A violent lesson lost to history

After the deaths of over 1,300 people in election violence in early 2008, there was widespread expectation that the brief civil war experience would sober up Kenya’s leadership style.

With the effects of ethnic hatred exposed for all to see, it was assumed that nobody would be foolish enough to play similar games in future. National dialogue would chart a fresh approach to Kenya’s government and management of national resources. Former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said that it would no longer be business as usual in Kenya.

Alas, the world was mistaken. Even Kenyans themselves did not know how far deep our politics had sunk. Hardly had the grand coalition been formed than it became business as usual in terms of corruption, tribalism, nepotism and sleaze.

If anything, we are witnessing today the worst looting frenzy in Kenyan history. Never before have ruling elites sought to enrich themselves so quickly. Perhaps, only Nigeria provides some precedence. The cruel, corrupt leadership in Kenya is fully aware that the country will explode at any time and are busy engorging themselves on the fat of the land as hunger pangs ravage 10 million of their subjects.

Meanwhile, the running of government is marred in leadership squabbles that have rendered it weak and incompetent.

Legislators cannot agree on the simple matter of forming an electoral body. As a result, Kenya today lacks an organization to supervise elections and if a situation were arose necessitating an election, the country would be caught in utter helplessness.

A clearly defined selection process agreed by all parties was disrupted by a politician who nominated his college buddy as head of the Interim Electoral Commission. The nominee, lawyer Cecil Miller, did not submit his name to the nominations panel but still made it to the top of the list. Not surprisingly, the nomination was rejected by parliament but legislators were more upset by Miller’s ethnicity than the manner of his nomination.

The country’s politicians are split on firing the Minister for Agriculture, under whose watch millions of bags of government maize went missing. The minister has refused to resign even after his close allies were implicated in the scam. As a result, maize is in short supply and it’s price becoming unaffordable to the majority.

Instead of looking at the scandal as a criminal case, politicians have tribalized it in a manner that could re-ignite ethnic clashes. Last week, as Parliament debated Agriculture Minister William Ruto, there were reports that his kinsmen were sharpening the knives ready for war. It is said this alone played a major role in “convincing” legislators to vote “wisely.” The other factor is the millions of shillings spent by Ruto in bribing parliamentarians.

Scandal after scandal is wrecking Kenya from within. Apart from the disappearance of maize from government stores, fuel worth billions of shillings is missing from government-owned storage tanks. The Minister for Energy, a close friend of President Mwai Kibaki, has refused to resign.

Politicians cannot agree on the formation of a tribunal to prosecute those who incited, planned and funded the post election violence. The key persons are top politicians close to President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Some have vowed not to go down alone, hence procrastination by the President and Prime Minister. Ironically, the crimes-against-humanity suspects now want to be sent to the International Criminal Court. Why? In their calculation, it will be years before The Hague collects enough evidence against them.

Hundreds of thousands of people displaced by post election violence remain in camps because politicians simply do not want them back. Since the 1990s, Kenyan politicians have used ethnic violence to drive away groups that oppose them. It is ethnic cleansing designed to guarantee friendly votes. None other than Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, has been quoted supporting the ethnic evictions.

Last weekend, in a desperate bid to revive his declining public ratings, Raila revisited the ethnic issue. He reiterated his support for a federal republic of ethnically distinct regions. Anyone familiar with Kenyan politics knows what ethnic federalism portends: evictions, looting, rape and killings.

A plot to help the government of South Sudan break a United Nations arms embargo was exposed when a ship carrying Russian made tanks was hijacked in the Indian Ocean by Somali pirates. Apparently, this was not the first shipment.

Stuck with a grotesque caricature of government, Kenyans are wondering what it will take to bring about a people-friendly and visionary leadership. If the deaths of 1,300 Kenyans could not restore sanity in the country’s governance, what will?

How many people must die from hate speech before Kenya’s rulers are full to the brim in the blood of innocents? How many children must die of hunger before the government can respond? How much must be looted before thieving politicians eat rotten beans in jail?

More importantly, how much more can Kenyans take?

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