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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Kenya in Crisis Day 22: On the Brink

The opposition staged rallies. Those rallies lead to violence, and now the country fears more widespread ethnic cleansing.

Two people were killed in the western city of Kisumu, an opposition stronghold where burning tires blocked the roads. Witnesses said they were shot at by police — but the authorities claimed officers had only fired in the air.

Police also used live rounds in the capital, Nairobi, and in the town of Eldoret, wounding at least five people. The latest clashes raised fears of more mass ethnic killings, like those that followed the election on December 27.

Here is how one place described the events...

Young men armed with machetes hurled stones at police who fired back tear gas in a slum in Kenya's capital Thursday, but most of the country was quiet as
opposition protests over a disputed presidential election appeared to lose

Residents hid indoors and crouched on the floors of shops as young men ran past in Nairobi's Mathare slum. Police fired tear gas down dirt alleyways and gunshots into the air.

It is important to note that the police are an extension of the government currently in charge of Mwai Kibaki. Kibaki is from the Kikuyu tribe, the largest tribe in Kenya. He is currently being blamed for what the conventional wisdom now considers rigged elections. The armed men with machetes are generally from a loose coalition of every other tribe. Last week the same sort of scenes were occurring only these armed men had their sights set on the commoners who they deemed from the Kikuyu tribe. Now, they have turned their venom toward the police which they also identify with the Kikuyu tribe.

It is unclear what the purpose of the rallies is however one effect is increasing the violence, tension and death in the country. Ultimately, what these rallies show is that chaos is ultimately in control of that country. The image of groups of men roaming around with machetes evoke the darkest hours in the aftermath of the rigged election. The most primitive and debased sort of tribal and gang warfare are fusing together to create a situation that is spiraling out of control.

The current leader, Mwai Kibaki, and the opposition leader, Raila Odingo, haven't spoken face to face since the crisis started.

It is unclear what such a meeting would accomplish anyway. At this point, just about anything could be construed as stoking the tensions.

Cities throughout the country are reporting ongoing humanitarian crises. There is widespread violence, looting, gang warfare, and militia activity. It is unclear at this point that anyone is in charge.

While politicians, diplomats, and so called statesmen offer advice counsel and mediation the country continues to spiral out of control. There is no indication that there will be any legitimate action to stop this impending nightmare anytime soon.


Anonymous said...

Kibaki, rather than Kibuki.

Anonymous said...

I must say that I can't say in entirety who won the presidency and justice needs to be done. But I have some comments just to make sure our conclusions and perceptions (especially by the international press) are drawn from correct information:

1. Kibaki’s PNU was involved in election irregularities – It is true that there were irregularities in some PNU strongholds. But there were irregularities in some ODM strongholds of Nyanza and Rift Valley with some constituencies reporting voter turnout of over 90% (very suspicious) or 100% (outrageous) and Kibaki's party agents chased away during tallying. Unfortunately, this has been completely blacked out by the press as it happened at the beginning of the vote tallying process.
2. Raila beat Kibaki in 6 of 8 provinces and thus by inference won the elections – Let’s get mathematical for a moment. Question is by how much in the 6 provinces? What is the voter population in these 6 provinces vis a vis the remaining 2 provinces? If indeed Kibaki managed to garner between 18% and 45% in 5 of these 6 provinces, and Raila on the other hand had between 2% and 5% in the remaining 2 (which account for approx. 30% of the country’s registered voters), a Kibaki win is not entirely unfathomable. Non-Kenyans may not be aware but Kenya's law is about who wins in terms of absolute numbers as long as they fulfill the 25% requirement in at least 5 of 8 provinces.
3. ODM won 99 parliamentary seats and PNU won 43 seats and therefore Kibaki lost the elections – Two issues:
• Though conducted concurrently, the Parliamentary and Presidential are 2 separate and distinct elections. A party can win one and lose the other and vise versa.
• PNU was just the lead party among 15+ parties that supported Kibaki. These parties fielded competing candidates in certain areas which resulted in a split parliamentary vote sometimes giving ODM victory in the parliamentary election. Thus, in some instances, PNU lost the parliamentary seat but Kibaki won the Presidential vote due to a ‘consolidation effect’.
• PNU and it’s pre-election affiliates (i.e. excluding Kalonzo Musyoka’s party) have a total of 75 seats. Again, it is not unfathomable for a President to be from such a team.
4. Raila won by between 500,000 votes and 1 million votes (read ‘Landslide’) - The US Amabassador recently said that though not committing on who they think won the elections, their analysis indicates that whoever won did so by no more than 100,000 votes. Of course their report is not infallible. But it seems to be consistent with opinion polls conducted just before the elections that showed a difference of 1% between the 2 leading candidates (approx. 100,000 votes of the 10M who voters who turned out)
5. On the ethnic violence – In ODM’s final campaign rally in multi-ethnic Nairobi, Raila spoke in his native Luo language urging the crowd to give him Nairobi while Mudavadi did so in Luhya at the same venue. What would you have thought or felt if you were a Kikuyu who supports ODM and you were attending the rally? Though not necessarily a pointer to ethnic indifference, Kibaki to his credit never addressed a campaign rally in his native Kikuyu language even when in his home turf of Central Province where 99% of the population is Kikuyu.

I agree that Kibaki should not force people to accept his leadership. But neither should Raila.

Again, I say that I can't entirely tell who won the presidency and truth and justice in that regard is required. But even if he knows he will win, I am sure Kibaki will be unwilling to step down for fresh elections as long as Raila continues to take the moral high-round. Such an act will simply give Raila credibility that I am not sure he is altogether entitled to.

But my saddest day for Kenyans was on Tuesday during the first day of parliament. Members from both sides of the divide shook hands laughing heartily despite their vitriol-filled public statements. As we kill each other ‘fighting for our man’, our man is eating and drinking with the ‘enemy’ (with whom by they way share business interests) in his lavish mansion watching us clowns on TV.

God save us Kenyans from this foolish blindness!

Nairobi, Kenya