When I first saw TV news reports about the sporadic looting and violence and the government’s clampdown on press and media freedom in East Africa’s “model nation” I said to myself, “OK, vote-rigging, claims of election fraud and other irregularities are to be expected in a nation that is so rife with corruption and graft and political cronyism.” But I think that no one expected the violence to expand so rapidly across this vast country and according to news reports from reliable sources like Reuters, CNN, and the BBC News the violence has taken a very ugly turn toward ethnic cleansing and mob rule, especially in the Rift Valley region.
People who regularly follow news about Kenyan politics understand that vote rigging is par for the course in Kenyan elections. My GOTO website during a government clampdown on press freedom during a crisis is of course Global Voices Online at Harvard University Law School. I was not the only one smart enough to check with Global Voices for the ‘beat from the street’ as evidenced in this post ‘Kenya on the Brink’ by Andrew Sullivan, a veteran journalist and avid blog author presently writing "The Daily Dish" column for The Atlantic.com.
Global Voices Africa editior Ndesanjo Macha has been all over the story in Kenya from the start, researching and aggregating the best of the breaking news articles and blog posts written and published by blog authors and citizen journalists from Kenya and around the globe. Veteran Kenyan blog authors and TED Global fellows Ory Okolloh (Kenyan Pundit) and Daudi Were (Mental Acrobatics), and the renowned author ‘M’ of tHiNkEr’S rOoM, a co-founder along with Ory Okolloh of the popular Kenyan politics watchdog website Mzalendo: Eye on Kenyan Parliament have been keeping the blogosphere up-to-date with breaking news and insights into the crisis that are unavailable in much of the international press and media reports. A list featuring the excellent work of these important, world-class blog authors and editors can be found in the Related Articles section at the end of this post.
Sorious Samura’s latest documentary “Living with Corruption” which aired on CNN International this past December 2007 revealed the suffering of Nairobi’s million+ Kibera slum dwellers (link to Kibera photos) under the burden of endemic corruption from the bottom up AND the top down___ from slum dwelling landlords overseeing the building of flimsy shacks to tribal chiefs and local government officials and civil servants to top Kenyan government parliamentarians___ all ‘on the take’ and taking from poor African people who literally have nothing to spare.
People’s frustration over generations of poverty with no end in sight coupled with the obvious manipulation by the ruling regime of the presidential election results lay at the heart of this violence we see on our TV news and read about in the world press. The intractable position taken by Kenyan President Kibaki toward the election results and the stubbornness of the opposition party leader Raila Obinga to talk and negotiate with the government makes these two leaders as responsible for the deaths and injuries suffered by 100’s of innocent people as the machete-wielding mobs roaming the streets and countryside looking for blood, murder, and mayhem.
Note: read the transcript from CNN’s Inside Africa host Femi Oke’s interview with filmmaker Sorious Samura about the making of the documentary “Living with Corruption” and visit the Insight News TV website for more information.
When I read the news reports about vicious ethnic clashes breaking out across the country and that a church in Eldoret, Kenya full of frightened women and children had been torched by an angry mob the full weight of this crisis hit home. I asked myself, “What the ---- kind of human being would burn a church filled with frightened, innocent women and children?! How can you justify something like that to yourself, your leader (political or military), your god, or whoever you hold in high esteem?”
This single act of brutal inhumane behavior by marauding gangs and ad-hoc “citizen militias” reduces the perpetrators to the level of the reviled Janjaweed who attack on camel and horseback rampaging and burning towns and villages in Darfur. The burning alive of frightened women and children in Eldoret is equal to the atrocities carried out by the Satan’s brew of rebel militias, government soldiers, and bandits who have terrorized innocent villagers and townspeople of the Eastern Congo for the past 10 years. What happened to those women and children at that church in Eldoret, Kenya unfortunately does not fit the legal description of a crime against humanity, but the Kenyan government authorities along with the AU and the international community must do everything in their power, even in the midst of this political and humanitarian meltdown in Kenya, to bring the perpetrators of these horrible crimes to justice… or there will never be a lasting peace in Kenya.
Many, many people around the globe have been so dismayed by the images of ethnic violence and murder engulfing Kenya since the announcement of the bogus presidential election results. But fortunately voices of reason and calm are slowly beginning to emerge in the country, replacing the threatening, frightening images that have dominated world news headlines since the Christmas holidays. International and national news networks (CNNI, BBC World, Aljazeera, Germany’s ARD and ZDF) have aired important interviews with world figures such as the Nobel Laureates Dr. Wangari Maathai of Kenya and Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. Bishop Tutu’s meeting on Thursday with Odinga and his scheduled meeting today with President Kibaki is beginning to yield some results. US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer is on her way to the country to help encourage a peaceful resolution to the political crisis.
I was not surprised that the Kibaki government first rejected the offers of outside help, including the services of South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a member of the newly formed Council of Global Elders. The African Union President and President of Ghana, John Kufuor, as of this writing has not received an official invitation from President Kibaki to travel to Nairobi and offer his services. One must realize that the President of the African Union has been told to “butt out of Kenya’s internal affairs”. This is in sharp contrast to the strong public show of pan-African unity and cooperation by African leaders that was on display during trade talks at the EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon.
A really great background editorial on the roots of the present crisis in Kenya is available at the Thinker’s Room blog. “M” writes in his post “What Really Happened: Part 1 – Genesis":
The problem (the nature of which I will get to last) began almost 5 years ago, in the hastily cobbled together amalgamation of political parties of NAK and LDP that was called the National Rainbow coalition. Analysis of the voting patterns showed a country that was solidly united behind what they believed to be the path to a change of destiny. Raila Odinga went to Central Kenya and was wildly cheered, more than most of the Central Province leaders. Kibaki went to Nyanza and was wildly cheered. People by and large ignored tribe and voted for change.
Cracks immerged shortly after the new cabinet was named. The LDP felt that they had been shortchanged, in contravention of a pre-election Memorandum of Understanding, the infamous MOU.
Now much hubbub was made over the MOU. People loudly wondered what the contents were. People contended that such documents made behind closed doors and out of the public eye were not binding. Such sentiments, in my opinion, are the height of naiveté. The fact of the matter is that in politics lobbying and dealing are a part of the game. These things are done well in advance in privacy away from you and me. They are done EVERYWHERE and not just Kenya. It is naive to presume that you have a say in the distribution of cabinet positions. You have none. Get used to it.
But I digress.
The LDP felt strongly that it had been shortchanged on two fronts: consultation in the naming of the cabinet and in the number of seats allocated to them. They actually held a press conference to protest the developments. The public was largely hostile to these attempts to besmirch their rosy-eyed view of Canaan.
The LDP may have kept quiet subsequently but they did not forget what they perceived to be a betrayal.
The second problem was entirely of the incoming President’s making. Upon being sworn in he sacked large numbers of civil servants who happened to be principally from the Rift Valley. Many were dispossessed of benefits like cheap housing. Many were threatened with court, and a good number were charged in court. Ministers like Kiraitu Murungi very arrogantly demanded that President Moi go herd goats and watch how government was run.
This very fact I believe is what cost Kibaki support in the Rift Valley. The people were not about to forget what they felt were injustices done to their sons and daughters. Things were not helped by the last minute marriage of convenience between Moi and Kibaki. The people of the Rift were even more resentful of what they perceived to be a turncoat. People vividly recall the indignities Moi was subjected to on his exit, and the only way that he and Kibaki could be reading from the same script was if Moi had been promised something that he was not about to share with them.
The third problem begins with the fact that it was perceived that a disproportionate percentage of the Cabinet were from Central and Eastern Kenya, principally the Kikuyu and the Meru. A similar situation seemed to present itself in senior civil servant positions, where it was felt a disproportionately large number of the numbers [sic] were from a single region. If you recall there were email forwards enumerating senior positions staffed by members from a single part of Kenya. The Government hastily prepared another one listing positions staffed by people from other communities but it is always about perception. The fact-of-the-matter is that percentages based on regions favour one section of Kenya.
This led to the birth of the notorious term, “Mount Kenya Mafia”, who were perceived to be in control of the affairs of the country. Kibaki then, and still projects a hands-off approach that verges on lethargy. This very perception of apathy actively cultivated the notion that there were a few friends and associates of Kibaki that were actually running the country, and not him.
This is the source of the infamous sentiment “It is not Kibaki. Kibaki is a good man. Its those around him that are the problem”.
A sentiment, I’m afraid, that does not wash because you can delegate duties but not responsibilities.
Bitter complaints rose from cabinet ministers protesting being denied access to the president.
The fourth problem was the sheer arrogance with which some Cabinet ministers conducted themselves. Top of the list were ministers like Christopher Murungaru, Kiraitu Murungi, John Michuki whose pronouncements on and off the camera raised the ire of the public, especially during the ill fated referendum campaigns.
The fifth problem revolved around the corruption scandals that plagued the Kibaki administration, and what, it was perceived, was its subsequent cover up. Ministers who were forced out of office by the allegations somehow ended up back in their posts.
Read more of “What Really Happened: Genesis Part 1” at Thinker’s Room…
End of Excerpt
Blog Author’s Note: some minor grammatical edits have been made to the original text above from tHiNkEr'S rOoM
Related articles and other online resources
Kenya Is Burning. Stop the Fighting!, (01/04/08)
What Really Happened: Part 2 - Exodus, (01/03/08)
What Really Happened: Part 1 - Genesis, (01/01/08)
I Cry, My Country Has Been Robbed, (12/31/07)
Mzalendo: Eye on Kenyan Parliament
(Kenyan politics watchdog and community participation site)
Update on Burnt Forest & Eldoret Jan 1st (01/01/08)
Post Media Blackout Update Jan 2nd (01/02/08)
Kenya Elections 2007 (category archive)
Uncertainty Grips Kenya – Kenya Election 2007, (12/31/07)
Something is Not Right – Kenya Election 2007, (12/30/07)
Citizen Media – Kenyan Election 2007 (12/30/07)
Global Voices Online
Kenya: State of Democracy in Photos by Joseph Karoki, (01/02/08)
(Warning: post links to disturbing images of the violence and the victims)
Kenya: Do Not Doubt the Power of the Internet in Africa, (01/02/08)
Kenyan Elections: What bloggers are saying, (12/31/07)
Kenya: Unpacking Election Rigging Allegations, (01/03/08)
Tutu Joins Church Efforts to Resolve Polls Crisis, (01/03/08)
What is Going On in Our Country? by Daudi Were, (01/03/08)
Western Media Focus on ‘Media Savvy’ Election, (12/24/07)
Kenya/Kenyan Elections special feature (news, discussion groups)
The brand new allAfrica.com blog - Kenya
Reuters Africa, Reuters AlertNet
Kenya Government Says Ready for New Vote If Court Orders, (01/04/08)
Refugees Cry Genocide as Kenya’s Rift Valley Erupts, (01/03/08)
The New York Times & NYT blog "On the Ground" by Nicholas D. Kristof
Kenya Isn't Rwanda by Josh Ruxin, (01/04/08)
Kenya, Known for Its Stability, Topples into Post-Election Chaos, (01/03/08)
The African Front by Joshua Hammer, (12/23/07)
(A Christian incumbent vs. a Muslim candidate in a northern Kenya constituency)
The Washington Post
Violence Grows After Kenyan Elections (full coverage special feature)
U.S. Envoy Heads to Kenya as Focus Shifts to Diplomacy, (01/04/08)
The Atlantic.com – Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish
Kenya on the Brink, (12/31/07)
Kenya Violence: University Under Siege, (01/04/08)
Diplomacy Falters as Kenya Burns, (01/04/08)
Can Tutu Heal Kenya’s Wounds, (01/04/08)
Kenyan Bloggers at Home and Abroad, (01/04/08)
Kenya Chaos Hits Uganda Economy, (01/04/08)
Guardian Unlimited (UK)
Simon Jenkins: Britain Has Too Many Flaws to Lecture about Democracy, (01/02/08)
Kenya at Breaking Point: Dozens Killed as Mob Sets Fire to Church, (01/02/08)
An African Exception and Role Model, (12/31/07)
Photo Essay: Guardian photographer David Leven in Nairobi’s Kibera slums
The Times Online (UK)
A Bitter New Chapter for Kenya, (01/01/08)
Spiegel Online International (Germany)
Chaos in Kenya
Tribal Massacres Echo Rwandan Genocide, (01/02/08)
Violence Flairs after Disputed Elections
Over 120 Killed in Kenya Clashes, (12/31/07)
Insight News TV (UK)
Sorious Samura’s documentary film “Living with Corruption”
Opposition Calls Off Kenya Rally, (01/03/08)
Kenya on the Verge of a Showdown, (01/02/08)
Quotes of the day Thursday Jan 3, 2008 (Kenyan vice-President Moody Awori)
A Massacre in a Kenyan Church, (01/01/08)
Will Kenya’s Vote Lead to a Tribal War? (12/31/07)
Odinga’s Party Postpones Kenya March, (01/03/08)
CNN/TIME.com Topics: Kenya (news and video about Kenya)
Interview with documentary filmmaker Sorious Samura (Inside Africa transcript 12/08/07))
Voice of America News
Britain Calls for End to Kenyan Violence, (01/02/08)
US Laments Kenya’s Election Irregularities, Appeals for Calm, (12/31/07)
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