Land not the cause of clashes – Ruto

Controversial ODM Member of Parliament, William Ruto, told the Waki Commission of Inquiry that land ownership is not responsible for rampant ethnic clashes in the Rift Valley province.

Ruto told the Commission, “The issue of the post election violence is not land, let nobody cheat you. Kikuyus always sit on the land and the only problem is at the end of 5 years. It is all politics. Land is just an excuse.”

The legislator, whose clout among the Kalenjin ethnic group has grown in the past year, noted that “our politics acquires ethnic dimensions” and communities support parties where “their leaders are at the front and that is one thing we have to change.”

Ruto defended his people from accusations of warlike behaviour, remarking that “there is no DNA for people to fight.”

Mr Ruto is quoted in a report released on 16th October by the Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence. The Commission was headed by High Court judge, Philip Waki. Last Friday, the report was handed to President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and mediator, Koffi Annan.

Meanwhile, Judge Waki gave Koffi Annan an enclosed envelope containing names of ten prominent individuals believed to have instigated and sponsored the violence. At least 1,000 people died between December 2007 and March 2008 in an orgy of looting, rape, murder and arson. Hundreds of thousands were made homeless with most still living in camps as ethnic tension persists.

As Member of Parliament for Eldoret North, Ruto is blamed for post election violence in the Uasin Gishu area, where the town of Eldoret lies. Ruto has denied the allegations. In January alone, more than a third of Eldoret’s population fled into camps after attacks by Kalenjin warriors. Most of the victims were from the Kikuyu, Kisii, Luhya and Kamba ethnic groups.

The warriors usually accuse migrant tribes of taking over what they refer as Kalenjin ancestral land and dominating commercial activities. However, Ruto’s statements to the Waki Commission indicate that the motives for the violence are tied to political rivalry.

In his testimony to the Commission, Ruto blamed Kalenjin attacks against the Kikuyu on “a combination of factors”, including the history of violence since 1992. According to Ruto, inter ethnic friction is higher in Uasin Gishu than any other area because of the cosmopolitan makeup of the district.

Ruto dismissed the land issue as a factor in the 2007 violence. He told the Commission, “The issue of the post election violence is not land … It is all politics. Land is just an excuse.”

Ruto finally said that the 2007 election was very polarized and, “the people in the Rift Valley believe that Kibaki oppressed them in the last 5 years. They voted more against Kibaki’s presidency than for Raila’s presidency.”

Ruto is a key backer of Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

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