Giant cabinet in panic over ethnic clashes

Kenya’s giant cabinet is paralyzed in panic as a judicial report on ethnic clashes implicates key allies of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Judge Waki declined to name the politicians in his report but the suspects are widely known, both within the republic and in the diaspora.

Last week’s release of the report on post election violence by Justice Philip Waki has created panic among Kenya’s political elite, long accustomed to exploiting ethnic differences to maintain a tenacious hold on political and economic resources in the country.

Top politicians in Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ODM party were found to have incited ethnic hatred mostly against President Kibaki’s supporters from the Kikuyu, Kisii, Meru and Kamba tribes. Though ODM says the violence after the December polls were a spontaneous reaction to a rigged process, the Waki Commission discovered that politicians actually paid criminal gangs to kill, rape and loot.

There was a graduated scale of payment for killing a man, woman, pregnant woman, boy and girl child. There was also a reward scale for destroying property – mud houses attracted the least pay. At the Kenya coast, a well-known politician payed youths Kshs300 (US$4) per day to wreck havoc on highways, shops and bars.

On President Kibaki’s side, it is established that top Kikuyu politicians and businesspeople met to plot revenge attacks against the Kalenjin, Luo and Luhya. By late January 2008, the politicians apparently felt that the government was not acting to stop ethnic clashes. The Mungiki group was contacted and its youths used to attack and kill people from pro-ODM tribes in the towns of Naivasha and Nakuru.

Judge Waki declined to name the politicians in his report but the possible list of suspects is widely known among the Kenyan public, both in the republic and in the diaspora. Topping the list is Agriculture Minister William Ruto, a key ally of the Prime Minister. Others include Henry Kosgey, William ole Ntimama and Najib Balala.

On President Kibaki’s side are such personalities as Uhuru Kenyatta, Njenga Karume and Jayne Kihara.

Not surprisingly, neither Kibaki nor Raila want to lose their key supporters. With ethnic politics still very intense, any move against the guilty individuals is likely to stoke resentment from their respective tribes. Inspite of the grievousness of the crimes witnessed early this year, each tribe believes it was fighting a just cause.

Last week, during a peace rally in Nakuru, Kibaki astounded many by calling on the victims of ethnic clashes to “forgive and forget.” Later, while in a Kenyatta Day address broadcast nationally, the president emphasized on forgiveness. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Raila Odinga is against the prosecution of ethnic warlords. According to the Standard daily, Raila said: “Leave retribution to the Lord. We do not want to revenge against anybody, we want to build and construct our society.”

What is not in dispute is the fact that politicians incited inter ethnic animosity during last year’s presidential and parliamentary campaigns. Rather than campaign on pertinent issues touching on development, infrastructure, healthcare and jobs, politicians played the ethnic card to whip up emotions among the voting public.

The Luo and Kalenjin were told that they were poor because President Mwai Kibaki is a Kikuyu. The Luhya ethnic group was urged to support ODM because one of their sons – Musalia Mudavadi – would be made Vice President.

President Kibaki’s supporters warned the Kikuyu never to vote for Raila because his Luo tribe does not practice circumcision. The Kikuyu were repeatedly told that, should ODM form the government, all their land and property would be taken over by Luo, Kalenjin and Mijikenda without compensation.

ODM made rigging claims against Kibaki but was unable to prove the allegations before the Waki Inquiry. As a result of the claims several dozen police officers were lynched by ODM supporters during the election, setting the stage for a near-collapse of state authority in consequent violence.

Ethnic incitement raised the stakes in the election so high that violence was going to erupt regardless of who the actual winner was.

As Kenya’s people struggle to rebuild their lives, the hope for justice is what keeps the hundreds of thousands of victims going. They quietly pray for the day when they shall face the people that killed their loved ones, raped and burnt homes.

To the vast majority of Kenyans, calls by the country’s leadership for leniency are a sordid indictment of the state of their country’s politics. Short of divine intervention, there’s very little that Kenya’s struggling citizens can do about it.

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