Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The 2007 post election violence in Kenya.

Kenya's 2007 election was accompanied by violent conflicts dubbed 'land' and 'ethnic' clashes. These
conflicts mostly affected parts of the Coast, Western, Nyanza and Rift valley provinces and Nairobi slums.
With the president, Mwai Kibaki a Kikuyu and Mr. Odinga a Luo, the election seems to have tapped into an
atavistic vein of tribal tension that always lay beneath the surface in Kenya but until now had not provoked
widespread mayhem. The consequence of these conflicts was destruction of property and means of
livelihood, fear and insecurity in society, and massive (internal) population displacement. The victims of the
clashes sought refuge in schools and church compounds, where they camped and received assistance from
the church and well wishers, while others fled to shopping centers or to relatives living in other parts of the
country. The local people also got displaced later in the process of escaping reprisals by the security forces.
Others were assisted with resettlement materials by the Catholic Church, NCCK and NGOs such as Action
Aid, Oxfam, and World Vision and other relief organizations. Some Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) left
their camp in Rift Valley, travelled to Nairobi and sought refuge in slums.
                                               vandalized properties along the highway
Kenya's leaders came under increasing pressure from the international community  to end post-election violence that had resulted in the deaths of at least 250 people, including dozens who were burned alive as they sought refuge in a church.
The killing of as many as 50 ethnic Kikuyus Tuesday as they sheltered in a church in the city of Eldoret fueled concern that ethnic conflicts were deepening in the east African nation.
Much of Nairobi was quiet and deserted,  though clashes continued in the city's giant Mathare slum.
The violence - which has erupted from the shantytowns of Nairobi to resort towns on the sweltering coast - has exposed tribal resentments that have long festered in Kenya. Kibaki's Kikuyu people, Kenya's largest ethnic group, are accused of turning their dominance of politics and business to the detriment of others.
Odinga is from the Luo tribe, a smaller but still major tribe. In the slums, which are often divided along tribal lines, rival groups have been going at each other with machetes and sticks as police fire tear gas and live rounds to keep them from pouring out into the city center.
The church fire in Eldoret, some 185 miles from the capital, killed at least 50 people.

In part due to the ethnic and geographic diversity of the ODM coalition, no one narrative can explain the reaction of opposition supporters to the announcement of Kibaki's swearing-in. In addition to staging several nonviolent protests, opposition supporters went on a violent rampage in several parts of the country, most noticeably in Odinga's homeland of nyanza province and the slums of Nairobi, part of his Langata constituency. Police shot a number of demonstrators, including a few in front of TV news cameras, causing more violence directed toward the police.

Targeted ethnic violence (as opposed to violent protests) escalated and at first was directed mainly against Kikuyu community of which Kibaki is a member – living outside their traditional settlement areas, especially in the Rift Valley Province. Tensions in the Rift Valley have caused violence in several previous Kenyan elections, most notably in the 1992 Kenyan Elections. Some of the Kikuyu also engaged in violence against groups supportive of Odinga, primarily Luos and Kalenjin, especially in the areas surrounding Nakuru and Naivasha
In Mombasa, Muslim Kenyans took to the streets to protest the electoral manipulations and air their own grievances, though ethnic tensions played much less of a role in these protests. Looters also struck a number of stores in Mombasa.   The slums of Nairobi saw some of the worst violence, some of this ethnically-motivated attacks, some simple outrage at extreme poverty, and some the actions of criminal gangs. The violence continued sporadically for several months, particularly in the Rift Valley.

In the centre of the town shops and businesses started to close down and by the middle of the day, nothing was left open. Fear etched deep into everyone's faces. Groups of terrified residents were suddenly running headlong out of the parts of town they live in, because they heard that houses were being attacked and set on fire. 

Many people  abandoned their homes altogether.

In view of these recent political problems that threaten to tear Kenya apart require analysis that goes beyond ethnicity as portrayed in the media and current analyses that attempt to explain the situation. More correctly, emphasis and focus should be placed on the interpenetration of historical and current political developments whose origins can be traced in the early stages of state formation in Kenya.

                                                                                             Story compilled and published by,
                                                                                              Jeaym C. Koskei.

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