Moi lacks moral authority on ethnic clashes

According to the Daily Nation, former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi has asked Rift Valley residents who attacked and killed their neighbours during post election violence to apologize.

Daniel arap Moi. Picture by CNN.

Daniel arap Moi. Picture by CNN.

Moi said an apology would lead to true reconciliation between them and the neighbours whose property they destroyed in the violence that followed disputed elections in December 2007. The violence left close to 1,000 people dead and half a million homeless.

However, the former president conveniently forgets that ethnic clashes in Kenya were institutionalized during his tenure of office. Government documents, such as the Akiwumu Inquiry on tribal clashes reveal deep involvement by Moi’s allies in fanning the fires of hatred.

The return to multi party politics prior to the 1992 General Elections created ethnic tension in the country, setting the stage for the chaos of 2008. The genesis of modern ethnic clashes in Kenya lies in the Rift Valley province, home to Moi’s Kalenjin ethnic group.

Kenya has eight provinces. According to electoral law, a winning presidential candidate must get at least 25% of votes in not less than five provinces in addition to a simple majority of national votes. As campaigns for the 1992 elections gained momentum, it was obvious that Kenneth Matiba would get a majority of votes in Central, Nairobi and possibly, Eastern Provinces. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga had a chance of getting at least 25% in his native Nyanza, in Western and Nairobi.

Matiba, a Kikuyu, also had strong possibilities of getting 25% in the Rift Valley thanks to the significant Kikuyu settler population. Moi, fearing that he could lose the presidency, began a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the Rift Valley to ensure that he won the province. Huge chunks of the Rift Valley were declared KANU zones, in reference to Moi’s political party. Moi and his cronies went back to parliament unopposed.

Ethnic wars in 1992 pitted the Kalenjin – Moi’s tribe – with almost all settler communities in the Rift Valley. It was not only the Kikuyu who were affected but large numbers of Luo, Luhya, Kamba and Kisii. Non-Kalenjin tribes in the Rift Valley were refered to as, “madoa doa,” meaning, “specks of dirt.” The Rift Valley is also home to the Pokot and Maasai tribes whose politicians were drawn into the Moi alliance, called KAMATUSA. Consequently, Kikuyu, Luo and Luhya settlers were evicted from Pokot and Maasai areas especially around Narok, Enoosupukia and Kapenguria.

The pro-Moi ethnic alliance began calling for Majimbo, a form of federalism. According to such personalities as the late Kipkalya Kones, late Shariff Nassir, William Ntimama and late Paul Chepkok, a federal system of government would ensure that each ethnic group governed itself and had monopoly over jobs, land and commerce within its enclave.

The comments were targetted at the Kikuyu, who have emigrated and settled across the country mostly for economic reasons. Since Kikuyu settlers had a relatively higher standard of living due to commercial activities, the calls for ethnic federalism proved quite popular in the Rift Valley and Coast province.

With the Luo tribe facing persecution due to its oppositionist leanings, both Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and his son, Raila Odinga, condemned Moi’s tactics. 30 years earlier, it was Jaramogi and founding president, Jomo Kenyatta, who had turned Kenya into a unitary republic after rejecting Majimbo federalism.

As a result of the ethnic chaos, Moi won the 1992 elections with 36% of the vote.

Five years later, there were politically motivated ethnic clashes prior to and after the 1997 General Elections. This time, the flash points were not only the Rift Valley, but also the Coast. In Mombasa, Sharif Nassir, a Moi ally, led KANU campaigns in the city.

Mombasa was founded by Arab traders almost a thousand years ago. The population of Mombasa and the Coastal strip consists of the Swahili, who are of mixed Arab and African ancestry. There is also the Mijikenda tribe as well as Hindus, Persians and Europeans. The building of the railway and the expansion of the Mombasa port in the 20th century attracted large numbers of workers from the interior of Kenya. The workers came mostly from the Luo, Kikuyu, Luhya, Kamba and Taita tribes. In the 1980s, a booming tourism industry attracted greater numbers of migrant workers in search of jobs and business opportunities.

During the 1997 campaigns, Nassir and KANU were worried that migrant workers would not vote for Moi. A campaign for Majimbo federalism was began, with Nassir claiming that migrant workers were taking up jobs at the coast meant for local people. Migrant communities were blamed for crime, prostitution and drug trafficking. As it turns out, the local Mijikenda tribe found these messages very appealing and gave their support to KANU. Then came terror.

In August 1997, a group consisting of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of raiders attacked the Likoni Police Station, just across the bay from Mombasa Port. Police officers were killed, prisoners released and firearms looted. Within the Likoni area, large numbers of Luo and Kikuyu were attacked and forced into trains heading for their ancestral homes. It was rumored at the time that the vanguard of the raiding unit consisted of Interahamwe militia, straight out of the Rwanda genocide. Other rumors indicated that the raiders were led by foreign-trained elite forces loyal to Moi.

Evidence was produced in the Akiwumi Commission of Inquiry implicating senior politicians in the Moi government and KANU party. An Asian farmer in Kwale District alleged that prior to the Likoni violence, his land was used to oath local youths but his reports to the police were ignored.

With Moi declared as winner of the 1997 elections, Mwai Kibaki, who came second, went to court to petition the results. Kibaki claimed that there had been electoral malpractices that gave Moi an unfair advantage over his opponents. Moi’s allies in the Rift Valley were outraged by what they saw as Kibaki’s challenge and a fresh round of ethnic clashes began. Kikuyu settlers in Laikipia District were especially affected by incidences of raiders burning homes and looting livestock.

From this overwhelming evidence, it is clear that Moi should be the first person to apologize as far as ethnic clashes are concerned. Otherwise, his calls for Rift Valley people to apologize can only be considered hypocritical at worst and cynical at best.

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