Sunday, January 27, 2008

Conjecture from the Mzungu Chick

There is of course much speculation all over with regards to the violence we are experiencing here in Kenya, and seeing as we’re all going in for a bit of conjecture, I thought I’d add my own in too as I’ve been thinking about exactly this for ages.

I had a comment on a recent post that said that if the elections had been completely transparent then this violence would not have happened at all, and another train of thought is that this violence is tribal and has been simmering for years and has now erupted into what we are experiencing now.

Personally I think both views hold some truth in them.

I do believe that this current outbreak of tribal violence that we are seeing right now would not have started if the elections had been seen to be free, fair and totally transparent. This certainly did not happen and although it was all geared to go that way, with all of the big media houses having agents all around the country who were ringing in the results as they were provisionally released at a constitutional level, they seemed to be keeping a running tally that showed Raila with a large lead on the first day of counting with a slimmer lead on the second day when the Central province results were coming in (which is as expected), but they still had Raila in the lead until people started getting excited about the process taking so long and not all of the official results being released at the ECK tallying with the ones being provisionally released at provincial level.

That was then the media seemed to stop releasing results. In some provinces came allegations of rigging and some trouble which caused them to stop counting altogether. Then there was the closed door overnight retallying that took place with representatives of both Raila and Kibaki’s party, and although there were still questions there, it seems Samuel Kivuitu, the Chairman of the ECK, (or so he said and then later retracted), was pressurised into releasing a result, and was told what he would release, and it didn’t correspond to anything that the media had been collating along the way.

Just before Kivuitu announced the ‘final’ tally of the Presidential results, all of the media was thrown out of the KICC, which was at the time, the Electoral Commissions headquarters. John Muchuki, who was the former Internal Security Minister, had issued a written order to shut down all TV and radio stations in the country which was not acted against, although the live broadcast ban came into affect and is still in situ today, although it has been blatantly flouted a few times in the past couple of days by some of the TV stations and to no consequence to them.

Now the violence that is currently gripping this country is, whether we like it or not, tribal conflict. It is tribe against tribe, and I think the reason we are in shock here is that we have never before seen this tribal violence spread from the villages where in some areas it has been a constant threat long before these elections. What I think we are amazed by is that it has spread into major towns where various different ethnic tribes have lived in peace for many years, but ultimately, it has become a question of perceived inequality between the tribes, that has simmered under the surface for many years.

Nick Wadhams, a journalist based here in Nairobi, has written this post today

outlining most of this and, like he says, tribal conflict and electoral violence has been going on for years and is not new to us. What is new to us though is this targeting of the large towns in all this, starting with Kisumu, spreading to Eldoret – which then the government thought be removing all the Kikuyu’s from that town it would ease the tension. But surely it has done the opposite, who should decide that one tribe should move and why the Kikuyu’s? Now the Kikuyu’s want revenge and they are taking it out on the other tribes in Nakuru which is where they were taken and where now they must hold a majority. Today this has spread down as far as Naivasha, and here in Nairobi it has been going on within the slums sporadically throughout the past four weeks.

As references in Nick Wadhams post says, Kikuyu’s are perceived as to have taken the lions share over the past few years with a Kikuyu in charge in the form of Kibaki, and the Luo’s now feel it is their turn to garner some of this wealth and have their people in power and reap some of these rewards. Because of the way the final results in the Presidential election were released in such a clandestine manner, and the fact that up until that point, the media had Raila leading the race. Of course the people who voted for Raila feel cheated, and that means it has turned into a war of Luo vs. Kikuyu with all the other tribes taking their sides as per how the majority of their tribesmen were perceived to have voted.

One thing is, that a lot of people are tending to ignore at this stage, is that some of this violence had already broken out before the results were announced in Western Kenya which tells me that the Luo’s thought they had won and the looting and chaos that erupted in Kisumu started with those people trying to get a head start on the wealth that they felt was coming to them with a Raila win. People were then killed when the police opened fire as they could not control the situation any more. Perhaps if Raila had then been declared the winner and would have been then in charge of the police, it may be that people would have let those police killings go, as it has happened many times before. As Kibaki won, it was then seen that those police were acting directly on Kibaki’s orders and then it became a case of Kikuyu’s (as the police, no matter what tribe they actually were from, were in Kibaki’s hands in their opinion, so therefore acting on behalf of a Kikuyu,) vs. the other tribes.

What this shows is that having a President of whatever tribe giving out various government posts and therefore (how it generally ends up), unequal distribution of funds to his cronies, certain tribes feel missed out in this distribution of wealth and this has to change before we will ever get anywhere surely.

It most definitely ends up being all about money and who benefits. Whatever they decide to do and however it is done, the most important thing in all this is that a long term plan of sorting out this incredible inequality between Kenyans needs to be most definitely be on top of the agenda. And whatever is done, it must be done so in a totally transparent way, so that Kenyans can feel that those big wigs are actually thinking of them and not just themselves, as per usual.


Anonymous said...

The kikuyu or the munjiki sent from sombody ? I am secure that the kikuyu want peace as much then any other wananchi. All the people from Kenya want peace.The luo ,on the films showed ,looked drunk or on drug. Nobody go for a protest smiling like them


Anon - I think that ALL Kenyans most definitely need peace whichever tribe they are from.

zed said...

hi mzungu chick,

nice commentary.maybe you should be on the beeb more often :)

just wanted comment on a couple of issues. from what i have heard, the pre-declaration rioting in kisumu(and other places) was triggered by the goings on at eck. basically odm supporters suspected foul play and responded with destruction and looting. i don't think odm suppoters and the luo interpreted an odm victory as cue to lawlessness.of course the luo would have been proud to have one of their own as president and also hope to benefit thro' patronage but not thro' outright thuggery.

overall i believe kenyans (including luos) wanted change. i get abit frustrated by the reductionism that has creeped into the analysis of our current troubles. kenya has been mismanaged for 40 years. there's been a huge deal of social and economic injustices that have been either ignored or perpetuated with impunity. we'd been warned before but successive administrations resorted to authoritarian rule to muffle complaints. the world changed, circumstances caught up with us and it is no longer enough to threaten citizenry with the state violence-even in africa. yes tribes are fighting each other but they wouldn't if they weren't poor. coast people and kaleos would not be chasing kyuks out of coast and rift-valley if kenyatta had acted prudently regarding the land issue after independence.

the tragedy of all this is our leaders, drunk with power and fuelled by greed passed on every singl opportunity to solve this pains me when i imagine where we could be now had we had different sort of leadership and where we're going to end up now with this greedy lot

that's why i agree with you when you say we need to get rid of patronage that's been institutionalised in our system. nothing short of a complete overhaul of our governance infrastructure will save us from going the somali way. that's how desperate i feel that culture has made us. we're basically fighting for survival as a country at the mo beacause of patronage. wananchi (ok, tribes lol) will not accept to be shortchanged this time round.that time passed. knowing our leaders, it is hard to be hopeful. if for example one researches the amount of land the 10 most powerful men in kenya own, one gets to understand why any threat to the status quo can not be entertained. of course it is not just about land.but what all this fighting really tells us is that things can not go on as before in kenya so something will eventually have to give. but we should not give up. i don't want to.

those are my thots. sorry i always suffer a bout of verbosity every time i attempt to comment on here.

kamau said...

your article is very clear and precise. i believe that if the elections were seen to be transparent,then the underlying issues about wealth and land ownership would have not erupted to warfare and would have been addressed peacefully.The flaw in the election was just the spark that triggered the chaos


Zed - thanks for your return commentary! You're probably right about the rioting in Kisumu - it could have been through frustration, although from things I've heard since, I am not entirely convinced it wouldn't have happened anyway.

I certainly agree that Kenyans all most definitely want, and desperately need, serious change in our constitution and to the way this country is run and has been run for the last 40 years.

What this election has shown ordinary Kenyans is that no-one is really listening, their vote didn't seem to count, and the only way they feel they can be heard is through terror and violence.

Kamau - totally with you there. Transparency is key.

Dad Mzungu said...


Yet another brilliant report and comment.
I feel that simmering tribal conflict, open or below the surface, will never be totally eradicated until the wananchi accept that, above all, they are Kenyan ~ and I also believe that this is next to impossible.
Taking the UK as an example, a Scot is a Scot first and foremost, then British, perhaps. It is the same with the Welsh.
So,to ask for a Kenyan to put country above tribe is a tall order. After all, Kenyans are Africans, and Africans are very proud of their heritage.

Another point, in my recent travels through Kenya, I met a lot of people, Lou, Kikuyu, Luuya, Kisii. I could not distinguish between them by way of wealth or living standard. Is this advantage that the Kikuyu have enjoyed real or perceived?
The wealthiest people I met in Kenya were Asian or European.
I believe that Kenya has not shaken of colonialism. Kenya is still exploited, not by foreign government, but by international business and foreign investors. And while this continues, even Kenyans with jobs will be exploited.
Dad Mzungu

home alone said...

I just wanted to say to Zed that from what i have heard from friends living up country, the trouble in some places like Kisumu, kicked off before CHRISTMAS - not pre-declaration of the results. It was in anticipation of an ODM victory, but before the votes were even cast. Possibly can be attributed to misunderstanding the ODM manifesto.


Dad Mzungu - the wealth of the different tribes dates back a while to colonial times when land was given out to indigenous Kenyans and it was always felt that some tribes benefited more than others from this land distribution.

Home Alone - The trouble that kicked off before elections was probably the usual pre-election stuff we always seem to get before the actual voting when the different sides get heated.