruto so that he cannot travel to the UK. YK’92, as the lobby was called, was manned by youthful operatives in flashy suits, the most conspicuous ones being Ruto and Jirongo. However, the YK’92 represented the urban, sophisticated face of a campaign whose mantra was to show that multiparty politics was not going to work in Kenya. The mission of YK’92 included vote buying, bribery, and intimidation.
In the rural areas of the Rift Valley, the more unsophisticated phase of YK’92 was in operation. Styled as “Kalenjin warriors,” and armed with bows and arrows, some of industrial grade, their mission was to drive out Kikuyu, Kisii, Luo and Luhya voters. It is notable that the very first clashes broke out in Nandi, Ruto’s neighboring district that still retains the name of the tribe.
A report compiled by Human Rights Watch called Divide and Rule, notes:
The ethnic clashes first broke out on October 29, 1991, at Meteitei farm in Tinderet, Nandi District, on the border of Rift Valley, Nyanza, and Western Provinces….As the fighting continued, the Kalenjin community was accused of attacking the Luo community….Luo leaders, whose community was the first to be affected by the clashes, concluded that the violence was the direct result of the majimbo rally held at Kapsabet a month earlier. After the violence erupted, leaflets were distributed in the area warning Luos and other non-Kalenjins to leave the area by December 12, 1991, or “face the consequences.” The leaflets were signed by a group calling itself the Nandi Warriors.
These Nandi Warriors later became known as the “Kalenjin Warriors,” as more attacks were launched on non-Kalenjins. According to Divide and Rule, “The attackers were often identically dressed in informal uniform of shorts and tee-shirts and always armed with traditional bows and arrows as well as pangas. Sometimes, the warriors would have their faces marked in the traditional manner with clay. The warriors would loot, kill, and burn houses, leaving death and destruction in their wake.” Some of the fiercest fighting was between the Kalenjin and the Luo. This is how Divide and Rule puts it: “The Kericho-Kisumu road was temporarily closed as “Kalenjin warriors” armed with bows and arrows battled with Luos across the road. The confrontation between the two communities followed an attack by Kalenjins against hundreds of Luos residing in Nandi and Kericho Districts during which the Kalenjins had looted and burned Luo homes. The Luo community responded with a counter-attack. A Luo policeman trying to stop the fighting allegedly killed a Kalenjin, resulting in a new attack by the Kalenjins against neighboring Owiro farm, populated by Luos.”
Given this history, it would appear that the Luo, in their bid for power, have suppressed their memory and allowed themselves to be dragged by their leaders into a pact with the devil for political expediency. Although the Kenyatta regime was accused of carrying out targeted assassinations of politicians deemed to be a threat, it is true to say that in terms of ethnic groups, there is no community in Kenya that has caused more death and destruction to fellow Kenyans than the Kalenjin.
Keeping Democracy at Bay
According to researcher Prisca Mbura Kamungi in her 2001 report: The Current Status of Internally Displaced Persons in Kenya: "Research into the violence indicates that the affected communities were mainly supporters of opposition parties. The Kenya government got into pluralism involuntarily due to internal and international pressure, 13 and it is alleged that KANU leaders were firmly resolved on either reverting the country to one party status or keeping genuine democracy at bay."
The way democracy was to be kept at bay was through Majimboism, a form of uniquely Kenyan ethnic federalism, calls of which have been associated with violence since Kenya’s independence from Britain in 1963. People in the Rift Valley, specifically Kalenjins, were incited against fellow Kenyans who had settled in their midst. This was done with a specific purpose: ensuring that the opposition, then mainly Kikuyu and Luo, did not garner the required 25 percent in the Rift Valley for their presidential candidate. KNHCR put it succinctly in one of their aptly named reports called Killing the Vote. If enough pro-democracy people could be killed or displaced, why, it was possible for authoritarianism to prevail.
As reward for executing the violence, local people were told that those non-local people who had settled in their midst had exploited them for social benefits. That they had settled in their areas away from their ancestral lands was pointed out as evidence of this exploitation. Kamungi writes: “The violence was therefore explained by politicians to be caused by resentful locals who wanted these benefits for themselves, an aim achievable only through eviction of the 'aliens' or 'foreigners'.”
What is often lost to most observers is the connection between the violence of 1992, 1997, and 2002, and 2007. For a start, the violence was perpetrated against other communities by one community – the Kalenjin. It targeted people who had settled in the Rift Valley regardless of their ethnic origins so long as they were non-Kalenjins. The attacks were accompanied by theft and looting of private property by Kalenjin warriors. In these incidences, the government was reluctant to take the Kalenjin head on, thereby emboldening them to conduct the next raid during the next raiding season. These raids coincide with moments when the country was exercising its democracy – elections. It is as if some elements within Kalenjin politics are still intent on keeping genuine democracy at bay. Genuine democracy initially meant multipartyism, which was seen as inimical to Kalenjin interests by threatening “their” hold on power because President Moi is Kalenjin.
Today it behoves us to understand it in a more holistic sense, that democracy means not just liberal democracy, but also a general acceptance of the democratic tenets of majority rule, equal opportunity, and rule of law. For Kalenjin nationalists, this is unacceptable. Majority rule to some Kalenjins means that Kikuyus will dominate, even though it is clear that no one community in Kenya can rule without the coming together with other communities. Equal opportunity also does not appear to satisfy some of them; many were unable to take advantage of opportunities availed to them disproportionately by President Moi. Rule of law is also a problem for some Kalenjins; it means that past crimes, including raids by Kalenjin warriors will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and that people who acquired public property or bankrupted state companies will also face the law. Given this state of affairs, some prominent Kalenjin politicians continue to portray both majority rule and rule of law as a conspiracy by the Kikuyu to monopolize power and wealth without stating that that mode of governance threatens the Kalenjin way of life.
The Gema Numerical Strength and Democracy in Kenya
That is why they find it difficult to accept an electoral outcome that favors a candidate that they don’t control. Currently, the argument is muddled by those who do not want to accept the reality of Kenya’s demographics, which are such that any presidential candidate from the GEMA communities who manages to command the support of that constituency is always at a huge advantage. For a start, such a candidate starts of with 30 percent of the total national vote based on the larger GEMA population (Kikuyu, Embu, Meru) and has to work just to top up the vote and to garner the mandatory 25 percent of the vote in five of the eight provinces. In contrast, a candidate from, say, the Luo, starts of with 12 percent of the national vote. If such a Luo candidate manages to attract the entire Kalenjin vote, he starts with only 24 percent against the GEMA candidate’s 30 percent. In the recent election, that is what happened.
ODM’s strategy of vilifying the GEMA created a siege mentality that resulted in a huge voter turn out in a community that generally does not vote in large numbers. PNU candidates in GEMA areas had only one message for their people: get out and vote. And they did; voter turn out in GEMA areas increased significantly compared to the 2005 constitutional referendum figures. Unfortunately, the ODM candidate could not even command the total unadulterated Luhya vote which would have helped to tip the balance. And because Luhya’s did not feel fully invested in an ODM presidency –which they saw as Luo – they did not turn out in large numbers, denying the ODM candidate vital votes. Not to mention, of course, that the Bukusu, a sub-tribe of the Luhya, as immigrants into the Rift Valley, have more in common with Kisii and Kikuyu than with the Luo.
Any fair analysis of this electoral outcome has to take into account Kenya’s tribal politics and demographics. As Kiraitu Murungi asked in an article in the Sunday Nation of February 3 2008, are the 4.5 million Kenyans who voted for Kibaki not Kenyans? Kibaki’s first term was remarkable for its tolerance and freedom, besides the economic progress that has been noted by the World Bank, IMF, and notable international and credit rating agencies.
It is also remarkable for ensuring the kind of diversity Kenya has never seen since independence. This ethnic diversity and balance was has been noted by Dr. David Throup of John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), an expert on Kenya, in an article published by the Center for International & Strategic Studies. Except for the Ministry of Finance, which Kibaki probably felt he needed to keep close reigns on, the administration was easily the most ethnically diverse ever.
However, it is true that Kibaki did retire a number of Kalenjin bureaucrats as it was felt that the government was susceptible to being undermined by some of the Kalenjin bureaucrats beholden to the ideology of Kalenjin nationalism. The reason why a number of senior Kalenjin civil servants were removed after Kibaki came to power, in addition to the need by Kibaki to reward his political supporters, has something to do with the view that the intricate Kalenjin networks established under Moi were a threat to the new regime. However, Kalenjin rank and file was not targeted and retained their jobs in the civil service.
The Specter of Violence
Back to Ruto. In 2002, it was alleged that he had slapped Reuben Chesire, a Nandi elder and a former Chairman of the Industrial Development Bank over a dispute at State House, Nairobi. If that was an allegation, however, a threat by Ruto that he would assault Chesire at a future date was reported in fact by the Daily Nation which also links Ruto to incitement and violence in the Rift Valley. According to UK's Daily Telegraph , during the 2002 campaign Ruto was one of two government ministers warned by the Electoral Commission for "serious polling offences."
One of the more memorable moments in KANU's otherwise dismal 2002 campaign, was a rally in Gatundu in 2002, where the Eldoret North MP insisted that KANU would form the next government with or without the support of the Kikuyu. In saying so, he was perhaps alluding to the extra-constitutional strategies employed to prevent them from voting. This warning came amid "increasingly persistent allegations of intimidation, fraud and looting of state funds."
In the current violence, voices are increasingly emerging that link Ruto directly to the violence in the Rift Valley. TIME magazine reports "In Eldoret, for example, some locals accused William Ruto, a leader of Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement and a Kalenjin, of hate speech in the run-up to the vote. "He's the main inciter," said a man named Benjamin, who refused to give his last name for fear of punishment. "He said that if we are not going to win as ODM, we will not accept to stay with the Kikuyus. They will have to go."
And this report by The Statesman sets out clearly that Ruto participated in pre-election agitation for violence. Interviews with the victims, as well as the perpetrators of violence, indicate that the violence in the Rift Valley, was well organized in advance by Kalenjin elders and leaders. In fact, even before the first vote was cast, a total of 70 people had already died, many in opposition strongholds. This was clearly a harbinger of things to come.
In this interview by the BBC carried out in Eldoret, Kalenjin fighters who clearly regret killing Kikuyus, said that they were asked to kill Kikuyus by their leaders. Ruto's response to these accusations is that he is an undeserved target of lies by the human rights commission, forcing the commission to defend itself: "We are not biased because our job is to hold the political class accountable no matter who they are," Kiai said.
Ruto's party, the ODM, has gone a step further to muddle the debate by electing to confuse the issue of ethnic cleansing with the sort of violence (excessive even) that might occur in any government in the course of maintaining law and order. In a pre-emptive move, the ODM took the government to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The ODM charges centered around deaths that occurred in the process of restoring calm following the violent demonstrations inspired or called for by the ODM. These demonstrations caused loss of life in Kenya, and disrupted the economies of neighboring countries. In taking the government to the ICC, the Opposition party is trying to cast the government in the same mold as Charles Taylor and Slobodan Milesovich. However, it is unlikely that the charges will hold given that the Kenyan police have largely acted professionally under extreme provocation, with reports of police trucks being searched by mobs in illegal road blocks in the Nandi and Kipsigis districts. The deaths that occurred at the hands of the police mainly took place in the thick of street battles as the Kenyan police were trying to restore calm after opposition supporters engaged in violence, mayhem, disruption, looting, rape, and murder.
It is noteworthy that before violence broke out, the Kenyan police had no history of mass murder of opposition supporters, targeted or accidental. It is true that the Kenyan Police Service is by no means a posse of angelic shepherds. Just last year there were accusations that police killed members of Mungiki, but this controversial group is not part of the opposition. So far this year, close to 1000 people have been killed in the post election violence. Of this number, the police have killed less than 100 people. 90 or so of the victims were killed in the revenge attacks in Naivasha and Nakuru and it is likely that PNU supporters have killed many people in Nairobi. However, it goes without saying that the bulk of the victims have died at the hands of ODM's supporters in their 'spontaenous fury'. Unfortunately, William Ruto was amongst the very last national leaders to call for peace. So far, he has not gone to Kalenjin areas to confront the mobs and to ask for calm. In comparison, Uhuru Kenyatta, Cyrus Jirongo, Lewis Nguyai, Fred Gumo, Martha Karua, Linah Kilimo and others have gone to the streets to reason with mobs and their appeal has been heeded. Ruto and other ODM MPs insist that they cannot face their constituents before the resolution of the presidential vote dispute. In other words, they are using violence as a bargaining tool.
Ruto's silence on violence is louder than those who shout "No Raila, No Peace," betraying their resolve to install Raila in office by force, regardless of whether he won or not and regardless of the human cost or the consequences to the wider economy. This determined and stubborn silence, has now led to some attacks being waged in Ruto's name. When raiders went to the home of Ken Matara, they burned his house because some members of his Kisii community people had attacked Ruto in South Mugirango constituency.
So why are men with histories of violence sitting at the negotiating table discussing peace? Is Kenya entrusting a leopard to look after the sheep?
The repulsive character of Kenyan leaders
In the run-up to the 2007 General Elections I came across a ghastly hate email against the ODM leader, written and undersigned by the son of a (re-elected) hardline minister. The same minister is widely seen as being associated with Mungiki. This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the inferiority of leadership in Kenya is concerned. Deep inside, many Kenyans are aware of the repulsive character of their leaders. The high turnover of ministers and MPs at the just concluded General Election is a pointer.
However, devoid of much choice, Kenyans have become used to, and have all along been hoodwinked by a class of leaders – not only political figures, but also religious, cultural, and some intellectual leaders, who insist they have an inalienable right to their positions and to the shameless self-allocated perks and mheshimiwa culture that come along. Their obsessive interests are limited to positions, wealth and the preferably frantic support from ethnic constituencies. Many of these leaders have managed to hang on since independence. Others, who joined later (and I would love to name them all), have seamlessly fitted themselves into these mafia networks and completely belied past civic engagements and relatively sober reputations.
Thirty years ago, I was convinced that the country had the ingredients and potential to emulate the Asian Tiger economies. This was before I had understood the Moi regime and the dismal characters that hovered around him and managed to survive until today, now glued to the Kibaki regime and sometimes also sitting tight in ODM.
These people have never walked their talk.
• They had 45 years to address the burning land question in the country, but all they did was to steal and acquire huge tracts of land for themselves.
• They had 45 years to find innovative and affordable housing solutions for the majority of poor Kenyans, but all they did was building preposterous and huge mansions for themselves in mashambani and in town and becoming greedy landlords for dozens if not hundreds of tenants.
• They had 45 years to address safe, affordable and reliable public transport, but all they did was showing off their fleets of latest models of Mercedes and four-wheel drives. While the country burns, more than 50 new MPs had nothing better to do than converting their fat car loans into luxury cars at various outlets in Industrial Area.
• They had 45 years to establish effective, efficient, independent and robust institutions, but all they did was running them down, stealing from them, and using them for job nepotism and for political expediency.
• They had 45 years to devise pro-active anti-poverty programmes, but all they did was show-time strategies, sweet-talk, playing with donors, and despising the poor as if they were rats in the garbage.
• They had 45 years to establish a competent, impartial and reliable Police Force, but all they did was corrupting the Force as an armed wing of the ruling party and promoting gangs-for-hire, which they turn into ethnic militias when they feel embattled.
• They had 45 years to produce good infrastructure and services – roads, water, electricity, and communications -, and all they did was fraternising with cowboy contractors, and grossly mismanaging the sector to their own narrow benefits.
• They had 45 years to establish a world-class education system in Kenya, but all they did was giving Kenyans sub-standard free primary school after 40 years of waiting, while their own offspring study in expensive private establishments, preferably overseas.
• They had 45 years to establish inclusive primary health care and preventive measures, but all they did was relying on churches and NGOs and let people die if they could not pay, while enjoying first class services by ‘private’ doctors and hospitals for themselves.
• They had 45 years to prove to Kenyans that they are all equal in their aspirations, opportunities, human rights and cultural traditions, but all they did was to protect – at any cost as we now see – a resented Kikuyu-dominated hegemony and the selected rich from other tribes they need to spread their tentacles all over the country, while regional disparities and abject poverty (including among ordinary Kikuyus) continue to pester.
• They had 45 years to respect and promote freedom and democratic rights, but all they did was keeping their flocks in bondage in order to control them in the pursuit of selfish interests and to issue death threats to heroes like Githongo, Maina Kiai, Muthoni Wanyeki, David Ndii and others.
• They had 45 years to make Kenya a prosperous, proud and peaceful nation, but all they did was giving Kenyans the breadcrumbs from their tables – a classroom here, a dispensary there, a water-point, a piece of road, a sack of maize…and piga makofi.
• They had 45 years to live the way they pretend in Sunday church, but all they did was to throw ethics, humility, compassion, and justice over board.
With the second MP having been killed within a week, we can now take it as confirmed that since 1963 the Kenya leadership has never excluded outright liars and killers. The assassinations of Pio Gama Pinto, Tom Mboya, G.M. Kariuki, Alexander Muge, Robert Ouko and many others were all based on the same script: To defend an entrenched Mafia hegemony. They are those, who right now do not want the Kofi Annan mediation to succeed and sit tight in and around State House, those, who don’t mind burning more of their flock, those who cling to their extremist stands and allow hate messages to circulate and protect their vernacular ‘Mille Collines’ radios, those who allow parochialism to erase better judgement, those who have completely lost semblance of human beings.
It is time for the still sober but shocked Kenyan citizens to stop their helpless praying or gently laying flowers at freedom corner. They should in their millions march to State House and stay there peacefully until the mayhem ends and the culprits are brought to The Hague. The tragedy is that this won’t happen.
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Dr Ringera's article is one sided as it only adresses the plight of the kikuyu IDPs in Nakuru Showground, what about the Luos and Kalenjins in Nakuru Stadium, didnt they too have a story to tell? This is what Kenya is about Meru, and Kikuyu, the ruling class. The rest of us Kenyans are 2nd class citizens not even fit to govern a nation we are part of. I hate Kenya for what the Meru and Kikuyu have made it to be, even Moi's era was not like this. In 2002 we all voted for Kibaki, notwithstanding he was Kikuyu, now the same Kibaki preached hatred against Luo, and sent police to kill us.
In the link below is a mirror account of other peace initiatives in the Rift Valley. I thought it would be of interest to you for networking and/or partnerships. All relevant contacts are included in the article ...
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