National divisions in Kenya growing deeper

Kenya came close to catastrophe early this year, as violence sparked by disputed elections caused 1,500 deaths. Neighbour turned against neighbour, husband against wife. With the formation of a giant coalition government between the main protagonists, it was assumed that the experience would put Kenyans towards a journey of tolerance, peace and reconciliation.

A supporter of President Mwai Kibaki is ejected from the Kriegler Commission of Inquiry after heckling at pro-Raila submissions.

A supporter of President Mwai Kibaki is ejected from the Kriegler Commission of Inquiry after heckling at pro-Raila submissions. Picture by Nation Media Group.

Recent events indicate that, far from healing the divisions caused by ethnic and political violence, Kenyans today are more divided than they were during the violence. It is as though an evil force that has permeated the country wishes to consume more lives and relish greater destruction.

The behavior of Kenyans isn’t helping matters very much and the international community can only watch in consternation. Its hardly surprising that Kenya is now ranked as a failed state, alongside such basket cases as Congo (both), Niger, Nigeria, Guinea, Haiti, Ethiopia and Ivory Coast.

An internationally appointed Commission of Inquiry into Kenya’s Electoral Commission has degenerated into shouting matches and fist fights as supporters of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga refuse to acknowledge well-documented truths.

Recent by-elections exposed the facade of the giant coalition, where members of government threatened each other with annihilation then rushed off to attend cabinet meetings together. In Kilgoris constituency, both ODM and PNU politicians incited ethnic strife to ensure their candidate won the seat. PNU won after threatening the migrant Kipsigis community with death if they did not vote for the PNU-backed Maasai candidate.

Kenya’s people remain divided over the interpretation of the violence that took place early this year. ODM leader, Prime Minister Raila Odinga insists that the violence was a, “spontaneous reaction to historical injustices and sparked off by a stolen election, which I won.” President Mwai Kibaki’s supporters view the violence as, “a culmination of a well-planned campaign of ethnic hatred fanned by ODM to win votes,” and that, “ODM did not prepare its supporters for defeat.”

With such divisions, even the country’s criminal justice system is grinding to a halt. On one hand, there are calls to unconditionally drop all cases relating to political violence. On the other hand, there are those who think that the perpetrators and planners of the violence should face the law. But, as in many cases of political violence across the world, the people regarded as freedom fighters are often also described as terrorists by the opposing side.

Who are the terrorists in Kenya and who are the freedom fighters? Is it the Mungiki or is it the Kalenjin warriors? Is it the looters of Kisumu or the Sabaot Land Defence Forces?

Kenya has become a country where sober debate no longer exists. Every dispute is interpreted as being either pro-Kibaki or pro-Raila. If an argument is pro-Kibaki, it must be anti-Raila. And vice-versa. Without debate, decisions cannot be made and the country cannot resolve its problems. Even the few decisions made are tinged with the same cancer of national divisiveness.

Because of the lack of national cohesion caused by splits within Kenya’s ruling elite, such problems as land, development, employment creation and allocation of state resources are unlikely to be resolved any time soon. Kenya will continue to experience increasing instability caused by growing militancy in the face of impotence by the country’s security forces.

Indeed, so helpless have Kenya’s Army and police become that they are resorting to torturing innocent civilians while ignoring the criminals. Its ironical to find armed police demanding identification documents from market women while well-known gangsters sell hard drugs in nearby alleys.

What then is the future of Kenya? Will there be a repeat of the violence witnessed early 2008? The unfortunate answer is yes because all the factors that led to the explosion of ethnic strife still exist. The people of Kenya have learnt nothing from that painful experience. Lies have become truth as people become both victims and perpetrators of ethnic bigotry. The educated class has sunk lower into the murk of selective amnesia and intellectual sycophancy. Meanwhile, the youth, who would have been the hope of creating a united Kenya, are fleeing the country in droves.

Alas, the future of Kenya is clouded in uncertainty.

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2 Responses

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