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Pambazuka News 334: It is the Kenya people who have lost the election

The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa

Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

With nearly 500 contributors and an estimated 500,000 readers Pambazuka News is the authoritative pan African electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa providing cutting edge commentary and in-depth analysis on politics and current affairs, development, human rights, refugees, gender issues and culture in Africa.

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Highlights from this issue

As the crisis in Kenya deepens, there are a number of things that we ought to keep in mind. We need to listen to informed African and Kenyan voices, voices concerned with welfare of Kenyan people and the nation, and voices that tie the crisis to the rest of Africa, Diaspora and beyond. The other thing we need to keep in mind is this: the people who are dying, or at risk of dying, and doing the fighting are the same people that both leaders claim to be struggling for. Unlike our politicians, we should not forget the human costs.

Pambazuka News is therefore committed to bringing you analysis and calls for action that are informed by living history, the relationship of the crisis to the rest of the continent and beyond and that at the same time puts the welfare of Africans at the center. In this special issue, we hope that you find we have lived up to this commitment.

We have been overwhelmed with the number of articles and letters we have received, and in this second part of the special issue on the Kenyan electoral crisis, we publish a selection in the interest of ensuring our readers have up-to-date information of the different perspectives on the crisis.

In yesterday's Pambazuka News we featured:

- Firoze Manji explains why Kenya's people lost the election
- Horace Campbell looks at the drama of democracy in Kenya
- Kibaki should step down, says Victoria Brittain
- Onyango Oloo dissects the media
- Call of urgent resolution of crisis
- Kenya's democracy is on trial, writes Mukoma wa Ngugi
_ KEDOF issues as statement on the situation in Kenya
NEWS ROUND-UP over the last couple of days

Today, as a supplement to the special issue on the electoral crisis we feature:

- Paul Zeleza writes on how a nation is held hostage to a bankrupt political class
- Ali Mazrui proposes ways forward for resolving the post election crisis
- The crisis has inspired poetry from Mukoma wa Ngugi
- Salim Amin talks to Dipesh Pabari about the media's role
- We publish press releases from KNCHR and civil society organisations
- A range of letters from readers
- and a useful round-up of news from IRIN

As we go to press, Desmond Tutu appears to have been able to exert his moral authority to bang the heads of the contending parties together. Now more than ever there is a need for lifting the ban on live broadcasting so that citizens can participate and contribute to the solutions for the way forward.

The Editors

Action alerts

Kenya electoral crisis


In view of the growing crisis in Kenya as a result of the stolen elections, we at Pambazuka News have decided to devote a blog site to provide space for up-to-date information about what is happening.
In view of the growing crisis in Kenya as a result of the stolen elections, we at Pambazuka News have decided to devote a blog site to provide space for up-to-date information about what is happening. Please visit


It is the Kenyan people who have lost the election

Firoze Manji


Kenya is entering a protracted crisis. No one really knows who actually won the presidential elections. Given the overwhelming number of parliamentary seats won by the ODM and the dismissal of some 20 former ministers who lost their seats, it seems likely that the presidential results probably followed suit. But it is no longer really a matter of who won or lost. For one thing is certain: it is the Kenyan people who have lost in these elections.

That the elections results were rigged – of that there is little doubt. The hasty inauguration, the blanket banning on the broadcast media, the dispersal of security forces to deal with expected protests – all these have given the post election period the flavour of a coup d’etat. What was not expected was the speed with which the whole thing would unravel. The declaration of the members of the Electoral Commission that the results were indeed rigged only added to the growing realisation that a coup had indeed taken place.

People across the country took to the streets to protest and were met with disproportionate use of force by the police and GSU. Emotions ran high. And there is evidence that politicians from all sides used the occasion to instigate violent attacks against their opponents constituencies. There have been rapes, forced circumcision and forced female genital mutilation. The western media has been quick to describe these as ‘ethnic clashes’ – but then they appear only to be able to see tribes whenever there are conflicts in Africa. What is ignored by them is that the security forces have been responsible for the majority of killings.

What we have in Kenya is a political crisis that could, descend into civil war if the political crisis is not resolved soon. And therein lies the problem.

There is no coherent political direction from the ODM. First Raila Odinga declares he’s the ‘people’s president’ (shades of Blair’s ‘people’s princess’ speech – the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce, some might say – and says he is going to arrange to be inaugurated. What happened?

Then he says that he is not willing to meet with Kibaki, then says he will meet provided there is an international mediator. He says he will form his own government, and then takes that no further.

Then he calls for a million person march into Nairobi, and when faced with a banning order and massive police attacks, backs down and calls for another demonstration the following day.

But what is this demonstration seeking to achieve? Such events are usually a means of showing the size of popular support: but ODM has already demonstrated its popular support in the stolen elections. There are no coherent political demands for this event that would bring the support of the many who, though they may not have voted for ODM, would feel that they would nevertheless want to express their support. There is no real strategy for enabling PNU’s own political base to be won over.

The election results were rigged, sure. But the failure to demand that an independent judicial inquiry be established to investigate only leads to suspicions that even the ODM were not keen to have the results investigated. It is now probably too late to conduct a satisfactory investigation since original records may have been tampered with – which might explain the Attorney General’s sudden willingness announced today to allow the ECK records to be inspected without recourse to use of the courts.

The mass demonstrations could have been used to call for such an investigation and to protest against the media ban imposed by Kibaki and to challenge constitutionality of the ban. Instead, it served no purpose other than what some see as an infantile response to the theft of the elections.

Why has there been no public appeal to the armed forces and police – whose families have no doubt suffered in the violent upheavals – to refuse to fire on citizens, or to defend and protect citizens from the violence that has been unleashe?. Kibaki can retain power only through the use of force – and so long as the armed forces and the police remain loyal, he will be able to retain his hold on power.

ODM has failed to challenge the existing government by encouraging all sections of society to create a viable alternative to the present government.

But the real tragedy of Kenya is that the political conflict is not about alternative political programmes that could address the long standing grievances of the majority over landlessness, low wages, unemployment, lack of shelter, inadequate incomes, homelessness, etc. It is not about such heady aspirations.

No, it boils down to a fight over who has access to the honey pot that is the state. For those in control of the state machinery are free to fill their pockets. So the battle lines are reduced to which group of people are going to be chosen to fill their pockets – and citizens are left to decide perhaps that a few crumbs might fall off the table in their direction.

And the electorate – the mass of citizens who have borne the brunt of the recent violence and decades of prolonged disenfranchisement from accessing the fruits of independence – are reduced to being just being fodder for the pigs fighting over the trough.

The Kibaki regime seems unlikely to concede any space – for to do so would confirm the suspicions of election theft. And the longer that the current impasse continues, the more likely it is that people will seek to vent their anger and frustration in senseless violence – energy that could so easily be turned towards organising to building a new world.

So what is going to be the way forward? Will there be an independent inquiry into the election results? Into the violence that has taken place? Will the contending parties agree to the formation of an interim government that would oversee the re-run of the elections?

Whatever happens, the present crisis has demonstrated that there is a serious lack of any formations that can articulate a coherent political programme for social transformation. Politics will remain forever about who gets access to the trough so long as there is no alternative.

This issue of Pambazuka News is dedicated to those who have paid with their lives in this period of crisis.

* Firoze Manji is co-editor of Pambazuka News and executive director of Fahamu.

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at
Kenya is entering a protracted crisis. No one really knows who actually won the presidential elections. Given the overwhelming number of parliamentary seats won by the ODM and the dismissal of some 20 former ministers who lost their seats, it seems likely that the presidential results probably followed suit. But it is no longer really a matter of who won or lost. For one thing is certain: it is the Kenyan people who have lost in these elections.

Drama of the popular struggle for democracy in Kenya

Horace Campbell


National elections were held in Kenya on December 27, 2007; the results of the Presidential election were announced three days later. Within minutes of the announcement that Mwai Kibaki had emerged as the winner, there were spontaneous acts of opposition to the government in all parts of the country. The opposition was especially intense among the jobless youths who had voted overwhelmingly for change. A ruling clique that had stolen billions of dollars in a period of five years had stolen the elections. This was the verdict of the poor. However, this verdict was obscured by ethnic alienation and the constant refrain by local and foreign intellectuals that the crisis and killings emanated from deep ‘tribal’ hostilities. This tribal narrative was intensified after the burning and killings of innocent civilians in a church, in Eldoret, in the Rift Valley region of Kenya. But while these killings had all of the hallmarks of the genocidal violence of Rwanda and Burundi, more importantly, they heightened the need for Kenyan society to step back from the brink of all out war. Violence and killings provided a feedback loop that threatened to engulf even the political leaders of the society.

This analysis argues that the calls for peace and reconciliation by the political and religious leaders will remain hollow until there are efforts to break from the recursive processes of looting, extra judicial killings, rape and violation of women, and general low respect for African lives.

This short commentary on the elections and the aftermath seeks to introduce a unified emancipatory approach: liberating humanity from the mechanical, competitive, and individualistic constraints of western philosophy, and re-unifying Kenyans with each other, the Earth, and spirituality. This analysis draws from fractal theory and seeks to place Africans as human beings at the center of the analysis. Fractal theory is founded on aspects of the African knowledge system and breaks the old tribal narratives that refer to Africans as sub humans needing Civilization, Christianity and Commerce.
Those who condemn the post-election violence in Kenya have failed to condemn the traditions of killings and economic terrorism in Kenya. It should be stated clearly that using African women as guinea pigs for western pharmaceuticals is just as outrageous as burning innocent women and children in churches. Rape and violation of women, and exploitation of the poor and of jobless youth have been overlooked by the commentators who focus on one component of the matrix of exploitation in Kenya -- ethnicity.

In tandem with much of the current discourse on fractal theory, this commentary is addressed to progressive intellectuals from Kenya and calls for a revolutionary paradigmatic transformation- one that is intrinsic to African knowledge systems and can be witnessed in practice in the everyday activities of African life. Revolutionary transformations are necessary to break from the processes that have been unleashed in Kenya and East Africa since British colonialism and the British Gulag. This break requires revolutionary ideas in Kenya, along with revolutionary leaders and new forms of political organization. Thus far, neo-liberal capitalism and neo-liberal democratic organizations, along with the focus on party organization have created leaders who organize for political power. These leaders are not even concerned about forming lasting political parties. Far more profound transformations are required in Kenya, beyond the winning of elections. However, until new ideas and new leaders emerge, the current struggles will serve to educate the poor on the limitations of the old politics and ethnic alliances that privilege sections of the Kenyan capitalist class.

The analysis is presented as a drama of three acts. The first act was played out in the form of the election campaign. The second act involved the drama after the announcement of the results and the violent reactions from all sections of the society. The third act of this drama continues to unfold with the call for a fractal analysis that will place revolutionary transformation as the central question on the political agenda in Kenya and East Africa.

Act One – The Struggles over the election and the campaign for the Presidency.

The Scene: Kenya had been the epi- center of imperial domination in East Africa from the period of British colonialism. Caroline Elkins in the book, Britain’s Gulag, has documented for posterity the extreme violence and murders bequeathed to the Kenyan political culture by the British government. At independence in December 1963, Britain handed over power to people who, in essence, agreed to act as junior partners with British capitalism in Eastern and Central Africa. This partnership included an acceptance by the ruling class in Kenya of the western European forms of land ownership that stated that Africans had to be modernized from their “tribal” and “backward” ways. For forty years, Kenya was presented as a success story where a parasitic middle class and a thriving Nairobi Stock Exchange (composed of foreign capital) sought to prove that capitalism could take root in Africa.

Act 1 Scene Two of this drama took the form of a campaign for the tenth Parliament of Kenya. The drama of the struggle for change in Kenya was played out before the world in the form of an electoral struggle that gripped the society for many months. At the end of Scene Two one of the principal props of this drama – the local media - reported that the results were like a “blood bath.” The headline screamed “ energized voters sweep out Vice President, Cabinet Ministers and seasoned politicians as wind of change blows across the country.” But the newspapers were not yet aware of the implications of using language like “blood bath” in their headlines. Every one awaited the final results of the news of who would be President. The results were being delayed while the votes were being cooked. As news of the parliamentary routing of the incumbent President and his allies in the Party of National Unity (PNU) splashed on the streets, on the screens and on text messages while the principal actors and actresses of the drama, the people of Kenya, sought spontaneous actions to ensure that they were not silenced by the power brokers who had placed themselves at the head of the movement for change. These central actors and actresses (wananchi) had enthusiastically participated in the election campaign articulating their demand for peace, reconstruction and transformation of Kenyan society.

By the time of the third scene of this drama, those from the den of thieves around the incumbent Mwai Kibaki sought to silence the media. In order for this scene to be played out without an audience, international observers and the media (both national and international) were ejected from Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) election center at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre. The Chairperson of the ECK went to a small room and announced the results of the elections naming Mwai Kibaki as the winner of the election. Three days later, the same chairperson of the ECK said in the media that he was not sure if Kibaki won the elections.

Earlier in the drama Raila Odinga’s team of regional barons and aspiring capitalists argued that the true results of the elections showed that Raila Odinga had been chosen by the majority of the main players to be the leading man on the Kenyan stage. How was it possible for his Movement to win over one hundred seats in the Parliament (when Kibaki’s den of thieves had won less than thirty parliamentary seats) and still lose the Presidency? Local and foreign observers cried foul. The elections had been rigged. Ballot boxes had been stuffed. Results were being announced that did not correspond to the votes from the constituencies. The integrity of the process was flawed. These voices were soon drowned out by the might and power of those with strategic control over the military and media sections of the performance. Neo-liberal politics include rigging, so that the international observers used ‘measured’ language of “irregularities,” “anomalies” and “weighty issues” to conceal the reality of outright theft. Raila Odinga termed the process a “civilian coup.” But international capital became confused, because, after all the precedent of election rigging in Florida,U.S.A in 2000 had given the green light to electoral fraud internationally.

The Swearing in of President Kibaki

Act One Scene Three of this drama was performed within the guarded confines of State House where parastatal executives, mostly defeated cabinet members and a small section of the media were invited. In this scene, Mwai Kibaki was sworn in as the Third President of the Republic of Kenya. The stage and setting of this scene was markedly different from the previous swearing in at the Uhuru Park (in Nairobi) where an enthusiastic audience had cheered on the President on December 30, 2002. The 2007 swearing in scene had to be played out without the audience because the principal actors and actresses did not endorse this new act. Minutes after the announcement of the victory of Kibaki, there were spontaneous demonstrations all over the country, especially the urban areas. Popular outrage at the theft of the elections brought violence and the killings of innocent civilians in Kakamega, Kisumu, Mombassa, Nairobi, Nakuru and other centers. The police killed innocent demonstrators as the foreign media portrayed the demonstrations in ethnic terms. The gendered, class and ethnic dimensions of the opposition to Kibaki began to be played out in the poor communities that were called slums, but the media focused on one dimension, the ethnic alienation of the poor and exploited.

Hundreds of dead brought home the reality that the elections and vote counting were simply one site of struggle in the quest to break the old politics of exploitation and dehumanization in Kenya. However, because so much of the old politics of exploitation had been masked by the politicization of ethnicity, poor members of the Kikuyu nationality were targeted in some communities, with the killings in Eldoret bringing home the long traditions of ethnic cleaning that had been going on in this region during the Moi regime. The same media neglected to report that poor Kalenjin also torched the home of former President Arap Moi.

Would there be a break from this recursive process of killing of the poor?
Odinga and members of the Pentagon condemned the killings of members of a particular ethnic group but the anger was too deep for the youths to listen. Unfortunately, the ODM did not have structures to properly mobilize the youths away from looting.

Raila Odinga and the Orange Democratic Movement

In order to avert the possible war that could emanate from this new act of the drama there was the need for fresh if not revolutionary ideas to harness the pent up energies of the people for change. The radicalization of Kenyan politics had merged with the anti- globalization forces internationally to the point where in 2007 Kenya hosted the World Social Forum. The radical demands of the Bamako appeal of the Africa Social Forum (for profound social, economic and gender transformations in Africa) could not be carried forward by the old Non Governmental Organization elements allied with international NGO’s from Western Europe. What the World Social Forum had demonstrated was the reality that new revolutionary ideas with new revolutionary forms of organization were needed to realize the goals and aspirations and appeal of the Africa social forum. Raila Odinga and his group of regional ethnic barons had tapped into the radical sentiments of the youth all across the ethnic divisions. Calling his team, the Pentagon, Odinga mobilized the popular discourses about youth, women and disabled to speak about ‘poverty eradication’ and “corruption.”

Absent from the platform of the Orange Democratic Movement was a clear program for reconstruction and transformation. Raila Odinga had been a major political actor on the Kenyan stage for four decades. He had participated in every major political party and formation since his father, Odinga Odinga had emerged as the opponent of the Kenyan form of neo-colonialism. The 2007 elections exposed the reality that there were no real political parties in Kenya. Leaders on all sides were not interested in building a lasting movement for change. They were interested in parties as electoral vehicles to capture state power. There were more than 300 parties registered in Kenya and over 117 participated in the elections in December 2007.

Local and international writers who earlier had been voices for the poor enthusiastically supported the enactment of the first scene of the drama (the election and voting). Some of these writers moaned and groaned that the script had been changed when those who controlled the state machinery unleashed violence against the poor. In order to unleash state violence against the poor, the Minister of Internal Affairs banned the broadcast of live images. The state also toyed with the idea of banning SMS messaging in Kenya. But
Kenyans simply tuned in to the international media to confirm what they knew, that the recursive processes of killings and revenge were spiraling out of control.

Without enacting an official state of emergency (in the fear of further hurting the tourist industry) the majority of poor Kenyans lived under curfew-like conditions as the military, the police, and General Service Units were deployed all over the country and new forms of censorship were implemented. The political leadership that stole the elections had to be careful with the use of the police, military and the intelligence services in so far as the divisions within the security forces challenged the authority of those who stole the elections. Raila Odinga sought to tap into this division of the coercive forces by calling a demonstration of a million Kenyans to oppose the stolen election results.

The International media and international capital

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and other cultural voices of imperial power were from the outset one of the props of this drama. The British were particularly active because the interests of British capitalism were very much an important part of narrative of the drama. During Act 1 scenes two and three, this foreign prop had been condemning the “irregularities’” and “anomalies” of the drama and carried the press statements of the International Observers of the European Union and the Commonwealth. The head of the European Union observer mission issued a statement declaring that, “the Presidential poll lacks credibility and an independent audit should be instituted to rectify things.”

This clear statement led the US government to reverse its earlier recognition of Mwai Kibaki as the winner of the Presidential elections. There had been concern in Washington over the future of Kenya in so far as the US authorities sought to mobilize Kenyans in the war against terrorism. During the period of Kibaki, Kenyan citizens were shipped out of the country to be tried as terrorists under the US policy of kidnapping, called rendition. The ODM signed a memorandum of understanding with the Islamic community during the election campaign and members of the ODM condemned the rendering of Kenyan citizens by the government. It was argued that if these citizens acted contrary to Kenyan law, they should be tried under Kenyan law.

The propaganda war had been virulent and since Raila Odinga held the moral and political high ground, sections of the international media began to retreat from endorsement of the electoral coup. However, the occupation of the moral high ground was shaky. Would the government and opposition be more concerned with the lives of the poor than with political power?

In the face of the absence of resolute moral leadership to condemn these killings, the international media had a field day portraying the struggles for democracy in Kenya as primitive “tribal” violence.

Act Two – Stalemate and brinkmanship in politics

Raila Odinga and his team called the Pentagon had entered the drama seeking to play on the terms of those who had seized power from the time of colonialism. The very naming of his team as the ‘Pentagon’ had shown an insensitivity to the international revulsion against military symbols. The five leaders of the Pentagon were, (i) Vice Presidential running mate M Mudavadi, (ii) Charity Ngilu, (iii) William Ruto, (iv) Bilal Najib and (v) Joseph Nyagah. These regional ethnic barons had emerged from multiple political formations and many had family and business linkages with capitalists inside and outside of the government. During the campaign these regional leaders had campaigned on a pledge to devolve power from central government. The poor believed this would bring power closer to the village and communities so that health care facilities, water supply systems, road and pathways in the villages, education, sanitation and other services could be delivered so that the conditions of exploitation are ameliorated. These localized services were interpreted by various local communities as job creation avenues for the jobless youths. For the regional barons, the devolution debate was carried out to ensure easier access to the treasury. The word ‘majimbo’ re- emerged in the political vocabulary of Kenya to reignite the memory of the alliance between the ‘home guards’ and settlers at the dawn of independence.

Youths all across Kenya had transcended the ethnic identification and wanted real change in the quality of life in the society.

Entering the drama without a real party and without a real organ to bring the majority of the actors and actresses to the center of the drama, it was easy for the team around Mwai Kibaki to stall so that the spontaneous anger would peter out. Would the Orange Democratic Revolution learn the lessons of popular power in the streets of the Ukraine Orange Revolution and shake the old power with new bases of alternative power? This provided the setting for the central aspect of the drama, the stand off between the forces of orange and the forces of the defeated power. Kibaki came across as an imprisoned leader, surrounded by politicians and financiers who argued that Kibaki must enter any negotiation from a position of strength. Odinga countered that negotiations could only begin when Kibaki accepted that the elections had been stolen. The hardening of positions ratcheted up the tensions in the country as regionally countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and the Southern Sudan began to feel the effects of the shutdown of the transportation system in Kenya.

Mwai Kibaki and the neo-liberal regime in Kenya

Mwai Kibaki had been associated with the ruling class in Kenya for over fifty years. Starting his career as a representative of Shell Oil Company in Kampala, Uganda, Kibaki moved from an academic position at Makerere University to the top echelons of the independent government of Kenya after independence. In the book, The Reds and the Blacks, William Atwood, then-US ambassador, had identified Kibaki as one of the steady ‘reformers” who would guarantee the interests of foreign capital. Kibaki emerged as a stable force in the ruling circles serving both Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Arap Moi as Minister of Finance. It was under the leadership of Kenyatta and Moi that the forms of theft by the ruling elements in Kenya were refined. Extra judicial killings and accidental deaths of prominent trade union leaders and politicians were papered over by the foreign press that labeled Kenya a ‘stable’ democracy.

Arap Moi and international capital.

After the death of Kenyatta in 1978, Daniel Arap Moi moved decisively to cement an alliance of foreign capitalists and local political careerists to loot the society and spread divisions and ethnic hatred among the poor and oppressed. British capitalism had been the dominant force in Kenya with British companies such as Unilever, Finlays, GSK, Vodafone, Barclays and Standard Bank becoming leading names on the Nairobi Stock Exchange. Britain had made a deal with the independence leaders and awarded a small sum to enhance this new class of African yeoman farmers to join the British settlers in the exploitation of Kenya and indeed, East Africa. Molo, in the Rift Valley (one of the constituencies at the center of the row over the rigged elections), represented one of the places where Kikuyu settlers had been relocated after independence.

Moi during his Presidency remained at the center of the alliance between British capitalists, Asian capitalists and Kikuyu entrepreneurs from Central Province. By the time of the electoral defeat of Moi in December 2002, the Moi family and cronies in the ruling party, Kenya African National Union (KANU) had become junior capitalists in the game of exploitation. It was under the leadership of Moi that imperialism used Kenya as a base to subvert African independence. A report commissioned by the Kibaki administration, (called the Kroll Report), had named Moi and his sons as billionaires with assets in banks in Britain, Switzerland, South Africa, Namibia, the Cayman Islands and Brunei. The 110-page report by the international risk consultancy Kroll alleged that relatives and associates of former President Moi siphoned off more than £1bn of government money. This documentation placed the Mois on a par with Africa's other great politicians-cum-looters such as Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and Nigeria's Sani Abacha. The Kroll report of the levels of theft when presented to the Kibaki government was never acted on. The alliance between Moi and Kibaki forces became clearer during the election campaign when Moi and his sons fiercely campaigned for the re –election of President Kibaki. The sons of Moi were decisively defeated in the elections.

The documentation of the level of theft by Moi was exposed before the public in what to became known as the Goldenberg scandal. This scandal brought to the fore the alliance between Moi, KANU and Asian capitalists in Kenya. These capitalists had looted the country with such impunity that Kamlesh Mdami Pattni (an Asian capitalist named in the Goldenberg scandal) took over one party Kenda to contest the 2007 elections.

Prior to the 1992 multi-party struggles, Kibaki had sought to distance himself from this group of capitalists. These were the capitalists involved in settler agriculture, manufacturing, transport, services, old forms of banking, insurance, real estate, construction and engineering and the health and education sectors. These capitalists from inside and outside the political arena provided cover for looters all across Eastern Africa. In the Kenyan economy money from oil in the Sudan (especially Southern Sudan), commercial interests in Somalia, gold and diamond dealers from Rwanda, Burundi and the Eastern Congo circulated with the resources from the exploited Kenyan working poor so that in the past ten years there has been a growth of the Kenyan economy. Felicia Kabunga, wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda (ICRT) for crimes of genocide in Rwanda was the kind of looter and money spinner who found safe haven among the money launderers in Kenya.

Kibaki and the rise of new capitalists.

Although Mwai Kbaki had campaigned on an anti-corruption ticket in 2002, his tenure as President of Kenya was marked by an explosion of new schemes for accumulation. The rise of the telecommunications, information technology and banking sectors boomed with new enterprises such as Equity Bank and a number of communications companies (Safaricom, Flashcom, Telecom etc) rivaling the old capitalists. The floating of new shares n the form on an Initial Public Offer (IPO) for the Company, Safarcom, became a central question in the election campaign in so far as those who got access to the shares at the time of the issuing of the IPO became instant millionaires.

The Kibaki government was in the main dominated by elements who formed a company called MEGA (a regrouping of the old Gema Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association), and through Transcentury Corporation had elevated themselves to be the among the leading capitalists in Kenya. This group presented a program called Vision 2030 where Kenya would become the leading capitalist country in Africa, becoming the Singapore of Africa. Control of the governmental apparatus was crucial for Vision 2030.

Space does not allow for an elaboration of the individuals of this capitalist clique and their place in the interpenetrating directorates of the Nairobi Stock Exchange. What is significant is that the names of the capitalists and politicians of Trancentury figured in the scandal of corruption that rocked the government of Mai Kibaki. This was termed the Anglo-leasing scandal which involved awarding huge government contracts to bogus companies. One insider, John Githongo, exposed the scandal and repaired to Britain.

No money from the Anglo leasing scandal had been recovered before the elections and although European and US governments made noises about corruption there were no moves to repatriate the stolen wealth back to Kenya. These scandals were very much a part of the election campaign. Three of the four ministers who resigned after the Anglo Leasing scandal was exposed had been reinstated by Kibaki. These ministers along with twenty other ministers lost their parliamentary seats in the December 2007 elections.
The poor of Kenya had used the ballot to send a message to the capitalists in Kenya but those who stole billions of dollars from the Kenyan Treasury were not above stealing an election.

The real test in Kenyan politics was whether the team called the Pentagon was serious about changing the political culture of theft, looting and storing billions of dollars in foreign banks. The people of Kenya had voted for change. Was the Orange Democratic Movement a movement for change or a movement for political power? This was the outstanding question as the cast and the writers got ready for Act three of the drama of the struggle for democracy.

Act 3. A Revolutionary situation without revolutionary ideas and real revolutionaries.

Because the drama is being played out it is not possible to make a presentation of the last act of this drama. This is the act where the peoples of Kenya are torn between two traditions. These are the traditions of the freedom fighters for independence and the traditions of violence, looting and the low respect for African life. The youths of Kenya have been brought up in the period of the aftermath of the end of apartheid and the defeat of Mobutism. These youths have risen above the politicization of ethnicity and along with progressive women want to end the rape and violation of women. These youths have been heard to say that Kenya is in the midst of a liberation war.

While the consciousness of the youth may be high with the thought of a long term struggle, there are very few revolutionary leaders and a poverty of revolutionary ideas in Kenya. If anything, the poorer youths are being mobilized into counter-revolutionary violence where poor and oppressed people burn and kill each other. This was the lesson of the killings, burning and massacre in the Rift Valley. Counter-revolutionary violence of the Rwanda genocidal form lay just below the surface and the same politicians who gave refuge to genocidaires from Rwanda are not above fomenting genocidal violence among the poor. The media images of marauding youths with pangas provide the necessary imagery to represent to the world another version of African savagery. This same media will not prominently carry the news that poor peasants from the home area of Danieal Arap Moi burnt his house to the ground. The prospect of real class warfare in Kenya frightens both the government and the opposition so there is a delicate effort to manage the crisis so that the forms of capital accumulation can return to the business pages rather than the front pages.

Raila Odinga and the Orange Democratic movement are now caught between the aspirations of the regional capitalists of the ‘Pentagon’ and the demand for real change across Kenya. The post election mayhem is a clear demonstration that the ODM did not sufficiently engage their followers on new ideas transcending ethnicity and patriarchy. This demand for democratic change in Kenya will require new forms of organization beyond electoral politics and new ideas about the value of African lives. This requires a break with the European ideation systems that promote capitalism as democracy and genocide as progress.

* Horace Campbell is Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at
This analysis by Horace Campbell argues that the calls for peace and reconciliation by the political and religious leaders will remain hollow until there are efforts to break from the recursive processes of looting, extra judicial killings, rape and violation of women, and general low respect for African lives. The analysis is presented as a drama of three acts.

Kibaki must back down

Victoria Brittain


Desmond Tutu was absolutely right to fly into Kenya and throw his moral authority behind efforts to resolve the dramatic crisis that other outsiders are misjudging so badly. British foreign secretary David Miliband, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, secretary general of the Commonwealth Don McKinnon and President John Kufuor of Ghana, president of the African Union (AU), all missed the chance to denounce the rapid swearing-in of a man who did not win the presidential election.

This lit the touchpaper for the appalling violence of the last few days. All of these powerful people knew from the European and other observers on the ground how grotesque and open was the ballot rigging which allowed Mwai Kibaki to claim victory. The parliamentary elections in which President Kibaki's party was trounced, getting a mere one third of the seats obtained by Raila Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), and with 20 cabinet ministers losing their seats, underlined the true balance of democratic forces in the country.

Tutu knows mass anger as a response to political humiliation. Kenyans in the street will listen to him as South Africans did, and still do when he speaks fearlessly to the powerful at home as well as abroad. Perhaps Kibaki, who has rebuffed the overtures from the AU and insists that Kenya's problem is an internal one, will meet the Archbishop. If so, he will hear hard truths, but also, perhaps, a face-saving way to step back from the folly encouraged by his close advisers who dared not face his defeat and the political reckoning that would come with it.

It is a myth that Kenya has been a haven of stability in East Africa for decades, just as it was a myth that Ivory Coast was in the west - until it exploded. Kenya has been a key strategic ally for the west since independence, and the kleptocratic and repressive governments of Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki have been supported unconditionally for that reason.

Since the launch of the "war on terror" in late 2001, the importance of Kenya to the Americans has increased even further. The west chose not to see a country where more than half the population of 31 million live on $2 a day, where unemployment is rising, landlessness is chronic and increasing. The tourist paradise for European holidaymakers had become a bitter, lawless and cynical place for its own citizens.

Raila Odinga made a political alliance with Kibaki in 2002, calculating that together they could attack corruption, bring down an elite which had been above the law for too long, and give ordinary Kenyans the modest prosperity that had eluded too many of them since independence. (Kibaki too had been in the wilderness during the Moi years.)

But Kibaki was captured by the old elite once he came into power, and since 2005 Odinga has built a new nationalist alliance across the country, which owes as much to his own drive, as to the old magic of his father's name - Oginga Odinga. In the years after independence, when Kenyatta became a key British ally and froze Odinga out, as a socialist, and as a Luo from the poor west of Kenya, Odinga's was the name with which the Kenyan masses most identified. In the 21st century the freeze won't work on the son. The election has to be rerun with a credible independent electoral commission. Odinga's offer of negotiations under international auspices must be accepted by Kibaki.

*Victoria Brittain, a former associate foreign editor of the Guardian, is a journalist and a research associate at the London School of Economics.

*Please send comments to editor@pambazuka or comment online at
Victoria Brittain writes that Kenya has sworn in a president who wasn't elected with little protest from the west. The flawed poll has to be rerun if the violence is to end.

No justice, no peace!

Onyango Oloo


Onyango Oloo Dissects The Wrong-Headed "SAVE OUR COUNTRY" Media Blitz

During my 18 year sojourn in Ontario and Quebec, I became quite immersed in a wide array of social justice struggles-from Indigenous People’s rights, anti-globalization, working class struggles, anti-apartheid to anti-racist movements.

The Canadian anti-racist movement, while different and autonomous from its sister movement south of the 49th Parallel, has been inspired by the African-American led struggles for civil, social, economic, cultural and political rights.

Icons like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, Ben Chavis, Jesse Jackson Jr., Fredrick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Angela Davis, George Jackson, Huey P. Newton are household names in the African-Canadian, Caribbean Canadian and Native Canadian communities.

As many of us know, one of the most ubiquitous rallying cries and chants during anti-racist rallies, protests and demonstrations is the slogan, “No Justice, No Peace!”

I remember the summer of 1989 being amidst angry protestors around the Queen’s Park subway in Toronto, making our way up the street to the Royal Ontario Museum chanting these and other slogans to vent our ire about a racist exhibition at that Museum which really demeaned continental Africans and people of African descent in general.

To some, the phrase, “No Justice, No Peace!” is just another tired slogan, to be grouped with “A People United, Shall Never Be Defeated!” or “An Injury To One Is An Injury to All”.

These cynics are of course obtuse, because they do not appreciate the blood, the sacrifice and the torture which infused the historical origins of those chants. The second phrase emanated from the anti-imperialist and anti-fascist struggles of Latin American women and men confronting the US backed dictatorships of Central and South America. The third slogan is from South Africa where the militant workers in that struggle-soaked nation were right at the frontlines of the South African national liberation movement.

This morning I want to talk about “No Justice, No Peace!” in the contest of the ongoing social and political turmoil in Kenya.

And I am doing it because I have been reeling with DISGUST, recoiling in horror at a new campaign for “Peace” launched primarily by Kenya’s media houses, principally the Nation Media Group, the Standard Group and the folks who run Kiss 100 FM and the Nairobi Star.

Now to be fair to people like Julie Gichuru at NTV and the KTN anchors, they appear sincere and earnest enough. It is good intentions all through.

At least at the surface level.

When you do scratch beneath that surface however, you are confronted with something else- a blatant attempt to restore social control and buttress the class domination of the comprador and petit bourgeoisie in Kenya.

Please stay with me if you are temporarily befuddled.

Most Kenyans know that the spontaneous anti-government insurrections were sparked off by the decision of the Electoral Commission of Kenya to steal the Presidential vote at the behest of Mwai Kibaki and his PNU cohorts. We also realize that criminals and tribalists have hijacked these protests to loot and plunder and attack members of specific ethnic groups.

One would expect that ANYONE interested in a peaceful solution to the crisis in Kenya would begin with where “rain began to beat us” to quote Chinua Achebe for the billionth time.

One would further expect that only a transparent restitution of justice would jump start a sustainable peace and national reconciliation process.

At a minimum, there would have to be some kind of a public acknowledgment that the flawed Presidential election results must be rectified.

That seems to be the consensus in Kenya, and judging by media reports, among the publics of Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and many other African countries.

The indictment by the EU observer mission would seem to indicate that the capitals of capital have no doubt in their minds that Kibaki stole the elections.

Given the above, one would expect that a "peace process" dubbed “Save Our Country” jumpstarted last night by the main Kenyan media houses who were in the forefront of exposing the anomalies and irregularities would pay attention to the question of justice even as strove to put out all the infernos raging across Kenya.

What has happened instead?

A mealy mouthed editorial piece on peace carried simultaneously across different Nairobi media that insults the collective intelligence of Kenyans.

Sample this:

“Political leaders on both sides must be told in no uncertain terms that they are currently in great danger of losing their credibility in the eyes of Kenyans and the international community because systemic killing of the innocents sweeping Kenya, destruction of the economy and the spread of disaffection throughout the land. No grievance and no cause is worth the innocent blood of Kenyan children. The orgies of looting, burning, rape and wanton, well-orchestrated blood-letting are undermining the moral basis of the politicians’ cause…”

-Excerpt from an editorial jointly run in the Daily Nation and Nairobi Star (Thursday, January 03, 2008)


Since when did “politicians on both sides” coerce ECK to steal the Presidential vote?

The culpability rests solely with President Kibaki. From the fascist diktats of Michuki, Muthaura, Murage and Co. we know that the ODM leadership has NOT had a chance to publicly address their followers and therefore cannot be accused of “orchestrating” or “instigating” anything.

Yes, the blood of innocents is flowing freely with mobs setting alight a church full of women and children and targeting innocent wananchi based on their ethnicity and regional origins.

But who is talking about the orgy of POLICE and PARA-MILITARY EXTRA-JUDICIAL EXECUTIONS?

By yesterday, there were over ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY BULLET RIDDLED BODIES in the New Nyanza Hospital including corpses of INFANTS. Who shot to death those innocent unarmed civilians? The police have been executing ghetto youth in Kibera, Kawangware and elsewhere. Who employs and commands these killers in uniform?

Reports from Kisumu insist that the Kibaki regime may be using crack NRA troops from neighbouring Uganda to slaughter Kenyan citizens. When I first raised this issue online twenty four hours ago, some were quick to dismiss the very possibility. Today the Nyanza Provincial Police Officer is on the defensive, admitting she is aware of these widespread allegations even as she strenuously denies them.

In this regard I must state that I was somewhat disappointed by the public statement released yesterday by Kenyan Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai.

While I commend her for speaking up and appealing to Kibaki to take charge, I am disappointed that what motivated her was not so much the reality that the whole of Kenya is burning but rather that “her people”, the Central Kenyan communities were being targeted. Surely one can make a very strong case that the Luo communities residing in Kisumu, Migori, Homa Bay and elsewhere are being similarly targeted, this time by THE STATE itself.

In fact, in the letters to editors page of the Standard there is this letter from a Kisumu resident of South Asian heritage which says, inter alia:

“…The recent riots are not Kisumu riots. Even the killings are State-operated to gain political mileage to discredit ODM’s Raila Odinga and his supporters.”

-Mahesh R, Kisumu, p.8. Letter, The Standard, Thursday, January 03, 2008

Raila Odinga has publicly stated that he is ready to meet with international mediator and in fact as I write these lines is meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu at Pentagon House. Earlier this morning Amos Kimunya was interviewed by the BBC and he was quoted as saying that the Kibaki regime does NOT see the need for international mediators because they (PNU) can deal with the matter internally- a claim which is mocked by the ongoing protests. The same Kimunya has accused the international observers as being biased towards ODM after the EU team publicly denounced the anomalies in the tallying of the presidential results. President Kufuor of Ghana, the current AU Chairman was scheduled to be in Kenya today, but the Kibaki regime BLOCKED his coming.

Are these guys SERIOUS???!

Let us go back to the editorials. This is a passage from the Standard’s:

“…Employ a reputable international arbiter, NOT to determine who won the presidential poll, but to work out a road-map that will bring Kenya back from the brink and a mutually acceptable proposition for sharing power…Notwithstanding the inflation of figures in a number of areas, both ODM and PNU garnered 4 million plus votes in the presidential ballot, meaning the country is split right down the middle. The position of President is not vacant. Kibaki was declared President whether or not the presidential ballot was flawed…”

-Standard editorial, Thursday, January 03, 2008

It is right in this excerpt that the mask slips to reveal the PNU underbelly of the much ballyhooed “Save Our Country” onslaught.


So we should not “determine who won the presidential poll” eh? How then, dear Standard editors, will we work out a road-map that will bring back Kenya from the brink?

Even queasier is the cheesy full page ad by the Concerned Citizens for Peace addressing two men-Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga- to do something.

The very content of the ad betrays its elitist, undemocratic character.

The 2007 Kenyan civic, parliamentary and presidential polls was a national affair involving MILLIONS of Kenyan citizens. What is happening in Kenya is NOT a PRIVATE FIST FIGHT involving the Othaya and Lang’ata MPs, but rather a NATIONAL CRISIS that has the future of MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS of Kenyan women, children and men at stake.

To try and lock out the Kenyan people from an urgent democratic impasse and reduce it to a two man tussle is a grave insult to the Kenyan people.

By the way, WHERE is President Kibaki, the apparently “popularly, democratically and fairly elected leader”?

From the look of things right now one would be forgiven if they thought that Major-General Hussein Ali is the acting Head of State with chief government propagandist Dr. Alfred Mutua as his deputy.

In the few times I have seen Kibaki he is holed up at State House flanked with senior military officers giving the distinct impression that he is their hostage.

It is now approximately 12:15 as I keyboard these lines and reports on the television indicate that there are ongoing skirmishes between the police and pro-ODM youths along Thika Road, Mbagathi Way, Kibera, Eastlands and the City Centre. In other words, there is a minor uprising in Nairobi and not just the capital but also Kakamega, Bungoma, Mombasa, Kisumu and elsewhere.

On December 30th I spoke about Kibaki’s Coup.

Four days later the presence of police, para-military and military formations underscores my point about the overthrow of democratic rule.

What is actually laughable is the phenomenon of a horde of PNU election losers led by Kibaki down to his deputy Awori and FORMER cabinet ministers Tuju, Kombo, Kituyi, Shakombo etc MASQUERADING as a legitimate “government”.

Surely, if Kibaki had the mandate that PNU hawks like George Nyamweya claims he has, he should have formed a government by now. He should have by now been addressing his 4.5 million supporters at heavily attended mass rallies by now. Instead, Kibaki skulks stealthily in State House afraid to meet the very Kenyan citizens he claims to lead.

Which brings me back to the slogan:

“No Justice, No Peace!!”

Until we resolve the simple question of who Kenyans actually elected President on December 27, 2007, there WILL BE NO PEACE.

In my considered opinion, the SAVE OUR COUNTRY campaign is a slick, dishonest appeal by the pro-Kibaki comprador and petit-bourgeois business elite hoodwinking Kenyans to ACCEPT the fraudulent election results and legitimize criminal PNU’s civilian coup.

Why should Kibaki or Raila share power?

At the December 27th elections, Kenyans overwhelming voted for a new government:

That government is the Orange Democratic Movement led by its flag bearer, Raila Amolo Odinga.

Once again I say:




*Onyango Oloo, a Kenyan political activist and ex political prisoner.

*Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at
Onyango Oloo dissects the "save our country" media blitz ad argues that behind the non-partisanship approach might actually be making a case for a Mwai Kibaki presidency.

Comment & analysis

Call For Urgent Resolution of Kenya Electoral Crisis


We the undersigned call on the ODM and PNU leaders to urgently seek a resolution to the current electoral crisis in the country and restore peace and harmony in the country through leadership.

We express our concern at the deteriorating situation in Kenya following what has been widely acknowledged as an impressive election turn-out. We commend the Kenyan people for their dignity and courage but also express our condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives and to the many who have been injured in the course of needless violence over the last few days. This is a time for Kenyans to be patient, dignified and to look for solutions that are in the best interest of the majority.

We regret the chaos which has caused loss of life, destruction of property and general unrest in the country. The contested outcome has marred the prospects of democracy and peace not only in Kenya but also in Africa. The cloud which hangs over the conclusion of one of the most fiercely-fought elections in Kenya's history is regrettable. We believe that peace should be regained as a matter of urgency so that a free and fair outcome can be reached.

We believe that this is not the time for provocative actions, but a time for demonstrating leadership through bringing the contending partners to the table. This crisis can be resolved by the players in disagreement using conciliation and arbitration mechanisms as a matter of urgency to plan a peaceful resolution of the crisis. If necessary, this could be done with the involvement of others such as
the African Union and others, such as those who acted as election observers. We urge the contending leaders to act within the spirit of democracy and seek to heal the wounds that have been opened by recent events and to do so in transparent ways.

We are aware of the betrayal that many may feel in what they consider to be an electoral injustice. We ask them to engage in the process by seeking explanation and accountability and to be guided by their own sense of civic responsibility.

We call on the PNU and ODM leaders to seek conciliation and resolution of the current crisis for the sake of the country.

We call for mechanisms for mediation and conciliation to be put in place urgently to give voice to all grievances that have arisen from the present situation in which there can be no winners, only losers. We welcome the mediation processes that have been initiated

We call for an immediate ending of violence by the security forces and all other parties. Whilst we recognize that the security forces have a role to play in maintaining peace and order, we condemn the disproportionate and excessive use of force by the security forces against unarmed civilians that has been manifest over the last few days.

We call for an independent transparent review of the whole electoral process and its outcomes so as to resolve any differences between contesting parties. This should include reviewing the results of the election and all reported irregularities, especially those related to the disparities in the tallying of the final results.

We call for a swift formation of an independent and credible Judicial Commission of Enquiry by endorsing the call by the Electoral Commissioners who have called for one.

We urge the international community to be patient pending the outcome of such a proposed review process. As it is Kenyans who have to live with the consequences of a Mwai Kibaki or Raila Odinga government, the international community can only follow the recommendations of an independent review before declaring the elections free and fair.

We call on those who wish to see a peaceful democratic Kenya, especially in the African Union, to support initiatives that can bring this crisis to a swift conclusion by facilitating dialogue and reconciliation.

We are deeply concerned by the gagging of the media, especially as this has only fueled suspicion and encouraged speculation in an already highly volatile situation. Freedom of expression has been one of our greatest democratic prizes won by Kenyans during the last few years and we cannot afford to go backwards.

We call for an immediate and unconditional lifting of the reporting ban so as to ensure that Kenyans are able to keep abreast of what is happening. We commend the Kenyan press for the work they have done to keep information flowing. It is precisely in the time of crisis that a free and independent media is essential to ensure a democracy that is based on information not speculation.

We urge the international media community to support the Kenyan press during this time and continue promoting the right for a free and independent press especially during such a period.

We call on all peace loving people to join us in calling for a swift conclusion to the crisis so that Kenya can return to normality andpeople can continue their lives without fear and anxiety.

The petition is now online at
and at the time of going to prese had nearly 800 signatures. Please sign the petition.
This petition calls on the ODM and PNU leaders to urgently seek a resolution to the current electoral crisis in the country and restore peace and harmony in the country through leadership.

Holding a nation hostage to a bankrupt political class

Paul T Zeleza


Disputed results from last week’s elections have left Kenya in deep political crisis. The opposition has refused to accept the results which have been questioned by local and international observers. Three days of violent protests have left more than 120 people dead. The battles are concentrated in opposition strongholds and shanty neighborhoods in the major cities from the coastal city of Mombasa to Nairobi the capital to Kisumu the western port city on the banks of Lake Victoria where a curfew has been imposed. Live television and radio broadcasts have been banned. While there is relief and even celebration among some supporters of the ‘victorious’ President Kibaki, the frustration and fear gripping the country is almost unprecedented in forty four years of independence. A proud country that likes to see itself as an oasis of stability in a volatile region is being held hostage by a bankrupt political class. Many Kenyans are filled with a sense of shame and anguish, as well as fortitude to salvage their country’s fortunes and future.

Lost in the electoral shenanigans and post-election turmoil has been a historic opportunity to consolidate the country’s newly minted democracy, to confirm its democratic credentials in the region and on the continent. Instead Kenya now faces a prolonged period of political uncertainty that will play itself out in unpredictable ways from the streets to parliament, severely testing the fragile fabric of public order, social cohesion, and inter-group relations, especially those structured around the complex inscriptions of ethnicity, class, gender, and generation. Some worry that Kenya might turn into East Africa’s Cote d’Ivoire, a once stable and relatively prosperous postcolony in West Africa that descended into chaos and civil war because of its failure to manage the combustible politics of democratic transition.

The opinion polls pointed to a close election. They were proved right. But only one out of 50 polls conducted in the lead up to the elections, showed President Kibaki in the lead; the rest pointed to a possible narrow win by the opposition candidate, Mr. Raila Odinga. The latter maintained his lead during the early counts of the presidential vote, but when the final results were announced by the Electoral Commission of Kenya, he trailed by 231,728 votes. President Kibaki was declared duly elected with 4,584,721 votes against Mr. Odinga’s 4,352,993 votes. Election observers expressed surprise, the opposition cried foul, riots erupted, and the country teetered on the brink of an unprecedented crisis.

What a difference five years makes. In 2002 President Kibaki was inaugurated in broad daylight before an ecstatic crowd of a million people in Jamhuri Park in Nairobi; this time he was hurriedly inaugurated in the evening less than an hour after being declared winner before a small and dour crowd of officials. The intoxicating euphoria of 2002 has given way to widespread anger and anxiety. In 2002 the masses brutalized by decades of one-party rule rediscovered their voices and will; the nation was united in its hopes for the future, believed fervently in the possibilities of productive change. Now, many feel betrayed and disempowered, robbed of their votes and voices.

Whatever the future holds for Kenya and its tortured journey from dictatorship to democracy, underdevelopment to development, the present crisis has a complicated history rooted in the political economies of colonialism, neocolonialism, and neoliberalism that have characterized Kenya over the last century. This is to suggest that the present moment, the current political crisis, is rooted in complex historical forces that go beyond the ubiquitous ‘tribalism’ beloved by the western media in discussing African politics or explaining its proverbial crises, or the excessive obsession with personalities often found in the African media itself. This is of course not to dismiss the role of ethnicity or particular leaders, it is merely to point out the need to put both in the context of broader historical forces that have propelled Kenya to this moment and might impel it out of it.

The recent Kenyan elections promised to achieve an extraordinary development: unseating an incumbent president through the ballot box after only five years in power. This would have been unprecedented in Kenyan history, and is rare in Africa where incumbents typically serve the constitutional two terms and some even try to rig their way into illicit third terms. Nicéphore Soglo of Benin is one of the rare presidents to suffer such a fate; elected in 1996 he lost the 2001 elections to the former dictator, Mathieu Kérékou. This is a tribute to the power of incumbency to win or rig elections, the inordinate advantages enjoyed by ruling parties to use the sanctions and seductions of state power.

The manipulation of electoral processes and results by ruling parties is of course not confined to Africa: remember the U.S. elections of 2000, and President Putin’s recent attempts to prolong his rule? It is not uncommon for ruling parties in many so-called mature democracies to call elections opportunistically, redraw electoral districts in their favor, or ‘bribe’ the electorate with contrived economic goodies. However, it can be argued the national costs of electoral malpractices are much higher for African (and other countries in the global South) that are struggling against the challenges of internal underdevelopment and political and cultural subordination than for the more globally hegemonic western countries.

Save for the disputed victory for the president himself, the government suffered a political tsunami as a score of cabinet ministers and the Vice-President lost their parliamentary seats. Altogether, the Party of National Unity (PNU), cobbled together only last September, under which President Kibaki run, won only 37 seats, the victorious opposition party, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), led by Mr. Raila Odinga took 100 seats, and the rest (parliament has 210 directly elected members) went to the Orange Democratic Movement-Kenya (ODM-K), the party of the third major presidential candidate, Mr. Kalonzo Musyoka, and other smaller parties.

Swept away also were power brokers of the former dictator, President Daniel arap Moi including the once feared Mr. Nicholas Biwott and the tycoon Mr. Kamlesh Pattini an infamous architect of one of Kenya’s largest corruption scandals, as well as Mr. Moi’s own ambitious three sons. In a sense, the election signified a rejection of leading politicians associated with Presidents Moi and Kibaki. While the two represent different presidential administrations, one dictatorial and the other democratic, they are associated in the popular imagination, and were painted by the opposition, as old men leading corrupt regimes. Remarkably, Mr. Moi campaigned indefatigably for his successor, to the obvious glee of the opposition.

Thus the contest between the octogerian Mr. Kibaki and the flamboyant Mr. Odinga pitted a generational struggle for power. It is one of the ironies of contemporary Africa that countries that have enjoyed political stability since independence such as Kenya, Malawi, and Senegal, are still ruled by the nationalist generation that brought independence, while the countries with more turbulent histories have long made the generational transition. In this sense, the Kenyan election was a referendum between the older and the younger generations, between the Kibaki generation in power since independence and the Odinga generation that came off age after independence.

The first Kibaki government was elected in 2002 on a strong anti-corruption platform. Impoverished and exhausted from 24 years of authoritarian and corrupt rule by the Moi administration, the country was hungry for a clean government that would bring to justice corrupt former officials and lead a transparent and accountable government capable of reviving the economy and pursuing development. The drive against Moi-era corruption scandals not only stalled, but new corruption scandals sprang up, and the new administration’s anti-corruption credentials were irreparably damaged when the government’s own anti-corruption czar, Mr. John Githongo fled to exile in the United Kingdom in 2005.

But the Kibaki administration delivered on the economy. The country’s economic growth rate jumped from 0.6% in 2002 to 6.1% in 2006. Buoyed by this robust growth, the government unveiled its ambitious Kenya Vision 2030, a development blueprint to turn Kenya into a newly industrializing “middle income country providing high quality of life for all its citizens by the year 2030." President Kibaki and his PNU run on this economic record, while the opposition claimed it could achieve even faster growth unadulterated by corruption. One sought continuity, the other promised change. In reality, there was little difference in the programs of the PNU and ODM and their contending presidential candidates.

As is often the case in such contexts, the absence of policy differences was more than made up by the personality and symbolic differences of populism in which Mr. Odinga bested the president. Mr. Odinga a millionaire businessman, who had once been a political prisoner, and most importantly, was the son of the nationalist icon and former vice-president, Mr. Oginga Odinga, campaigned vigorously in his red hammer to achieve what had eluded his father. He appealed to the youth and people from disaffected regions, while assiduously assuring domestic and foreign business interests who preferred the wealthy, elderly and gentlemanly President Kibaki that he had long shed the socialist inclinations and firebrand reputation of his younger days.

The contestation between continuity and change in the electoral contest partly reflected the glaring mismatch between growth and development, both socially and spatially, and tapped into deep yearnings for a new socioeconomic dispensation, a restless hunger for broad-based development frustrated by neo-liberal growth. Kenya’s economic recovery and growth from 2002 largely benefited the middle classes rather than the workers and peasants, the bulk of the population. Even among the middle classes, the benefits flowed unequally between those in the rapidly expanding private service sectors rather than in the retrenched and decapitalized public sectors, which has been under assault since the days of structural adjustment in the 1980s.

For many Kenyans, therefore, the economy may be doing well, but they are not. As dependency theory used to postulate in the radical 1960s and 1970s, growth is not synonymous with development; neo-liberal growth is even less likely to lead to broad-based development because people are secondary to profits, public to private good. In Kenya, as in much of Africa and indeed the wider world since the onset of neo-liberalism the gap between the rich and the poor has widened, the sense of economic insecurity has increased among large numbers of people even as their countries’ economies grow. This partly helps explain the tightness of the vote and the prospect of a government losing elections in times of rapid economic growth.

If the economic growth of recent years in Kenya stoked expectations of development, the unequal distribution of wealth thwarted those expectations and engendered popular frustration, while democracy gave a new vent to express the frustrations. Anti-corruption discourse, the widespread popular distaste against corruption was both real and rhetorical in so far it reflected disgust at actual corruption scandals and invoked deep disaffection among many Kenyans who felt left out of the rapidly growing economy, a critique of rising economic class inequalities. In the authoritarian past there was no political alternative to the one-party state, now the discontented electorate could transfer its hopes for development to the opposition, even if the investment in the opposition did not promise to yield different dividends.

But class is not a reliable predictor of political loyalties and voting behavior even in the so-called developed countries. Often far more powerful are the constructed identities of ethnicity or race. In Kenya, as elsewhere in Africa, ethnic identities have greater political salience than racial identities. This is not simply because politicians mobilize ethnicity for electoral purposes, which they do and Kenyan politicians are notoriously adept at playing the ethnic card. Rather, elections for members of parliament are local or regional political events, latched on to the national presidential election; they are spatialized performances in which both the candidates and voters are located in particular constituencies and tend to share some common identity, ethnic or otherwise.

As we await a fuller breakdown of the elections results, it is clear that many members of parliament lost elections in their constituencies to competitors from their own ethnic groups. In such cases, party allegiance, record of the incumbent, and personalities all played a role. It is mostly in the large cities with their ethnically diverse populations where ethnic consciousness could be mobilized and the ethnic card played. In such contexts party allegiance loomed exceptionally large as a proxy for ethnicity. Only the president is subject to both local and national constituencies, and hence the enhanced ethnicization of the presidential election.

The complex interplay of local, regional, and national elections is of course not confined to Kenya or Africa for that matter. Look at voting patterns across Europe and North America and the different regional strategies political parties tend to employ to appeal to voters in various regions, not to mention the use of race. Nor is the ethnicization of electoral politics a peculiar African predilection. In no major western country has a black person ever been elected president or prime minister. In the United States, few blacks win state wide offices. Currently, there is only one black governor out of 50, and one black senator out of 100—the charismatic Barack Obama, the half-Kenyan and half-Luo 2008 U.S. presidential candidate. Yet, nobody labels electoral contests and results in western Europe and North America as ‘racial’, let alone ‘tribal’; they are given more dignified names.

Media reports on the Kenyan elections and especially reports of the protests following the inauguration of President Kibaki almost invariably include the word ‘tribal’; the reference is to ‘tribes’ and ‘tribalism’ as primordial identities untouched by history, as ancient hatreds immune to modernity, as pathological conditions peculiar to Africa. Forgotten is the simple fact that both Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga could not win the elections based on voting from their so-called ‘tribes’; two ethnic groups out of the country’s many ethnicities. While the presidential candidates received overwhelming electoral support in their home provinces, to win the presidency ethnic coalition building is essential, for the president has to win at least 25 of the vote in at least five of Kenya’s eight provinces.

The enthnicization of politics in Kenya is not a reflection of some atavistic reflex, or simply the result of elite political manipulations or primordial cultural affectations among the masses, even if the elites do indeed use ethnicity and the masses are mobilized by it. It is salutary to remember that some of Kenya’s ethnic groups only emerged or developed their current identities under British colonial rule. Few can trace themselves to the remote past notwithstanding the work of some historians to distinguish their ethnic communities with long and pristine pedigrees. Imagined ethnic and national histories are of course not about the past, but the present; they are part of the discursive and political arsenal for claim making in the present and for the future.

As we have learned from African studies, we need to distinguish between ‘moral ethnicity’, that is, ethnicity as a complex web of social obligations and belonging, and ‘political ethnicity’, that is, the competitive confrontation of ‘ethnic contenders’ for state power and national resources. Both are socially constructed, but one as an identity, the other as an ideology. Ethnicity may serve as a cultural public for the masses estranged from the civic public of the elites, a sanctuary that extends its comforts and protective tentacles to the victims of political disenfranchisement, economic impoverishment, state terror and group rivalry. In other words, it is not the existence of ethnic groups (or racial groups) that is a problem in itself, a predictor of social conviviality or conflict, but their political mobilization.

Ethnicity in Kenya is tied in complex and contradictory ways to the enduring legacies of uneven regional development. During colonial rule Central Kenya, the homeland of the Kikuyu, became the heartland of the settler economy, while Nyanza, the Luo homeland, languished as a labor reserve that furnished both unskilled and educated labor to the centers of colonial capitalism. Not surprisingly, the Kikuyu bore the brunt of colonial capitalist dispossession and socialization, and were in the vanguard of the nationalist struggles that led to decolonization and they came to dominate the postcolonial state and economy. Capitalist development and centralization of power reinforced domination of the Kenyan economy by the Central Province and the Kikuyu, a process that withstood the twenty-four year reign of President Moi, a Kalenjin from the Rift Valley, and was reinvigorated under President Kibaki’s administration.

Central Province and Kikuyu dominance of Kenya’s political economy bred resentment from other regions and ethnic groups. It fed into constitutional debates about presidential and political centralization of power, and the regional redistribution of resources that dominated Kenyan politics until 2005 when the draft constitution supported by the President and Parliament was rejected in a referendum. The ODM was born in the highly politicized maelstrom of the run up to the referendum.

This narrative tends to ignore an important qualifying fact, that not all Kikuyus are dominant and not all Luos are disempowered. Colonial, neo-colonial and neo-liberal capitalisms have bred class differentiations within communities as much as they have led to uneven development among regions. In other words, Kikuyu and Luo elites have much more in common with each other than they do with their co-ethnics among peasants and workers who also have more in common with each other across ethnic boundaries than with their respective elites. This is a reality that both the elites and the masses strategically ignore during competitive national elections, because the former need to mobilize and manipulate their ethnic constituencies in intra-elite struggles for power, and the latter because elections offer one of the few moments to shake the elites for the crumbs of development for themselves and their areas.

Kenyan politics exhibits familiar African trends. The country started its independence with a hurriedly negotiated multi-party system between the nationalists and the departing imperial power that could not withstand the homogenizing imperatives of nationalism and the intoxicating and intolerant demands of uhuru: nation-building, development, and democratization. Before long, Kenya joined the African bandwagon towards the one-party state. It became a de facto one-party state as the pre-independence opposition party KADU folded voluntarily into the ruling KANU in 1964, while the post-independence radical Kenya People’s Union formed in 1966 by former vice-president Oginga Odinga, the father of the ODM leader, was violently suppressed.

Kenya became a de jure one-party state under President Moi, who took power in 1978 following the death of the founding President Jomo Kenyatta, and was confronted by on the one hand the political tensions engendered by the attempted coup of 1982, and on the other a slowing economy that stagnated under the onerous weight of structural adjustment programs imposed with market fundamentalist zeal by the international financial institutions—the World Bank and International Monetary Fund—and western governments. By the end of the 1980s, it was clear that while the country remained relatively stable in a tumultuous region its early promise had been squandered under a reign of authoritarianism, corruption, and structural maladjustment.

As in much of Africa, from the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, the unproductive power of one-party rule faced growing popular opposition. The struggles for the “second independence” by the restive masses and organized civil society scored limited victories in the 1992 and 1997 elections, and finally seized the prize in the elections of December 2002 when the ruling party, KANU, lost to the opposition National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). It was a new day: democracy expanded as political and civil freedoms spread, so did the economy as the stagnation of the Moi years receded, but the social and structural deformities of the postcolony remained as entrenched as ever. It is in this context that the current crisis can best be understood.

The last five years have seen the growth of both democracy and the economy, but the marriage between democracy and development remains unfilled. The economic growth rates under President Kibaki resemble those in the early post-independence years under President Kenyatta. The difference is not only that neo-colonial capitalism of the Kenyatta era, which had a nationalist face, has given way to contemporary neo-liberal capitalism, which has a neo-colonial soul, democracy has reconfigured old challenges and brought new ones that the society and state have yet to manage satisfactorily as the results of these elections amply demonstrate.

Examples abound that as the suffocating lid of state tyranny is lifted during moments of democratic transition the suppressed voices and expectations of civil society surge, but the stresses and strains arising from the competitive grind of democracy often find articulation in the entrenched identities, idioms, and institutions of ethnic solidarity. The challenge in Kenya, as in other divided multicultural societies, is the need to balance group and national interests through further democratization, devolution of power, and power sharing. In so far as ethnic interests and cleavages are only one set among many other possible bases of political contestation—class, religion, region, and gender that often mediate and reinforce ethnic identities and antagonisms—there is need to think about group interests beyond ethnicity.

The current trials and tribulations facing Kenya will not be resolved without the emergence of a leadership that is truly up to the challenge, a leadership that pursue a national project of profound social transformation, that eschews narrow and shortsighted exclusionary politics and neo-liberal economic growth. Kenya, and Africa as a whole, have no historic alternative from building truly democratic developmental states if they are to chart the twentieth century more prepared and empowered than they did the disastrous twentieth century marked by colonialism and neo-colonialism and their depredations that were simultaneously economic and existential, cultural and cognitive, political and paradigmatic.

The current leadership, both the ‘victors’ and ‘losers’, seem keen to retain or gain power at all costs. The power struggle is as sinister as the differences among the leaders are small. But often it is the very narcissism of minor differences that breeds gratuitous violence and viciousness as histories of genocide demonstrate. The leading politicians engaged in combat whose followers are tearing their lovely country apart are members of the same recycled political class committed to neo-liberal growth that offer no real solutions to Kenya’s enduring challenges of growth and development, choiceless democracy and transformative democracy.

Most of the major figures in the three leading parties, PNU, ODM, ODM-K, served in the Moi and Kibaki administrations at one time or another. Their politics do not differ in any significant ways. Indeed, it is a mark of the promiscuity of the political class that the three parties were formed quite recently, and politicians shop for parties with the consumer ease of well-heeled customers. In a sense, then, their collective interests of the politicians and national interests of the population are not coterminous, although converges do exist and are invoked at certain moments. The political animus between the Kibaki and Odinga camps is rooted in the now infamous secretive Memorundum of Understanding on the distribution of cabinet positions and power drawn up among the opposition parties that hurriedly formed NARC to fight the ruling party KANU in the 2002 elections. NARC was a marriage of convenience for a splintered opposition determined to win that failed to survive squabbles over the spoils of victory. Before long, Mr. Odinga and his followers began complaining that Mr. Kibaki had reneged on the MOU and thus began the slide to the current political impasse and crisis.

President Kibaki’s contested ‘victory’ has deprived the country of the opportunity to see that the opposition offers little more than a recycling of the same policies and politicians as has been witnessed in other African countries that are now into their third or fourth cycle of competitive multiparty elections. As this has become evident the lure of elections as engines of fundamental socioeconomic transformation has dimmed in many countries and the search for new forms of politics is underway. In Kenya the disputed results of this election may have done the same. Only time will tell, perhaps long after the violence has subsided. What can be predicted is that the Kibaki government will be paralyzed in the new parliament, where it controls less than a fifth of the seats, and might even be brought down by a vote of no confidence, although the power of the government to secure or ‘buy’ support from self-serving parliamentarians cannot be ruled out, as has happened in Malawi and other countries where the President’s party is in the minority. And a popular uprising, or even an 'orange revolution', can never be ruled out.

Kenya’s current political tragedy is part of a much larger story. The absence of articulated and organized institutional and ideological alternatives under neoliberalism is at the heart of the political crisis facing contemporary Africa and much of the world. It has led, thus far, to the ossification of politics, and in some countries, the premature abortion or aging of elections as instruments of transformative change. The specter of choiceless democracies is not confined to countries in the global South, for in many parts of the global North including the United States the ideological divide between the major parties is often indecipherable, the result of which is political apathy as nearly half the population has exited the electoral process. For more fragile societies, the danger is not apathy, but anarchy. As a keen observer of Kenya, a country where I spent many fruitful years studying and teaching in the late 1970s and 1980s, I hope the country can avoid such a fate. Perhaps the ferocity of the reaction to the botched elections will serve as a wakeup call to the political class and the troubled citizenry to chart a more productive future for their beloved country. A good beginning would be for the contending parties to agree to a binding independent and internationally monitored investigation of the election results.

* Paul T Zeleza is editor of The Zeleza Post. This article was first published at First Written December 31, 2007

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

The media and the political crisis

Interview with Salim Amin

Dipesh Pabari


DIPESH PABARI: What is your general assessment on the situation?

SALIM AMIN: Well, at the moment it is pretty much what is being shown on television; it is just pockets of protests around Nairobi. We have not been out to Eldoret or Kisumu but in Nairobi it is just pockets of demonstrations around Kibera, Kawangware and Ngong Road, Argwings Kodhek Road and places like that where it is a few hundred people marching and demonstrating and the police pretty quickly crush that. Yesterday, there was more looting and damaging of property which I don’t think is ODM’s idea of protest. These are just a bunch of unemployed people who are just taking advantage of opportunity presented to them.

We have never seen the likes of the police presence in this town. I have covered this city for about 15 years and never seen this sort size of police presence so obviously there are fears that it could get out of hand and police and GSU have been called out in large numbers. There are pictures that I have seen on TV of various insights of people being machete to death and churches being burnt personally I haven’t seen that but it is obviously happening. It is happening in some of the areas where perhaps foreign journalist can’t go to perhaps more local journalist can access to.

DIPESH PABARI: We are receiving conflicting messages – both sides are accusing each other of genocide and at the same time we are hearing that there is rampant destruction all over the country yet the government is saying it is just a few isolated incidences here and there. What should we believe?

SALIM AMIN: I think upcountry there is a much bigger problem than here. Places like Mount Elgon and Eldoret have always been the scene of a lot of ethnic tension between the different tribes stemming from the ethnic cleansing the happened in 1992. That has not been forgotten. For me that is the fear of what will happen in this country. If this is not stopped quickly then the grassroots hatred is going to get worse and worse amongst the different tribes and then it will not matter what Kibaki or Odinga or any of these guys say. That seed has already been sown and it is going to be very difficult to retract from that. It will get to the stage where people will say you burnt my house down now I am going to do the same to yours and once that starts as we saw in Rwanda in 1994, it is very difficult to pull back from that. That is my greatest fear. I think places like Nairobi will slowly get back to normal but areas where there is not much media coverage, where it is hard to get pictures out of, it is going to get worse and worse.

DIPESH PABARI: From that perspective, places like Mount Elgon which have been consistently on the edge, has the media done enough to highlight issues like this that have essentially led to where we are right now.

SALIM AMIN: I think the local media has not done enough. The international media has never done enough to cover Kenya in its entirety. The local media has been suspect in ignoring this problem as well. The government – I think it is in their interest – there are obviously huge political implications in what is going on. It would not surprise me if people within government or outside are a part of what is happening out there. It really would not surprise me at all. I think there is a lot of political background that needs to be investigated and examined. Unfortunately, as we know, no government is very good at internal examination of anything. You know I heard stories about possible genocide in Mount Elgon area over the last couple of days where people have set up road blocks and they are pulling people out of cars from different tribes and slaughtering them. And that is just like it was in Rwanda in 1994. That is very scary. I also heard yesterday that Nakumatt stopped selling machetes – they restricted it to one per person because people were coming in and buying 200 pieces at a go. I am very concerned that a lot of this may have been preplanned which does then give it the element of genocide. It is a very dangerous word to use but if it has been preplanned and organized then the elections were just an excuse to get it started. I just found out about this on the internet yesterday. The planning side of this is very scary. If it was something that just randomly happened because of the election than it can almost be understood because people are upset about the results and the way it panned out. But if this is something that people have been thinking about for 2, 3 or 4 months than this is a really scary scenario

DIPESH PABARI: Have you heard of any other similar cases that could imply planning for this?

SALIM AMIN: No, that was the only incident that I have heard about. And that I only found out about yesterday.

DIPESH PABARI: What we are witnessing for the first time is the explosion of information and reporting through mainstream media and new media such as blogging on the internet. There is so much information flowing and there may not be as much credibility to these sources. Do you think this information explosion is a positive or negative thing?

SALIM AMIN: I think it is a great thing. The more people talk about their incidences, the better – for any society. The problem is whether those reporting are accurate or not and that is what is very difficult to verify. You can’t control what people blog or put on the internet. You don’t know whether it is inciting people or it is actual fact. The government blackout on live coverage – while we initially came out and condemned it – after thinking about it a little more I can see their dilemma as a government because no TV or radio station in this country has what they call a delay switch where they can pause for 30 or 60 seconds so the editor can listen to what the person is saying. And this especially applies to radio stations and call in shows and there were incidences of people calling in and saying let the people of X tribe come out and avenge this – there was no way of stopping it until it had already gone out and the damage had been done. I think that is what led to the government taking action against live broadcasts. And with the different radio stations, the vernacular radio stations in particular, a lot of that could have been used to incite people which is exactly what happened in Rwanda in 1994 where a particular radio station was instrumental in fueling the genocide. So I think that was probably a smart move in hindsight. But they will have to restore it and put some form of control in by asking them to put this delay factor in so that the editors have a chance to actually vet what is happening on live shows.

DIPESH PABARI: During the build-up to the elections, we had a tremendous amount of media campaigning initiatives towards free and fair elections. The whole country was plastered with billboards; the radio waves were filled with information, etc. Do you think it has had much impact?

SALIM AMIN: I think that is what we are seeing is that people feel that they have been robbed at the ballot boxes. They went out in massive number, they voted for whoever they wanted to be president or MP and they feel like they have been robbed and that is why this resentment and this huge outcry for people that was never expected. Now both sides are claiming rigging so nobody really knows who did what and in which areas. There is obviously irregularities there is obviously rigging that happened. I suspect that a lot happened at the last minute and that is why it was so blatant and so obvious because I don’t think anybody felt the mood of the country correctly. I don’t think the Government thought that they would lose 20 of their ministers in a poll and I think that led to a panic at the last minute and that led childish changes to ballot paper and to forms. There was also in the opposition some hanky panky on their side and in their areas. For me the only solution to this problem would be to have a reelection, may be just a presidential election but with an independent electoral commission set up that has nothing to do with the Government that has people from outside with more observers coming in but that would take time to put together and to redo and in that time this country could disintegrate into a crisis that would be very difficult to come out of and even the new ballots would not fix.

DIPESH PABARI: Do you think we are getting there?

SALIM AMIN: I sadly think that if this situation is not sorted out within the next few days, it is not a matter of weeks or months; we are coming down a slope that we will not be able to climb back up.

DIPESH PABARI: Has there been any evidence or any public outcry from the media that has caused this violence? Where did it come from? You said earlier that people were disappointed but were there any leader that would have would have been responsible towards this?

SALIM AMIN: I think more than them doing anything or saying anything to make it happen, the fact that they did not do anything to stop it is more telling in my opinion. I think the fact that there are things that all leaders in this country could have done to avoid this earlier they did not do. I don’t know anybody who deliberately came out and said ‘go and start demonstrating’, I don’t think anyone has said that and but the fact that they did more to stop it is a mark on their record as political leaders.

DIPESH PABARI: 24 hours later after it all broke out we did hear cries of peace coming from both sides especially from ODM but it seems that their people are not listening.

SALIM AMIN: That is a worry for me as well I mean just seeing today’s proposed rally as an example when Ruto addressed the crowd when they were stopped in Hurlingham and said that is fine we’ll step down today and come back on Tuesday. Majority of the crowd did not listen and just wanted to keep going and that worries me that, at some point that it is going to get so personal amongst the people because of what they have suffered in their various shanties or slums, that they are not going to listen to their politicians anymore that they don’t care what the leaders are saying, they just want some revenge of some sort and find any kind of method to do it. That is my fear that the longer this goes on, the less power the politicians are going to have to actually enforce their will on their own supporters.

DIPESH PABARI: We see the media more or less taking a side, the call for peace. It is the first time it has happened across all the newspapers sharing the same headlines. To what extent is it the responsibility of the media to act upon certain rumors that clearly might have terrible implications if they were true? For example, there was a rumor flying around that Ruto had organized truckloads of armed youth into Rift Valley. Where do you base your judgment on things like this as the media and is it your responsibility to report this as a warning?

SALIM AMIN: No, I don’t think it is the media’s responsibility at all to report that at all. They have to double check and triple check their facts especially at this very crucial time in our country’s history. They have got to make sure what is reported anywhere is 100% accurate and there is no room for rumor or speculation or assumptions being made in the media. Up to this point I have been very impressed with the media as they have got together and are saying we have got to save our country. We have got to do whatever we can to say peace has been restored. I have been very impressed with that but they have to be even more vigilante with that to make sure that it is absolutely correct and if they can’t verify information, don’t put it out there because that just leads to more and more confusion and uncertainty amongst people and fear.

The fact that lives media has been blocked means that there is much more hearsay going on around the country, especially with things likes mobile phones. I think the media has the responsibility to play down all that stuff until they have checked and rechecked all the facts. And if they find anything that is huge, then yes, they should report it, and shame the people who are responsible for it.

DIPESH PABARI: Are the media houses working together and cohesively on this?

SALIM AMIN: I think they are but I have not been privy to those conversations because we are outside the local media setup here but for example, we produced a short call for peace – a 3 minute TV package and we are hopefully going to do more of those. When I called all the media houses to see if we can have the airtime to do it – every single one of them was supportive and said keep sending us more stuff.

DIPESH PABARI: Last question; are we all responsible as Kenyans for getting to this state?

SALIM AMIN: I think we are all responsible. I think it would be wrong for us to sit back and say that one group or another group is responsible for this. I think we have been very blasé about our politics and about how we might get involved. I think this is a lesson to all of us. We have all got to be responsible in the way our country is moving whatever part of society you are from. Whatever it is you do in life, you have got to take responsibility for what you do. I think if we can all go out and convince one person to stop fighting, to stop killing, to actually listen and talk, then we would actually have done something good

* Salim Amin is the son of the late Mohammed Amin, one of Africa's top photo journalist. Salim is now running Camerapix and is the founder of A24 which will be the first pan-African news channel.

* Dipesh Pabari is a freelance writer. He sits on the editorial board of Awaaz magazine and writes for various magazines and journals. Dipesh also works for as the Communications Manager.

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

Kenya’s democracy on trial

Mukoma Wa Ngugi


On Thursday December 27th 2007, shortly after polling stations were closed, Kenya was hailed as having fulfilled an African dream – to have a free and fair closely contested democratic election. But less than 48 hours later it was clear that the dream of democracy could become a nightmare of ethnic violence. Most of the casualties so far have been the poor and the marginalized – and if things continue as they are, a bitter civil war fought along ethnic lines is certain. To say that what is at stake is the very future of Kenya is not an overstatement.

To answer the question of how the promise became a nightmare one must begin with very nature of democracy and how it has been functioning in Africa.

The first element to consider is that in the absence of strong democratic institutions (the three pillars of legislature, executive and judiciary), democracies in Africa are relying more and more on the goodwill of politicians: in this case, a nation is only as democratic as its politicians.

Added to this, African democracy is in real terms an expression of ethnic tensions. Instead of rolling back tribalism (I use the derisive term deliberately), African democracy serves it. One could say that all democracies have an element of this: in the West it generally goes under the euphemism of voter demographics. When Hilary Clinton is courting the white, black or Latino vote, she is in fact practicing what might, in other circumstances, be called tribal politics.

In the Kenyan presidential election, ethnic politics were a key factor in the close election results: the incumbent Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, received very few votes in the Luo areas, while his Luo opponent, Raila Odinga, received only a very small percentage of the Kikuyu vote. In this bitterly contested election where ethnicity was the deciding factor, victory from either side was bound to spill into violence.

As a direct result of the above, questions of what true justice means and about the growing divide between haves and have-nots become lost to ethnicity. Raila is a flamboyant millionaire while Kibaki is as elite as you can get in Kenya. Lost in the fires of ethnicity is the simple fact that Kibaki and Raila have much more in common with each other than with their supporters. In this sense those engaged in the violence are, to put it bluntly, proxies in a war between two elite leaders.

Another element to consider is the extent to which the landscape of African politics has changed. We need to stop blanket condemnations of African leadership, and acknowledge that it varies and some leaders are better or worse than others. Kibaki, while not a Mandela is not a Moi or a Mobutu, or a Bokassa or an Idi Amin. By the same token the nature of opposition has changed. Since independence and the struggles against neo-colonial governments, opposition has been automatically understood as the legitimate voice of the people. But opposition no longer means the good guys. In many instances the opposition and the sitting government are practically the same as is indeed the case in Kenya. So while Raila is accusing Kibaki of vote-rigging, it could just as easily be Raila trying to rig and short-circuit the democratic process to favor himself. In other words we have no reason to take either of their claims to be true at face-value. In this impasse of two leaders intent on seizing power, respect for the democratic process couldn’t be more important.

Toward a solution, Kenyans should realize that something beautiful did happen during this election. Most of the big men of Kenyan politics were voted out of Parliament and hence out of office. Even the sons of former dictator Moi did not win seats in Parliament. There seemed to be a belief that voting was a way of talking back the Kenyan political elite, and that democracy could be made to work for the majority poor. This is the flame that we must not let die.

To nurture this flame, a recount of the votes in a transparent manner is necessary. This, no matter what one thinks of Raila or Kibaki, or whether one thinks the elections were fair or not, should be the meeting ground of all those concerned about the future, immediate and long term, of Kenya.

If the votes can be recounted in full transparency, this election will not then become the death of Kenyan democracy but rather a test along the way to a democracy with real content – the content of security, equality and justice for Kenya’s majority poor.

*Mukoma Wa Ngugi is co-editor of Pambazuka News. A version of this article first appeared at

*Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at
Mukoma Wa Ngugi argues that the dream of democracy is turning into a nightmare and suggests a recount as a possible solution.

The post-election crisis in Kenya: In search of solutions

Ali A. Mazrui


The Kenya presidential elections of December 2007 are potentially the most damaging episode to national unity since the assassination of Tom Mboya in July 1969. Both the murder of Tom Mboya and the management of the recent presidential elections are widely interpreted as an attempt to ethnically monopolise the presidency of the country. Both Mboya’s assassination and the latest elections are seen as historic blows to national stability and major setbacks to the process of democratization. Both Mboya’s murder and the 2007 elections unleashed widespread rioting and looting and made national institutions significantly more fragile than they were before.

It is therefore imperative that Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga enter into urgent negotiations to find a solution to this painful impasse, and to help the process of national healing.

The ideal solution would be to agree to a recounting of votes in the most controversial of the provincial results for the presidency, and for both Kibaki and Odinga to commit themselves to respect the outcome of the recounting.

Another possible solution would be for the African Union to appoint an independent commission of enquiry into the management of the presidential election, and make recommendations. One possible recommendation would conceivably be to accept the parliamentary results, which had, by most estimates, been transparent and credible. But there might be new internationally supervised presidential elections with the three main candidates on the new ballot.

The third option is probably the easiest to accomplish. The new parliament should be sworn in, and called into session. Its first task should be to consider a constitutional amendment creating the post of Prime Minister answerable to Parliament and not to the Chief Executive (the President). If the constitutional amendment is passed, parliament would then vote for the first Prime Minister. Considering the balance of political parties voted into the new parliament, the new Prime Minister is almost bound to be the Honorable Raila Odinga.

Kenya would thereby become something approximating the fifth republic of France with both an executive President accountable to the people, directly, and an executive Prime Minister accountable to the people’s legislative representatives, Parliament. As in the case of the French Republic, the President (Mwai Kibaki) and the Prime Minister (Raila Odinga) would have to find ways of working together in the interest of the people of Kenya.

Who would appoint the members of the cabinet- the President or the Prime Minister? The Foreign Minister and the Minister of Defense could be the prereagative of the Head of State (Kibaki) to appoint. But the Minister of Internal Security and almost all other ministries would be appointed by the Prime Minister (Raila Odinga).

The precise division of labor and division of powers between the new Prime Minister would have to be negotiated prior to the constitutional amendment by new Parliament.

Later in the session of the new parliament there may be need to re-examine the whole constitution of Kenya in the light of problems which Kenya has had to face since the last constitutional referendum. Should we re-examine once again the Maboma Draft constructed by the Ghai Commission? Only the new parliament, in consultation with the new President, can decide whether to have a new constitutional referendum.

* Ali Mazrui is Director, Institute of Global Cultural Studies, Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities, Binghamton University, State University of New York at Binghamton, New York, USA and Chancellor, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Thika and Nairobi Kenya

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

News round-up on recent events in Kenya

Izzy Birch


This brief list of useful links is provided to help our readers keep up to date.

In this AllAfrica blog Brian Kennedy lists the wide range of those who now question the results of Kenya’s 2007 presidential election, including foreign governments, election monitoring missions, and the Electoral Commission of Kenya itself. He also refers to reports that the Kenyan police, who were deployed to guard the 36,000 polling stations across the country, kept records of the results and that their tally is said to differ from what the ECK announced:

The Economist has described the result as a meticulously planned ‘civil coup’, stating that the decision to return Mwai Kibaki to office was made not by the Kenyan people but by a group of hardline Kikuyu leaders. Although the report states that their instinct will now be to use the security services to reverse basic freedoms, ‘it is not clear that Kenya will stand for it’:

Amos Wako, Kenya’s Attorney General, has called for an independent and immediate investigation into the disputed presidential election result, acknowledging that it has been widely questioned, including by the Chair of the Electoral Commission of Kenya itself:

The ECK Chair, Samuel Kivuitu, has given details of the inconsistencies in the constituency tallies of the presidential votes, which include altered figures from certain constituencies and the improper submission of documentation:

The leader of the Pan-African Movement Observers Mission, Stephen Othieno, also criticised the ECK at a press conference in Kampala. The Mission sent 41 observers to Kenya who were not permitted to observe the process in its entirety – specifically the final tally. Mr Othieno also criticised the limited time made available for verification of the voters’ register prior to polling day, and biased coverage by some media houses:

ODM leaders have called for an internationally constituted and recognised body to examine the election results, on the grounds that the Electoral Commission of Kenya had failed in its duties and can not be trusted:

The Kenya Human Rights Commission has called on Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who arrived in Kenya on 3 January, to oversee a recount. Professor Makau Mutua, chair of the KHRC, appealed for calm, dialogue and statesmanship from Kenya’s political leaders:

The Law Society of Kenya has declared its intention to make a legal challenge to Mwai Kibaki’s re-election. Lawyers and other civil society organisations, including Kituo Cha Sheria, have also called for the immediate resignation of Samuel Kivuitu and the ECK Commissioners:

The head of the Commonwealth Observer Group, Dr Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, has decided to stay on in Kenya to support mediation efforts. The Group’s departure statement on 2 January noted that ‘delays in the announcement of the results raised questions about the integrity of the final phase of the election process’:

A group of business, religious and cultural leaders delivered an open letter to all three presidential candidates, calling for an independent and transparent review of the whole electoral process and its outcomes, as well as personal and collective leadership that delivers a swift conclusion to the crisis in the best interests of the country:
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Daudi Were writes in his blog of the shocking speed with which Kenya slid into violence. ‘The aim of this post is not to explore the issues around the issues but to highlight that there is a sophisticated and dedicated response to the crisis in our country’:

Moody Awori, the Vice-President, appealed for calm and stated that the government was willing to enter into dialogue with the ODM leadership. Raila Odinga reiterated his position that any dialogue must be based on acceptance that the elections were compromised:

Demonstrators who responded to the ODM’s call to attend a rally in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park on 3 January were met with tear gas and water cannon. ODM has now postponed the rally until 8 January. Archbishop Desmond Tutu arrived in Kenya on 3 January to help mediate in the crisis, while plans for the visit of the African Union President John Kafuor have reportedly been cancelled:

The Kenya Red Cross Society estimates (3 January) that at least 100,000 people require immediate assistance in the northern Rift Valley alone. Confirmed country-wide statistics are not yet available. John Holmes, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, emphasised the responsibility of Kenya’s political leaders to protect the lives and livelihoods of innocent people, and deplored the recent increase in gender-based violence:

Another report from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs describes the situation of displaced people in Kericho and Kisumu, many of whom lack basic supplies of water, food and medicine:

Newspaper reports from around the East African region illustrate the impact of the crisis in Kenya on its landlocked neighbours. Fuel prices in Uganda have soared due to the shortage of fuel and the actions of speculators; bus fares in Kampala have in some places doubled.

Traders in Rwanda are concerned at both the shortage of fuel and the prospect of being unable to restock from the suppliers in Kenya on whom they rely:

Tanzania’s The Citizen newspaper emphasises the inter-dependence of the East African economies and the threat posed by the violence in Kenya to the future stability and prosperity of the East African Community:


Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has called on the Kenyan government to abide by its international human rights obligations in responding to demonstrations and to allow journalists to carry out their work freely. She also emphasised the responsibility to use only peaceful means of protest:

Humanitarian situation:

On 2 January AFP reported that 306 people had died in politically related violence since polling day. Although the violence has been countrywide, the area most seriously affected has been Western Kenya. AFP reported the Director of the Kenya Red Cross Society as saying that around 70,000 people had been displaced in the area. Aerial video footage by the KRCS shows hundreds of houses and farms set on fire and roadblocks every 10kms:

A report from the Human Rights House Network describes the attack on the church near Eldoret in which at least 35 people were killed. Water and food for those displaced in churches and public buildings are running short, and travel in the area is highly dangerous:

Reports from Kenyan religious and humanitarian organisations issued on 2 January state that 15000 people have been displaced in Eldoret, 700 in Kitale, 1000 in Nakuru, 500 in Kakamega, 500 in Kisumu, 200 in Siaya, 50 in Likoni, 6000 in Burnt Forest, 60 in Migori, 5000 in Dandora, and 560 in Mumias. People are taking shelter in schools, churches, mosques, police stations and other public buildings.

The Kenya Red Cross, in a bulletin dated 1 January, reported that over 100,000 people had been affected or displaced countrywide, 120 reported dead, and over 1000 confirmed injured:

The Regional UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published police figures released on 1 January of 143 people killed across five Provinces (Rift Valley, Western, Nyanza, Nairobi, and Coast). It adds that these are confirmed cases and that the real number may be higher. The main obstacle to delivering assistance is the number of roadblocks set up by vigilante groups:
Reliable sources report 30 roadblocks between Eldoret and Nakuru.

The Uganda Red Cross reported on 1 January that 550 Kenyans have fled to Uganda, although officials believe that ‘thousands more’ have settled with friends and relatives:

The Nation reported on 2 January that 16 people had been killed at the Coast, while violent incidents had occurred in Taveta, Diani and Kilifi Town:
Reliable sources report that travel outside Mombasa is currently very difficult due to numerous road blocks.

Uganda’s New Vision reports on the killings in Eldoret, and gives a nationwide death toll closer to 300. It refers to tensions in Garissa, North-Eastern Province, emphasising again the widespread nature of the crisis:

Dr Dan Ojwang, a Kenyan academic based in South Africa, criticises media coverage of the crisis and argues that it has deeper and more complex roots. ‘Let the world know the truth’, he writes, ‘that members of almost all Kenyan ethnic communities are being killed and not just Kikuyu supporters of President Mwai Kibaki’s illegitimate government’.
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Political situation:

A report from the Human Rights House Network on 31 December, based on coverage in the Kenyan press as well as interviews with several human rights defenders in Nairobi, captures the breadth and severity of the political crisis, in terms of the heavy-handed security response, the infringement of media freedoms, and the prospect of an even more powerful presidency:

Ken Opalo, a Kenyan blogger, laments the failure of leadership, and calls on both Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga to ‘act like the statesmen they claim to be’:

The BBC reported on 2 January the accusations being traded by both sides. Asked if he would urge his supporters to calm down, Raila Odinga reportedly refused to be asked ‘to give the Kenyan people an anaesthetic so that they can be raped’:

The preliminary report from the European Union Election Observation Mission detailed discrepancies in the tallied results from certain constituencies. ‘A lack of adequate transparency and security measures in the process of relaying the results from local to national level questioned the integrity of the final results:

The Chair of the Electoral Commission of Kenya, Samuel Kivuitu, admitted on 1 January that he announced the results of the presidential election under pressure from some PNU and ODM-Kenya leaders. According to a report in the Standard, he said that ‘We are culprits as a Commission. We have to leave it to an independent group to investigate what actually went wrong’:

Four ECK commissioners on 31 December called for an independent judicial review of the presidential tallies. The Kenya National Commission of Human Rights regretted that the commissioners hadn’t raised their concerns before the result was announced, but expressed its support for an independent review:

Francis Atwoli, the Secretary General of the umbrella workers’ union COTU, is quoted as saying that the crisis is politically instigated and thus can only be solved by political means. In the same press report the government’s spokesman, Alfred Mutua, states that the military has been deployed to various parts of the country ‘to assist in averting a humanitarian crisis’:

The deputy managing director of Safaricom confirmed that the company had received a request from the Ministry of Internal Security to ‘desist from sending or forwarding any SMS that may cause public unrest’, and that this had been forwarded to its subscribers:

The head of the Commonwealth’s election observer team in Kenya, former president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone, has now met all three leaders (Mwai Kibaki, Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka). Kenya’s Daily Nation reports that a joint statement may be imminent:

Muslim, Christian and Hindu leaders at the Coast made a joint appeal to political leaders to restore calm and seek reconciliation, and called for the situation to be resolved through legal channels:

At the international level, the US and British foreign secretaries issued a joint statement on 2 January urging political compromise and noting the responsibility on all sides to maintain the political process:,,2234121,00.html
A brief round-up of news on the Kenya crisis.

Kenya Election Domestic Observation Forum - Press Statement


Kenya is bleeding. Kenya is bleeding from a political crisis that has rapidly led to a social and spiritual crisis. We, the Church leaders working together with the leadership of all faiths have been alarmed at the speed and depth this crisis has taken over the last 24 hours. Unless checked, this crisis will plunge Kenya into a complete state of lawlessness, disregard for human rights and the sanctity of life.

Three actions could defuse this political crisis.

Firstly, the outcome of the recently concluded Presidential and Parliamentary elections requires a quick and comprehensive political resolution. The Church as part of KEDOF endorses KEDOF’s statement –

“ in our view, considering the entire process, the 2007 General Elections were credible in as far as the voting and counting process is concerned. The electoral process lost credibility towards the end with regard to the tallying and announcement of presidential results”

We have considered the opinion of the Members of the Electoral Commission and international observer groups. In our opinion, the Government, in close consultation with all the parties who fielded Presidential and Parliamentary candidates should immediately establish a credible process for the establishment of an Independent Commission. This Commission will seek the transparent verification of tallies for the concerned constituencies. All parties must start by committing themselves to acting on the outcome verification by the Independent Commission.

Secondly, we urge the leaders of the three major political parties to meet and dialogue. Their political leadership at this critical hour is central to saving lives. Over the last 24 hours, we have lost at least five lives every hour, with scores of other men, women and children injured, scared, displaced and vulnerable to attacks by fellow Kenyans.

We call upon leaders who contested Parliamentary seats – both those that won and those that lost to jointly and urgently address their constituencies within the next few days. We urge the mass media to continue to support the cause of peace.

Thirdly, while we appreciate the efforts of the uniformed forces to stop lawlessness and we acknowledge the challenge that they have to protect all civilians we call upon them to establish corridors of safety. Such corridors of peace are critical for restoring access to food, shelter, crisis centres and other basic needs to which we as a faith community are committed to assist in providing.

The ability to communicate during a period of national crisis cannot be gainsaid. While we deplore the use of these media for ethnic hate speech, attempting to block these avenues will be counter-productive. It will block also the flow of information that is required for identifying and reaching people at risk. We consequently call upon the state to lift the ban on live broadcasts.

While calling on the Government, political parties and other non-state actors to take these actions, we realise that the future of Kenya is in the hands of the Kenyan people. We therefore call upon all Kenyans to immediately cease the violence that is occurring in our towns, villages and communities.

We commit ourselves to monitor and quickly respond to the humanitarian needs of all Kenyans regardless of their religion, ethnicity, gender and political affiliation.

God bless Kenya.

* Kenya Election Domestic Observation Forum (KEDOF) is a partnership representing Kenyan Civil Society Networks (and faith-based organisations) in establishing a common platform for domestic election observation programme
* * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

Remembering Kenya

Mukoma Wa Ngugi


Inside looking out, snow is falling and I am thinking how
happy we once were, when promises and dreams came
easy and how when we, lovers covered only by a warm

Eldoret night, your slender hand waved a prophecy
- a shooting star and you said, "when the time comes, we
shall name our first child, Kenya" and how I laughed

and said "yes our child then shall be country and human"
and we held hands, rough and toughened by shelling
castor seeds. My dear, when did our clasped hands

become heavy chains and anchors holding us to the mines
and diamond and oil fields? Our hands roughened by love
and play, these same hands – when did they learn to grip

a machete or a gun to spit hate? And this earth that drinks
our blood like a hungry child, this earth that we have
scorched to cinders - when we are done eating it, how

much of it will be left for Kenya? My dear, our child
is born, is dying. Tomorrow the child will be dead.

UW-Madison, Jan. 3rd, 2007
Commissioned by The World Today – BBC News

Challenge to constitutional legitimacy of demonstration ban

Maina Kiai


We, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) wish to question the constitutional legitimacy and legal basis of the Police Commissioner, Major General Hussein's decree barring anyone from holding political rallies after the just concluded general elections.

We have learned from media reports that the Police Commissioner issued this decree before the just-concluded elections. The Government spokesperson has subsequently reinforced these orders by repeatedly making this announcement in the media.

We wish to state here that these orders are illegal, and violate the fundamental freedoms of association, freedom of movement and freedom of expression, guaranteed in both the Constitution of Kenya and international instruments which Kenya is signatory to. In any case, if all public gatherings have been bannned, how will the elected members of Parliament appeal to their constituents to stop the violence?

We understand the Police Commissioner may be concerned about the state of security in the country. However, to issue such orders and decrees not only contravene the law, but only serve to aggravate the situation further.

Rather than arbitrarily ban the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Rally scheduled for Thursday 3rd January 2008, we appeal to the Police Commissioner to seek assurance and commitment from the convenors of the rally that their supporters will maintain peace and order during the rally. We also appeal to the Police and security agents to provide adequate security during the rally.

The National Commission has learnd that in the interest of security, the Government has ordered curfews in Kibera, Migori, Mathare, Kisumu and Eldoret. Whereas this is provided by law in tense security situations, the Police Commissioner should publicly make an announcement to this effect in order to bring this to the notice of all persons affected.

Further, the curfews should be conducted in a humane manner that allows the persons affected to access food and other social amenities.

We also appeal to the police and security agents to handle the situation with utmost caution, while ensuring the security of all without taking sides.

* Maina Kiai is Chair of the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

On the Kenya Electoral Crisis

Maina Kiai, Gladwell Otieno, Mugambi Kiai, Betty Kaari Murungi, Njeri Kababeri, David Ndii, Haruon Ndubi, Zahid Rajan, Shailja Patel


It is now widely acknowledged that the electoral process that led to the swearing-in of Hon. Mwai Kibaki was heavily flawed and devoid of credibility.

We, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNHCR), artists, and civil society groups in Kenya, believe that this flawed process precipitated the wave of brutal violence and senseless destruction of property sweeping parts of the country.

We are concerned that the violence seems targetted at innocent Kenyans from particular communities believed to be sympathetic to a particular party. Everyone has a right to vote for whomever they wish. Wherease we understand the disappointment, frustration and anger Kenyans feel at being disenfranchised, their anger needs to be channnelled responsibly, and without resort to violence.

The Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) handled the elections tallying process irresponsibly. ECK is squarely culpable for the crisis in the country, through its intransigence, careless statements, incompetence and lack of accountability.

The ECK had the opportunity to initiate dialogue between various stakeholders to salvage the situation. Despite pleas from credible national and international observers, and evidence presented to verify claims of rigging, among other electoral malpractices, ECK commissioners chose not to engage in this prudent course of action.

We express our disappointment and deep concern that despite every gain made in expanding democratic space in Kenya, a country governed by the rule of law, the former Minister for Internal Security, John Michuki, banned the press from live broadcasts. We question the constitutional legitimacy and legal basis of Mr. Michuki's decree. From which statute or legal instrument does he draw his powers to ban the media in this manner, considering that the president has yet to constitute a Government, and, therefore a cabinet?

Furthermore, such a decree contravenes accepted international standards that guarantee freedom of expression and access to information, both fundamental rights. By muzzling the media, a key source of information to the public, the Government is encouraging rumors, innuendo, hearsay and suspicion, in an already polarized country.

We note Mwai Kibaki's earlier gesture calling on Kenyans to reconcile. Reconciliation can only be genuine if there is truth. We urge that:

The ECK discloses to the public the full presidential tally results, to be compared to results documented by national and international observers
The Government lift the media ban prohibiting the media from live coverage in Kenya.

Those with information on election fraud or irregularities be offered platforms to make such information public, without threat of intimidation. In this regard, whistleblowers may contact:
Hotline number: 0728 606582
Send verifiable information by email to:

lochiel AT
linakoth9 AT
lkabiru AT

We appeal to the international community to call for credible verification of the results before endorsing them. We note the EU observer mission has raised serious concerns about the reliability and credibility of the elections tallying process.

We appeal to the police and security agencies to ensure their responses are humane, measured, and proportional to the level of threat. We call on them to handle the situation with utmost caution, while ensuring the security of all without taking sides.


Maina Kiai, Chair, KNCHR
Gladwell Otieno, AFRICOG
Mugambi Kiai, OSIEA
Betty Kaari Murungi, Vice-Chair, KHRC
Njeri Kabebeberi, CMD
David Ndii, KLI
Haruon Ndubi, Haki Focus
Zahid Rajan, Awaaz
Muthoni Wanyeki, KHRC
Shailja Patel

Africa Action calls for US leadership to support Kenyan democracy

Africa Action


To foster peace, diplomacy must promote justice

Thursday, January 3, 2008 (Washington, DC) – In light of the serious human rights violations and challenges to stable governance Kenya has experienced in the past week, Africa Action calls for an immediate and comprehensive recount of presidential ballots supervised by international election monitors, and an end to the media broadcast ban. The clumsy series of contradictory remarks on the election made so far by U.S. officials have not been helpful in resolving the crisis and have revealed underlying U.S. interests. The U.S. must provide new coherent leadership to drive international pressure on rival candidates Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga to adhere to the democratic process peacefully and put a stop to the violence. The international community must base its response to the situation on the voices of the Kenyan people and concentrate on addressing not only the immediate political crisis but also deeper issues of social, political and economic justice. U.S.-Kenya policy should be people-centered and truly committed to robust democratic processes rather than defined by a narrow agenda of the “war on terror” and international business interests.

The ugly scenes of violence and chaos that have emerged following Kenya’s disputed presidential polls are symptoms of the greater issues of poverty and socioeconomic inequality. Western observers have held up Kenya as an economic dynamo for its high growth rates and macroeconomic stability without considering who benefits from this development. Despite vigorous growth rates of between five and seven percent over the past three years, Kenya is a country marked by disparity. With a per capita income of just $540 and a current ranking of 145 out of 177 in the United Nations’ Human Development Index, poverty is widespread. Some strides towards economic justice have been made in recent years. Notably, as president, Kibaki succeeded in eliminating primary school fees. However, the volatility around this election is testament to the fact that many Kenyans are still frustrated by poverty and a small elite holds the majority of their country’s vaunted wealth.

Kenya’s 2002 elections generated a powerful sense of optimism among the population that reflected a deep popular commitment to democratic ideals and a new future free of corruption. It is disappointing that these hopes have not materialized. This challenge should galvanize the U.S. and the international community to support this young democracy as it struggles to achieve its vision of a truly representative and responsive government. The African Union is playing a critical role as a rapid responder to help mediate the political crisis. However, U.S. leadership and sustained diplomatic pressure from the entire international community is essential to protecting human rights in Kenya and to a successful mediation between parties that results in a transparent legal solution to the dispute.

Much has been made of the ethnic dimensions of the conflict, but the bottom line is that power hungry politicians can manipulate ethnic differences to promote their own interests with dangerous consequences in the absence of social and economic justice. African nations, like countries worldwide, rely on robust democratic processes to mitigate such conflict. This involves transparent electoral machinery but also involves promoting governance and economic policies that serve all citizens and do not marginalize any groups. Both parties in the conflict have used the phrase genocide to characterize their rivals’ behavior. Africa Action urges leaders on all sides to avoide using inflammatory language that may incite further violence. At the same time, the international community must be vigilant for signs of widespread ethnic cleansing or even emerging genocide and be prepared to intervene if necessary to prevent such crimes against humanity from taking place.

The consequences of an international failure to support Kenya’s democracy during this crisis would be grim, particularly in terms of regional stability. For years, Kenya has been an anchor of stability in a region challenged by conflict. Kenya has hosted peace talks – such as those that led to Sudan’s 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) – and absorbed refugees from neighboring war-torn nations. While a step backwards for this fledgling democracy would hardly reflect on the political fortunes of the whole continent, it would add to the challenges faced by the already tenuous Horn and East Africa. Therefore, the U.S. must lead the international community in a vigorous diplomatic response to defuse current tensions. The first steps to push for are a fully transparent recount of all votes and the lifting of all restrictions on independent media.

Letters & Opinions

On the Reuters lead story entitled “Kibaki Accuses Rivals of Ethnic Cleansing”

(Mail & Guardian Online 02 January 2008)


It is the responsibility of newspapers to report news as they see or hear it. However, I am apprehensive that this kind of equivocal and manipulated news-reporting (in the context of a slow media blockade) will simply buy the regime in Kenya time to launder its image in the midst of a crisis it has deliberately fuelled. The brewing genocide in Kenya has got a long and complicated history. The Kenyan government spin-doctor, Dr Alfred Mutua, has not even begun to scratch on the surface of what is truly going on. Kenya has a long history of internecine violence choreographed by ruling regimes that have always tried to protect their ill-gotten wealth by using ‘tribe’, and even ‘race’ as in the case of the colonial regime, as their alibi. As exiled Kenyan anti-corruption official John Githongo said not too long ago, “corruption always fights back.” Having “vomited all over our shoes” after a corruption binge and having unleashed murder on a scale we have never seen before, they now parade as our protectors. As the late JM Nazareth would have put it, we raia have become “sheep delivered to the fangs of wolves by constituting the wolves the shepherds of the sheep.”

There are many in the Kibaki cabinet and others in opposition parties who are known to have muttered what, under the South African constitution, would be termed hate speech. Many of them have worked for the state at points in history when major public figures such as Dr Robert Ouko, Bishop Alexander Kipsang Muge, Pio Gama Pinto, JM Kariuki, Tom Mboya, Dr Odhiambo Mbai and others were killed on the grounds of their political beliefs or ethnic roots. Others kept quiet when state-sponsored militias spread mayhem in Western Kenya in the early 1990s in order to stop the enactment of multi-partyism.

I know for a fact a number of public figures in the current mess who violently speared effigies of then exiled Kenyan writer, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, in the late 1980s. There are others who sat back, laughed or kept quiet when state thugs were unleashed on Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Prof Wangari Maathai and politician Paul Muite in the early 1990s. Yet others took oaths of ethnic-elite solidarity, sold to the public as a defence of ethnic rights, when massacres and inter-party repression rocked Kenya in the late-1960s. It would be naïve in the extreme to expect that they have all of a sudden developed a conscience. Beware of how many Kenyan politicians will in the coming days make a show of appealing to universal values of liberty, human rights, ad nauseum, when their conduct has been consistently illiberal and complicit in crimes against humanity. Beware especially of the diplomatic ones who will speak in pious Oxfordian tones in order that they may seem less violent than others. Beware of the suave, slick types who could never hurt a fly; they don’t need to for they have snuffed many human lives. As Hannah Arendt discovered when she did research for Eichmann in Jerusalem: The Banality of Evil, her masterful summary of the career and trial of the Nazi operative, mass murderers do not sport horns on their foreheads. They are often very ordinary ‘family men’. Investigate, investigate, investigate!

Let the world know the truth that members of almost all Kenyan ethnic communities are being killed and not just Kikuyu supporters of President Mwai Kibaki’s illegitimate government as the news-report insinuates. Government sponsored thugs and mercenaries cut the water and power supply to Kisumu (an opposition stronghold) at a time when a cholera outbreak is clearly imminent. Over 100 people have been killed in Kisumu, many of them shot in the back by paramilitary forces. There have been reports of cholera in greater South Nyanza and this will spread to major urban centres on the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria. Massive starvation is also imminent in the face of a ban on fishing (a consequence of the cholera outbreak). All major urban areas and rural settlements in all parts of the country are under severe threat, from Busia to Mombasa, thanks to the purveyors of spreadsheet democracy. A government that consorts with known international criminals cannot presume to lecture Kenyans on human rights.

Kenyans at home and in the diaspora have to admit that it is our collective silence in the face of extreme repression at key moments in our history that has led to this crisis. Giving airtime to saber-rattlers, spin-doctors and latter-day Goebbels will not help, but a little investigative journalism just might. The horses of the East African apocalypse may just have been unleashed. The truth must come out. However, our immediate duty now is not to dig in with specific accusations against politicians, but to work out a solution. Only a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and clear rules for power-sharing will help us in the end. Do not fail East Africa, for the region could implode!


Dr Dan Ojwang
Head, African Literature
University of the Witwatersrand

Response to Ngugi wa Thiong'o's analysis of Kenya

Rose Ochwada


Anyone who knows Ngugi will appreciate that Ngugi does not consider any other Kenyan a worthy leader unless they are Kikuyu. This article is a veiled attack on ODM and an endorsement of Kibaki leadership ( What is sad is that Ngugi fails to mention the fact that Kibaki failed to make the promised new constitution a reality, leading to the fallout with many in his cabinet and the consequent creation of the Orange Movement. He also surprisingly fails to condemn the new found reliance of Kibaki on Moi for political survival and what this means to all Kenyans who fought for the second liberation. He cannot bring himself to acknowledge Raila Odinga's fight to demoncracy over the past 30 odd years. He can only praise the role of 'Mau Mau' which we all know was a tribal organisation fighting for return of land to the Kikuyu. If not then can he tell me of a single non-Kikuyu who was a Mau-Mau?? I personaly have nothing against the Kikuyu per se. I only get annoyed at people like Ngugi who use their International fame to fight a tribal cause under the guise of an intellectual discussion. When he talks of economic progress, can he honestly quote an instance where a resident of Mathare or Kibera slums who can testify to a real change in their lives due to the 'economic changes' of the last 5 years? Or is he just quoting the 'infamous' 6% growth that Kimunya and Co keep going on about while stealing from the public through 'Anglo-Leasing? I have never been a fan of Ngugi even in the Moi era, I am less of a fan now with his clear hypocrisy and obviouse tribal agenda.

Kenyan people lost the elections - comment

Lucy Simiyu


I read your comments on the Kenyan elections with great interest. While acknowledging that the Kenyan electorate has indeed lost the elections (see, I would like to point out that we should have seen the post-election violence coming. After all, ODM never lost an opportunity to state that the elections would be rigged - it was a psychological game that heightened people's fears and anxieties so much so that even if Kibaki had won with a landslide, they would still have cried foul. I do not agree with your sentiments that since majority of the PNU ministers were floored, it is an indication that Kibaki was unpopular. I think for the first time, voters opted to stay away from the 3-piece style; the message some of us were sending was: You may be in PNU but you have not delivered as an MP but we believe Kibaki could do better with a new crop of MPs.

As I look at the line-up of MPs Kenyans have voted into parliament my heart weeps for the citizens. What nation turns a blind eye and votes in remnants of a dictatorial corrupt regime? I cannot believe that the ODM euphoria has brought in men and women who have corruption scandals firmly tied around their necks? So will we ever get justice for the crimes committed against us? And to see some of them give rhetoric speeches on justice is a mockery of our intelligence!

On the other hand, I think it is time we put lots of pressure on Kibaki to deliver on issues that are crucial for the Kenyan citizen. I think it's high time civil society (I wonder if we are still relevant at this rate considering that most of us have been compromised) began to speak with a loud voice on socio-political and economic issues affecting the Kenyan populace. As a young girl growing up, I knew that there were courageous men and women who never lost an opportunity to stand for the rights of the people. Slowly, the voice of justice has died over the years, and what we have as civil society in Kenya are men and women eyeing the political seats too and waiting to oil their pockets with hefty salary perks. The role of religious instituions cannot be under-estimated in the cause for justice. Religious institutions in my opinion, should be impartial, keeping a keen eye on the going-ons in society and providing a critical analysis of the happenings. They should be able to challenge injustice at all levels and ensure that the citizens' rights are prioritized at all costs. I have been disheartened to see religious leaders routing for particular candidates or political parties - how then can one provide impartial criticism when the individual or party disregards the rule of law or disrespects the rights of the common man? The media in Kenya has in some ways been irresponsible, airing politicians' irresponsible utterances and I don't think they were aware of the potential harm of their "freedom" to give every politician the space to abuse and call one another names. The chickens have indeed come home to roost. I honestly believe the media in this country needs to re-define themselves into a professional unit and for once, let news be devoid of name-calling and tribal alignments and assessments.

We need a paradigm shift in this country. As Kenyans descend on one another and kill one another, the politicians to whom they owe allegiance retreat in the safety of their homes and the comfort of their families. Is there any politician who really cares? In my opinion, none. Let us not lay blame totally on the state forces; it is clear in some regions that people had been incited to ensure that those belonging to a particular ethnic tribe should be annihilated or vacated. Could somebody please explain why Kikuyu businesses in Western Kenya were targetted? The youth in Kenya should also be motivated to think independently and it is high time each young man/woman realized that no politician will put a plate of food or salary on their tables. A successful society is made up of people who are able to exploit the existing socio-political and economic space in order to better not only their lives, but also the lives of the communities around them.

As we all wait for peace to be restored in this nation, it is my sincere prayer that we will learn from our errors. Aside from politicians, the civil society, religious insititutions and the media have a crucial role to play in ensuring that the unity we have enjoyed as a nation is restored and sustained.

Terror and nightmare of ethnic war

Caesar Wamalika


I wish to share with you the terror and nightmare we are going through of Ethnic War. I am emailing from Baraton and the situation is bad! It all began soon after lection results were announced! Then several groups of community around broke into war songs. They broke into the shopping center next to the university and looted all the shops that belong to Kikuyus and Kisiis. Then they broke into rented offcampus houses of students.

A crowd of about 1,000 people surged to the university gate and wanted to storm the university. They demanded that all Kikuyus, Kambas, Meru, and Kisii people leave the university within two hours. That was the only way to save the university from being stormed. They remained at the gate until it would be seen done. About three armed policemen arrived and spent time negotiating with the crowd. Finally the police advised us to evacuate the named ethnic groups. We put the faculty and students numbering about 250 into three university vehicles and were taken to Kapsabet Police station under police escort. They are still there as at now. A few of us are on campus!

The Division tried to evacuate those from Kapsabet Police Station to Eldoret international Airport but the next road block was a no-go-zone. Inspite of the police escort, the university buses had to return to Kapsabet. The is no way anyone can get out. One baraton group is holed up at Kapsabet police station while faculty members from Luo and Luhyia community, international workers and students are holed up within the campus. Those at Kapsabet have no food or water The worst fear is not so much of food but possibility of police station being stormed. The police are few and overstretched.

We have been having threats a almost daily at campus. On one occassion, we had to give out a bull for them to slaughter and guarantee us peace. Then they came and demanded milk which we also gave. Then we succeced in pleading with the malitia to allow us transport food to those at police station. They allowed us first day and we transported it on varsity tractor. It took three hours to go through road blocks to reach Kapsabet wich is only 15 kilometers away.

I attended a meeting yeasterday with commaders and malitia leaders who came to meet university adminstration. We confirmed that Malitia had had their own meeting and resolved that on humanitarion ground, faculty with kids and pregnant mothers be allowed to return to campus. They also told us students of other communities should come back. It sounded good news. We shock hands. We asked them to transport food to Kapsabet. They agreed and used their own vehicles. But the food never arrived. The malitia who were escorting the food we beaten and vehicles destroyed. The fact that you negotiate with one malitia group, remember the next and several others groups have their own policy. It is like you need visa to cross several of them. We have about 130 Kisii students and workers stranded at police station but cant leave for home. I know of Mr Obuchi whose wife is pregnant! I know of Pr Elijah Njagi and wife, Nyarangi anf wife, etcThey are sleeping in the grass and some in university bus parked at the police station. There is no food and I have never witnessed this.

As I write this email, have just been informed that a crowd came to university gate 15 min ago and demanded that we go out and join them in mass demonstration in the street. That means we shall be put on front line to meet the armed police. University PRO has negotiated with them and the crowd has now chained the university main gate, locked it and gone with the key. No vehicle an come in or go out. We pray that they dont come to force us out.

It is a nightmare to meet them. All of them are armed with matchets, rungus, arrows and bows. Some are drunk and others baying for blood. I have never seen this! We are fear frozen and prayer takes a new meaning! My home is 100 km from here but how do you pass those road blocks? We have Luo workers who want to get out but we hear the Kisii are grouping to fight Luos on Kisii/Luo border. We are boxed in. The road blocks are manned by not less than 500 people. The road block at Cheptrit has a thousand youth manning it. Police told us that Mosoriot has ten thousand worriers camping there. It is a no-go-zone.

We have no where to buy food, no calling cards available, no fuel! But we are finding a new meaning in prayer. I hope I can keep updating you of what is happening at Baraton. You can get from internet what could be happening in other parts like Eldoret, Kakamega and Kisumu.

I have to leave for a crisis meeting to try and avert any attack on the campus. I hope internet access will remain open so that I can keep updating you. I can see helicopter flying over us but seems to be passing again! American Embassy called yesterday for the sake of their citizens. This is a no-go-zone! We need to be evacuated from here! Promises of safety from some malitia groups cannot be trusted.You need to be here to feel it. Whatever the political arguement, it is a nightmare! The ground issue is not how you voted but ethnic affliation. Some are using it to settle personal scores! There were some leaflets from one group saying that all non-Nandis get ready to leave. Other Militia groups say no. But God still keeps us safe!

* Caesar Wamalika, University of Eastern Africa, Baraton/ELDORET, Kenya

News from Lamu, Kenya

Catherine Cutcher


Dearest friends and family,

We greet you with hopes for peace in the New Year. As you have probably heard,
there is much unrest in Kenya following the national elections on Dec. 27. We
are fine and are staying in Lamu, a small island off the northern coast of
Kenya, just south of Somalia. This is a very peaceful place and a small town
where everyone knows each other

We are not sure what news you are getting about Kenya right now, but we know
that many of you have been afraid for us. We thank you for your concern and
your prayers of peace and protection.

On Dec. 27, Kenyans went to the polls. The election itself was mostly peaceful
although some people complained that they could not vote and were told they were
not registered. There was some violence at some polling stations, and there were
some election workers who protested that they were not paid enough. Raila
himself went to vote in his district of Langata/Kibera, and found that his name
was not even printed on the ballot! Election observers from the European Union,
the U.S., and other countries were deployed throughout the country, and they
have reported widespread problems with the way the election was conducted and
how the votes were counted.

It appears that the presidential election may have been rigged, since it took almost four days for the election results to be counted and declared. The elections had been decentralized with individual polling stations in charge of counting the votes from their constituencies. Although the votes were counted locally, they were then sent to the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) in Nairobi, where the Electoral Commission of Kenya was meeting.

As a result, there has been violence, looting, and killing in some parts of Kenya – especially in the Western Province near Kisumu and around Nairobi and Mombasa. These are large cities and the violence has mostly been centered around the cities. We have been communicating with the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi and with friends in the cities who have reported widespread fighting, killing, rapes, looting and burning of stores and houses. The worst situation was a church that was burned with dozens of women and children trapped inside who were seeking refuge. There have been over 300 reported deaths so far, and over 150,000 internally displaced refugees.

On Jan. 2, we heard that Nairobi and Mombasa had cooled down, and that the General Service Unit (GSU military police) and other police were heavily deployed throughout the cities. Shops had opened again in the cities and it seemed that things were returning to normal. However, Raila called for one million people to come to an ODM rally to be held at Uhuru Park in Nairobi, the large central park next to downtown, on Jan. 3 (today). Kibaki banned the rally and called for heavy police deployment throughout the city. This morning we have heard that the rally is taking place and a large crowd is moving from Uhuru Park to Kibera and Langata, Raila’s home constituency. Police have been deployed heavily throughout the city. Kibera is the largest slum outside of Nairobi and has been the center of much of the violence so far. We are praying that the rally will be peaceful and that Raila will ask his supporters to protest without violence. However, the situation is very tense and it might escalate again after today’s rally.

Do not worry about us – we are safe here in Lamu and we will be careful about waiting until it is safe elsewhere before traveling from here. The only concern here is that we are very remote, and that the supplies to the island come from the other cities on buses and boats. Since there is an oil shortage and a ban on traveling in the cities, there are few supplies coming to the island now.

* Cat Cutcher is a PHD student at Ohio University currently in Kenya on a Fulbright scholarship. This is an edited version of the full letter.

Comment on special issue on Kenya electoral crisis

Obonyo Raphael


Thank you for your concern and for your asurance that you are with us in this very difficult moment in the history of our nation. I am fine, we are fine though affected in one way or the other.

A country we once loved with a passion is now going up in flames in the post election violence. Hundreds ofd innocent lives have been lost, thousand injured and many more thousand have been internally displaced. Not to mention that porperties worth billions have have been vandalized and normal business operations interfered with. No one is spared in what has turned out to be teh nucleus of genocide. The most affected parts are the urban slums like korogocho (where I live) and the rural areas.

Our country is on fire and it is bleeding profusely because of the accusations that the incumbent president rigged the elections at the tallying centre. We are now paying heavily because some of our leaders disrespected justice and democracy. we have never been so divided as a country.

The uncertetinity grip our country is unbelievable. We live a day at time and every second counts. Gun shots, tear gas, razing of houses, massacres and all sorts of violences are slowly but steadily becoming teh norm. A country once regarded as an island of peace has become a turmoil of chaos.

Though the situation is quite appaling i still remain optimistic though cautiously. keep in touch and forever let us respect justice that is if we want peace. That is the greatest lesson we have learnt from the debacle...

We are at pains and we ask who will save our country?

Two more petitions

Ecoterra International Kenya


Dear Friends,

here are two petitions for you to sign:

Please endorse and then send them far and wide for others to do likewise.

African Union Monitor

AU Monitor Weekly Roundup

Issue 118, 2007


This week's AU Monitor brings you updates from the African Union, where Cuban Vice President Estaban Lazo Hernandez recently held discussions with Commissioner Konare. The two leaders agreed to improve political and socioeconomic links between the African Union and Cuba and enhance Cuban solidarity for the development of the African continent. Further, Nadia Ahmadou provides analysis about the African Union's commitment to human right's and governance on the continent, encouraging the commission to match its statements with action by creating " a consolidated and coherent institutional approach to the standards regarding human rights, as contained within its Constitutive Act".

A memorandum of understanding between the United Nations' Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and three European countries was signed recently. The new business plan for 2007-2009 will allocate $12 million to numerous gender, trade, and governance activities.

In regional news, the South African Development Community (SADC) reflects on 2007 and examines developments and shortcomings of its member states activities while also highlighting the various challenges to regional integration.

In peace and security news, the full deployment of peacekeeping troops in the Darfur region has been delayed further still. Of the issues contributing to the delay, amongst the largest is the Sudanese governments' insistence that only African troops be deployed to the region, asking that the UN and other international structures provide control and command support.

Lastly, the final communiqué from the 42nd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights is now available.

Refugees & forced migration

Round-up of articles from IRIN


KENYA: Fears rise over plight of displaced

Thousands of Kenyans displaced by post-election violence in the west of the country were taking refuge in police stations and church grounds with little or no access to humanitarian assistance four days into the worst unrest seen in the country since a 1982 failed coup.

Many have no homes to return to, because they were set on fire in the wave of violence that greeted the Election Commission of Kenya's announcement on 30 December that incumbent Mwai Kibaki had won the presidential poll three days earlier. Much of the violence was committed by civilians and generally targetted members of Kibaki's Kikuyu ethnic group and others that support him politically.
Full report

KENYA: Whispering in Swahili - good neighbours in the Rift Valley

Two families found themselves caught up in post election violence in Moi's Bridge, an area between Eldoret and Kitale in western Kenya's strife-hit Rift Valley Province. They told IRIN their stories.

The area is predominantly Kalenjin (an ethnic grouping including the Nandi, Marakwet, Pokot and others). But a significant Kikuyu population also lives there. According to the Kenya Red Cross Society and other sources, the violence in Rift Valley Province mainly pits members of the Kalenjin community against the Kikuyu, the tribe of controversially re-elected President Mwai Kibaki.

On the night of 29 December - the day before the election results were announced and promptly rejected by the opposition, the first attacks on Kikuyu houses and homesteads around Moi's Bridge began, according to residents of both ethnicities contacted by phone from Nairobi.
Full report

UGANDA-KENYA: Border town sets up camps for families displaced by poll violence

Johnstone Kimili still does not understand why it happened as he describes the violence in western Kenya that forced him to seek refuge in neighbouring Uganda.

"I am a pastor and had gone to church that Sunday [30 December] morning. There was nothing that indicated violence would break out," he told IRIN at a makeshift camp in the Ugandan border town of Malaba.

"The trouble broke out immediately after the results of the presidential polls were announced; everything changed within 20 minutes," he said.

"Within minutes, my two shops had been burnt down and they took everything - even the doors and windows. I lost property worth 600,000 shillings [about US$9,000] - including the clothes I was wearing."
Full report

KENYA: Rape on the rise in post-election violence

Amid the violence that engulfed several residential areas of the Kenyan capital following the declaration of controversial results of the presidential elections, women in particular have been targetted, with at least one hospital reporting a rise in the number of rape victims seeking treatment.

The Nairobi Women's Hospital said it had on 31 December received 19 rape cases, almost double the daily average.

Violence erupted mostly in the slums of Nairobi and other areas soon after the Electoral Commission of Kenya announced that incumbent President Mwai Kibaki had won the poll, beating his opposition rival challenger Raila Odinga, who immediately rejected the result citing alleged rigging of the poll in Kibaki's favour. "It looked like it was mainly systematic gang rapes," said Sam Thenya, the chief executive officer of the hospital.
Full report

KENYA: Post-poll violence a 'national disaster', says Red Cross

Kenya is in the throes of a humanitarian "national disaster" amid post-election violence that has left scores dead, tens of thousands displaced beyond reach of immediate assistance and many more destined to be dependent on aid for several months to come, according to the Red Cross.

"The country has been riddled with insecurity over the last few days and there are many areas we cannot access," Kenya Red Cross Secretary General Abbas Gullet told reporters in Nairobi on 1 January after conducting an assessment by helicopter to western parts of the country.

Video footage shot during this mission showed smoke billowing from homes and farms, crowds of displaced civilians seeking sanctuary in churches and police stations, and usually busy main arteries empty of traffic and dotted with roadblocks manned by gangs.
Full report

KENYA-UGANDA: Food aid reaches displaced families in border towns

Food relief for an estimated 2,000 Kenyan refugees who crossed the border into east Uganda when they fled post election violence has started to arrive, government officials said.

Musa Ecweru, a Ugandan minister in charge of refugees and disaster preparedness, told IRIN that an estimated two tonnes of maize meal and about 600 kilograms of beans were delivered on 4 January to the refugees at the make-shift reception centres set up in the compounds of St Jude and Koitangiro primary schools along the border.

He said: "We are using the two primary schools in Busia and Malaba as we assess the situation and determine whether we have to move them further inland as required by international law."
Full report

Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice

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