More killings feared as Kibaki vows new Mungiki war

President Mwai Kibaki has vowed to crack down on the Mungiki sect even as torture and disappearances undermine ongoing government efforts of eradicating the sect.

The President is enraged by the killings of at least 10 people in his parliamentary constituency. The dead are believed to have been executed by Mungiki adherents, who are known for demanding protection fees from retail business, land owners and transport operators across Central Kenya, Nairobi and parts of the Rift Valley.

Since June 2007, at least 600 youths have been killed for alleged involvement with Mungiki. Scores of others have simply vanished after they were arrested.

Survivors and civil society accuse the Kenya Police for the deaths and disappearances, a claim the police Commissioner has denied several times. However, former internal security minister, John Michuki, was quoted last year saying that funerals of Mungiki youth would become a common occurence.

Mungiki is an underground movement among the Kikuyu ethnic group, drawing its membership from youths in squatter settlements and urban slums. The group advocates a return to Kikuyu traditional customs saying that modernity has failed to ease human suffering.

Mungiki leader, Maina Njenga, is serving a jail sentence for drugs and weapons possession but the sect describes the charges as a fabrication meant to curtail its activities.

Njenga began Mungiki in the mid 1980s in the Rift Valley province. His movement grew in numbers in the 1990s following clashes inflicted on the Kikuyu by forces loyal to President Daniel arap Moi.

The 1990s were a period of rapid economic liberalization in Kenya coupled with globalization, resulting in massive unemployment coupled with the loss of societal values. Rising crime and crumbling state authority added to the difficulties.

Within the shanties of the Kikuyu homeland and the capital city Nairobi, Mungiki restored order and provided basic social services in exchange for protection fees by households and businesses. By the early 2000s, Mungiki membership was estimated at over 1 million.

Since then, the Kenyan government has worried over the motives of Mungiki and sees the sect as a threat. Sections of the government are convinced that Mungiki’s goal is to capture power through its political wing, the Kenya National Youth Alliance.

Mungiki is not a movement of angels either. Dozens of people have been killed by the sect for either exposing the group’s secrets or refusing to pay protection fees. Mungiki does not allow revocation of membership and recruitment procedures are rather nasty.

Whereas President Moi kept the group in check through negotiation, his successor President Mwai Kibaki has pursued a hardline stance. Ironically, Kibaki is also a Kikuyu whereas Moi was not.

Being a phenomenon of the underclass, Mungiki does not enjoy the complete loyalty of the Kikuyu. Majority of upper and middle class Kikuyu support Kibaki’s crackdown against Mungiki, leading many social commentators to draw similarities with the Mau Mau war of the 1950s. Like Mungiki, Mau Mau drew its membership from the poor whereas the educated Kikuyu working for the colonial government opposed it.

Incidentally, John Michuki, the man who predicted Mungiki funerals in 2007 worked as a colonial administrator in the 1950s where he was tough against Mau Mau. Its worth noting that Mungiki draws its inspiration from the Mau Mau rebellion.

The rest of Kenya’s ethnic groups fear Mungiki and support the government’s campaign despite the violations of human rights. With Mungiki’s membership being exclusively Kikuyu, the rest of Kenya’s tribes see the group as an ethnic militia championing Kikuyu interests.

Consequently, there has been little condemnation of the government from the rest of the population. However, this apathy may change as the Kenyan government spreads its tactics to other parts of Kenya.

Security operations in Mount Elgon and the Somali border have been marred by similar allegations of torture, death and disappearances. It may seem as though the Kenyan government is adopting tactics last seen in Latin America back in the 1970s.

Perhaps, Kenyan leaders and security chiefs should familiarize themselves with ongoing legal procedures in Latin America. More than 30 years after the era of leftist groups and right wing paramilitaries (usually backed by military governments), trials are currently underway for those responsible for the disappearances.

Gang rape as a political weapon – Waki Report

One of the well known and regrettable tragedies of major conflicts and breakdowns of law and order is sexual violence. This has happened around the world.

Youths armed with crude weapons during political and ethnic clashes in Kenya. Picture by AFP.

Youths armed with crude weapons during political and ethnic clashes in Kenya. Picture by AFP.

Sadly enough, it also was a consequence of the 2007 post election violence in Kenya. Below, the Nairobi Chronicle presents accounts by victims of sexual violence as contained in the Waki Report. Please be warned that the stories you are about to read may contain graphic and disturbing description.

Raped as husband is killed – Waki Report

Kisumu woman raped, husband killed and home burnt

Waki Report: Luo men forcibly circumcised

We have strived to bring stories from different parts of Kenya in order to demonstrate that all Kenyans suffered at the hands of a cruel, corrupt political elite that cares nothing for the welfare of its own people. The question is: for how long shall Kenyans put up with this?

Moi Day Special: Kenya’s second president

On the occasion of Moi Day, the Nairobi Chronicle recalls milestones of the Moi presidency. For better and for worse, Moi’s 24 year presidency will influence Kenyans for a long time to come.

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Daniel arap Moi. Picture by CNN.

Daniel arap Moi. Picture by CNN.

Whereas Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was a transitional leader, managing change from colonialism to African majority rule, Moi got into power when Kenya had become a truly African state. With time, Moi’s actions and policies came to resemble those of neighboring states from which Kenya had distinguished itself with its relatively sophisticated socio-economic and political structures.

Moi’s presidency was a contradiction of sorts: on one hand he craved the awe which Jomo Kenyatta got from the public. On the other hand, he wanted to be different from Kenyatta, by being more in touch with the average man in the village.

When he assumed the reigns of government, Moi started traveling in a Volkswagen Kombi, raising eyebrows. As it was argued, such types of conveyance are for ordinary folk, not for a President. However, Moi was determined to get his people. The Kombi was the only vehicle which could grapple with the country’s difficult terrain – dusty roads, hairpin bends, precarious cliffs, unbeaten tracks.

One time, while on his way from Kisumu to Nakuru, Moi expressed the wish to use a short-cut from Sondu through Sigowet to Kericho town. His aides condemned the route as impassable. “Are there people living in the area where this road passes?” he asked and declared he had to tackle the road, passable or otherwise.

After ascending to the presidency on 14th October 1978, Moi pledged to maintain the stability that Kenya had enjoyed since independence. He sought to assure apprehensive citizens, investors and diplomats that he would follow the footsteps of Mzee Kenyatta. But it soon became clear that Moi had his own ideas for the country. Whereas Kenyatta practiced a hands-off style of leadership, Moi preferred hands-on management. He famously said, “Those who want to lead the country must wait their turn … I am the President and every minister must sing like a parrot to my tune.”

While emphasizing national unity, Moi laid great emphasis on the need for dynamism in a globalizing world. Moi can be credited for introducing changes that would have been virtually impossible under the Kenyatta era. Moi’s critics say his initiatives were expensive experiments culminating in failure. However, Moi’s critics are mostly Kenyattaists and had they been in power, the country would have petrified in stagnation. The fact that some of Moi’s programmes did not succeed could be attributed to sabotage by Kenyatta loyalists inherited by Moi’s administration.

As president, Moi’s first decision was to release political detainees from the Kenyatta era. These were politicians, academics, university students and journalists detained for criticizing Kenyatta’s government. Several of them had been in detention so long that they were in a critical condition requiring advanced medical treatment.

During Kenyatta’s presidency, the civil service, security forces and state corporations came to be dominated by members of Kenyatta’s tribe, the Kikuyu. This was not a deliberate policy on Kenyatta’s part but a product of historical circumstances that placed the Kikuyu at an advantage in work skills and entrepreneurial ability. Moi set about creating ethnic balance in government organs by appointing more people from other communities. Eventually, Moi’s Kalenjin tribe dominated the civil service and this evoked resentment among other Kenyans.

Unlike Kenyatta’s appointees, Moi’s tribesmen had little training for their new jobs. Matters were worsened by Moi’s tendency of picking individuals from lowly positions, transforming them into overnight power brokers and later dumping them when they became too big-headed for their own usefulness. Because of this, Moi had neither permanent friends nor permanent enemies. He was loyal to nobody but himself – a true Machiavellian characteristic.

Moi’s most serious challenge was the coup attempt of 1st August 1982. The poorly planned coup attempt by junior officers of the Kenya Airforce was crushed by Army and paramilitary units within a matter of hours. However the coup is said to have awakened Moi to the risks of power and from that day onwards, he took on a higher measure of political self-preservation. After the coup attempt, the security forces were purged of Kenyattaists who were replaced by Moi loyalists. In subsequent elections, politicians whose allegiance was doubtful lost their seats through political machinations engineered by the President’s henchmen.

Between 1982 and the early 1990s, Moi was determined to keep a tab on the opposition and resorted to tactics varying from detention without trial, torture, electronic surveillance, intimidation and outright thuggery. There has never been any direct evidence personally linking Moi with any of these acts and its possible he was misinformed about threats to his administration.

Moi’s political maneuvres provoked a backlash against the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU). Moi, eager to strengthen the party, had talked Parliament into enacting a constitutional amendment that made KANU the only legal political party. By the late 1980s there were demands for reintroducing multiparty democracy from the growing ranks of politicians seeking alternative avenues for contesting political office. Demands for multipartyism, coupled with pent-up frustration with Moi, led to riots in Kenya’s major towns in July 1990.

The riots were crushed; several dozen people lost their lives. International financiers and Western nations pressurized Moi to open up the political frontiers. Monetary assistance was scaled down – a devastating blow for a government that had 30% of its budget financed from foreign assistance. The international media went on a feeding frenzy and described Moi as a typical African dictator. In December 1991, Moi asked Parliament to amend the constitution and legalize opposition parties for the first time in ten years.

It would be another ten years before opposition parties could win power but only because Moi was no longer a candidate in the 2002 elections. Moi was unbeatable because his opponents often underestimated his intelligence by virtue of his rural-poor origins and heavily accented English.

Among the reasons Moi gave for opposing multipartyism was incitement to ethnic nationalism. Soon after the opposition was legalized, tribal clashes erupted in the Rift Valley and persist to this day. The clashes were sparked by Cabinet Ministers who declared the Rift Valley – Moi’s home province – out of bounds to the opposition. Ethnic groups thought to be sympathetic to the opposition were attacked by Moi’s Kalenjin tribe, houses burnt and farms forcefully occupied. The clashes caused major economic losses as property was destroyed, trading activities disrupted and agricultural production ruined.

Upon the re-introduction of multipartyism in 1992 until the close of his presidency in 2003, Moi stopped being development conscious. Moi devoted his time and energies exclusively to politics because of legalized competition for his job. Political intrigues intensified as politicians sought presidential patronage – and the cash that went with it. Financial scandals became routine in Moi’s government throughout the 1990s as his cronies devised means of acquiring wealth in the shortest possible time.

Moi turned state functions into full time campaign rallies and these were held, not only on weekends, but at anytime during the week. Cabinet ministers and members of parliament, eager to win the favor of the president, tagged along wherever he went. The result: possibly one of the longest Presidential motorcades of an African president. A typical motorcade accompanying Moi consisted of at least 50 limousines with cabinet ministers, heads of state corporations, security chiefs and several diplomats.

Among the notable successes of the Moi presidency was reform of the education system. By the early 1980s, a Canadian educationist said that education should stop producing white-collar graduates. The educationist said the future of labor was one of uncertainty, making it necessary to equip graduates with practical skills that are easily transferable across different work environments. Despite criticism, Moi went ahead and implemented the recommendations.

School children were introduced to home science, business education, agriculture, arts, crafts and music. In high schools, students were taught power mechanics, electricity, accounting, metal work, carpentry, social ethics and sex education. Today, education experts acknowledge the wisdom of imparting practical skills on children, in a world where retraining and career shifts has become the accepted norm.

During Moi’s presidency, thousands of schools sprang up across the country while four additional public universities were built to create a skilled work force.

Regardless of what is said about Daniel arap Moi, the former teacher, legislator, cabinet minister, President and Member of Parliament has left his mark not only on Kenyans but also in international affairs. He initiated peace efforts across Africa most of which were successful. These include Namibia’s independence, Uganda’s civil war negotiations that began the Yoweri Museveni era and the Southern Sudan peace process. Moi’s advice was greatly sought by world leaders such as US President Ronald Reagan, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chancellor Helmut Kohl of West Germany.

Moi’s presidency began in 1978 with a promise to follow the footsteps of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. It can be said that Moi fulfilled his ambition of becoming a defining standard. “President Moi has made his own footprints in the sands of time,” said Mrs Thatcher.

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With references from Lee Njiru’s article: “The Making of a President.” Kenya Times, December 11, 1997
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UDM an emerging force in Rift Valley

About a decade ago, Cyrus Jirongo and Kipruto arap Kirwa fell out with President Daniel arap Moi. The two were youthful legislators in the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) and felt unappreciated by Moi.

In revenge, and fully aware of Moi’s loathing for multi-party politics, Jirongo and Kirwa founded the United Democratic Movement (UDM). The new party electrified crowds in the Kalenjin heartlands, long considered Moi strongholds. In reality, the duo didn’t say anything new but their open opposition to Moi in his own turf raised eyebrows. UDM soon got backing from other Kalenjin politicians hitting back at Moi.

The government declined to register UDM. Within months, Moi had bought off Jirongo and Kirwa by giving them plum positions in his government. Kalenjin politicians who had joined UDM were later seen in press photographs sharing hearty jokes with the president. After that, UDM became dormant. Until now.

UDM’s rise as a third force in the Rift Valley was sparked by dissatisfaction with electoral nominations in the ODM party. The Kalenjin had thrown their weight wholesomely behind ODM and its presidential candidate, Raila Odinga. They were so fond of Raila that they baptized him, ‘arap Mibey.’

Last November, there was intense competition for the party’s ticket among Kalenjin politicians. By then, it had become clear that whoever was nominated as the ODM candidate would have a walk-over during the General Election. Lots of candidates were disappointed by the chaos of the nomination exercise, with claims of favoritism and intimidation. A few of the candidates were nominated directly from Nairobi. That is when UDM emerged as an alternative political vehicle in the Rift Valley.

Both its founders ran for the discredited 2007 polls in other political parties. Kipruto Kirwa contested the Cherangany seat in President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU). Meanwhile, Jirongo ran for his Lugari seat in another self-created party: the Kenya African Democratic Development Union (KADDU).

As stated earlier, the ODM wave in Kalenjin land was too strong and Kirwa was swept out of Cherangany by a new comer. In Lugari, Jirongo associated himself with Raila’s ODM and managed to retake the seat after five years in the cold.

UDM was back in the limelight after the elections. There was a by election in Ainamoi constituency following the murder of its legislator, David Kimutai Too, days after he was sworn into parliament. The ODM command settled on his brother to succeed him, resulting in disquiet among other party functionaries. One of them defected to UDM and ran against the ODM candidate. Campaigning by Eldoret North MP, William Ruto, helped ODM win back the seat.

Now, UDM is exploiting the troubles within ODM over impending party elections and the Mau forest saga. Politicians from the Kipsigis community felt short-changed in cabinet appointments to the giant coalition last April. The late Kipkalya Kones was appointed as Minister for Roads but his death in June robbed the community of a major political personality. None of the current politicians can fill such a high-profile position. However, that hasn’t stopped them from making their discontent obvious.

There is a perception within the community that President Mwai Kibaki had fired many Kalenjin after he took over the presidency from Moi in 2003. ODM capitalized on these sentiments during the 2007 election campaigns and promised to re-appoint senior Kalenjin professionals into government.

By far the greatest reason for Kalenjin supporting ODM was the promise of a Majimbo federal constitution. Majimbo was expected to give the Kalenjin a greater say in the management of land, taxes, minerals and forests within their Rift Valley homeland.

The Kalenjin are unhappy with Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s decision to evict their ethnic compatriots from the Mau forest. The government says that the Mau forest water catchment is being destroyed at a fast rate and could endanger the flow of water into Lake Victoria. The Kalenjin say they have legitimate title deeds to land in the Mau forest.

Deep down though, and something that is not spoken openly, the Kalenjin are unhappy with Raila’s rapprochement with President Kibaki and the Kikuyu community. An announcement that Raila would be anointed as a Kikuyu elder did not amuse ODM supporters. The Kalenjin also believe that thousands of their youths were arrested over post election violence and want them released before they allow the return of internal refugees mostly from the Kikuyu and Kisii ethnic groups.

The manner in which candidates for the Sotik and Bomet by elections were selected also fed the discontent. In Bomet, ODM nominated a widow to the late Kipkalya Kones while in Sotik, the party’s candidate is a sister to the deceased legislator.

As campaigns for this week’s by elections in Bomet and Sotik heat up, Kipsigis politicians are backing candidates from other parties against those sponsored by their own ODM party. In Sotik, Isaac Ruto, who is emerging as a dissident voice within ODM, openly defied Raila and campaigned for a UDM candidate. Observers see the move as an open declaration of war.

With dissatisfaction brewing within ODM in the Rift Valley, the party to watch could by UDM. It’s not clear what agenda the party has but it’s a fact that UDM can no longer be ignored as a protest party.

Constitution reforms not a priority

A new survey reveals that 89% of Kenyans don’t care about reforming the constitution, but want the government to address poverty, insecurity and healthcare.

With rising food and energy prices, majority of Kenyans are more concerned with inflation than with a constitutional process seen as the preserve of politicians. Security emerged as a major concern for a country traumatized by political and ethnic clashes that left over 1,000 dead and half a million homeless. Land reforms featured consistently among poll responses.

The findings were released by Gallup International, a respected polling organization.

According to Gallup, only 9% of respondents feel that constitutional reforms are a priority. Apart from concerns about the economy, health care and security, Kenyans are anxious about the state of infrastructure in the country. Road rehabilitation has been slow as water and electricity shortages bite harder.

The findings were a big disappointment to civil rights activists and politicians, who have been lobbying for constitutional reforms since the early 1990s. Non-governmental organizations, politicians, lawyers and religious leaders – all backed by foreign diplomats – have persistently driven the view that a new constitution is the only path towards a wealthy society. The findings of the Gallup poll will question the legitimacy of these groups.

This is not the first survey showing Kenyans’ disregard for constitutional issues. Last December, just before the elections, another survey revealed that Kenyans want jobs, medicines in public hospitals, clean water and safe roads.

In spite of the rhetoric by politicians that Kenyans “want” constitutional reforms, the ordinary man and woman on the street is not fooled. Kenyans know that this obsession with changing the constitution has more to do with the trappings of power than it has to do with making a better country. A good example is the so-called Bomas Draft that some political parties want to implement.

If the Bomas Draft becomes a reality, every politician in Kenya will have a job thanks to multiple layers of government. There will be government at village level, locational level, the district, province and right to the national level. There will be mini-parliaments for the provinces and districts. Each layer of government will levy its own taxes. According to the Bomas Draft, retired politicians will be accommodated in some form of national council of elders.

There is little mention in the Bomas Draft of expanding economic production in order to provide jobs, food and housing to the growing population.

Political meddling in Kenya’s constitution has resulted in numerous amendments since independence. Most of these were designed to deal with a prevailing political threat. For instance, in 1966, President Jomo Kenyatta’s administration introduced an amendment that forced Members of Parliament who dissented with their political parties to face fresh elections. This amendment was targeted at Kenyatta’s critics, such as opposition leader Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.

In 1992, Kenya’s second president, Daniel arap Moi, amended the constitution to make his Kenya African National Union (KANU) the only legal political party. The amendment was removed in 1991 after international pressure.

Throughout the 1990s, President Moi’s opponents wanted the constitution changed in order to give themselves a better chance of winning. After the 1997 elections, the opposition began lobbying for the creation of a Prime Minister’s position after realizing that removing Moi from the presidency was impossible. Moi resisted their calls for a new constitution saying that the opposition was not sincere.

In 2002, Moi agreed to have a National Constitution Conference at the Bomas of Kenya. However, he made the conference so big that failure was a guarantee. The Bomas conference had over 600 delegates with all 222 Members of Parliament included. It was the largest constitutional conference in the history of the world.

Just before the conference completed its work, Moi dissolved parliament in readiness for the 2002 General Election. With most of the delegates being politicians, the Bomas conference was postponed in order to give them time to campaign. Mwai Kibaki won the elections and was sworn into office on December 30th, 2002 promising the enactment of the Bomas constitution within 6 months. That was not to happen.

Kibaki had made a political alliance with Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and others based on the enactment of a new constitution. Raila was promised the position of executive prime minister. In the first few months of 2003, Raila and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) continually reminded Kibaki of his pledge to change the constitution and make Raila a prime minister.

John Michuki, a Kibaki ally, dropped the bombshell. Michuki announced that the purpose of constitutional reforms had all along been to remove Moi and KANU from power. Since these objectives had been achieved, it was no longer necessary to reform the constitution.  Raila and LDP were outraged, and his alliance with President Kibaki came to an end.

In 2005, Kibaki wrote another draft giving the prime minister much less powers. Raila and LDP campaigned hard against Kibaki’s draft constitution and it was defeated in a national referendum held in November 2005. Since then, no further progress has been made in enacting a new constitution.

Gallup’s recent poll demonstrates that ordinary Kenyans clearly understand the intention behind constitutional review. With Kenyans being the most educated Africans, most realize that it takes much more than a constitution to create a better society. Constitutions do not build roads, power lines, hospitals and schools. All these are day-to-day responsibilities of a government.

The orgy of self-destruction seen this year was not driven by the current constitution. If anything, our present constitution criminalizes murder, rape, arson, looting and incitement. The present constitution, which has guided the country for 45 years, gives every Kenyan citizen the right to work, live and own property anywhere within our borders. The current constitution recognizes the rights of all racial groups in Kenya, that is, Africans, Caucasians, Hindus and Arabs.

As it was noted after the post elections violence, Kenyans need to re-examine the way they conduct politics. If people can kill and steal under the current constitution, why should they obey a new constitution?

Kenyans are suffering from a political class that is nurturing the values of impunity, racism, ethnic hatred, sexism and hereditary politics. It is unthinkable in the 21st century that politicians want a constitution that violates the rights of specific racial and ethnic groups. If such a constitution were enacted, life in Kenya will not get better. It will only get worse.

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.

Inheritance politics locking out promising leaders

“The apple does not fall far from the tree,” goes a well-known saying. For those in the dark, the proverb means that an offspring is likely to possess the same qualities as his/her parents.

In Kenya, we assume that guavas, lemons and bananas growing next to the apple tree will become apples. It is a twisted kind of political logic perfected by power brokers out to impose their will on voters. Unfortunately, the Kenyan voting public is complicit in its own subjugation to the wealthy elite.

Visionary leaders born outside the circle of prominent families cannot expect to achieve much in a political environment where political power is handed over from father to son, husband to wife, mother to daughter, etc … Not surprising, then, that our so-called leaders are taking us down the path of failed statehood. As experience has shown in other parts of the world, inherited leadership does not owe anything to the people. Instead, it seeks to preserve itself at all costs.

Voters in Bomet and Sotik constituencies, in addition to several civic wards across the country, will go to the polls on September 25th. The Bomet and Sotik seats fell vacant following the deaths of their legislators in a plane crash several months ago.

Bomet and Sotik are located in the wet, fertile highlands west of the Rift Valley. Picture by Masdar International.

Bomet and Sotik are located in the wet, fertile highlands west of the Rift Valley. Picture by Masdar International.

In Bomet, a widow of the late Kipkalya Kones will run on the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party ticket, just like her husband. Meanwhile, an elder sister of the late Lorna Laboso, is taking up her sibling’s place on an ODM ticket. ODM is the most popular party in both constituencies and the candidates are highly likely to sail to parliament.

Mrs Beatrice Cherono Kones will be running against Nick Salat of KANU. For many years, the Bomet parliamentary seat has changed hands between the Salat and Kones families. Nick Salat is a political inheritor from his father, the late Isaac Salat. Clearly, the two families have a monopoly of leadership abilities in Bomet.

Prior to the death of her husband, Beatrice was quite obscure. During Kipkalya’s funeral, ODM leader, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, declared that, “the wife of a lion can also become a lion.” The remarks were a direct endorsement of Beatrice due to Raila’s popularity in the area.

But what does this mean for the people of Bomet and Sotik, and Kenyans in general? It means that these two newly minted politicians will owe their loyalties to their annointer. It also means that those constituencies will be dominated by these prominent families at the expense of hardworking ordinary people. It makes nonsense of the concept of equal opportunity for all. Incidentally, ODM ran on a platform of equality during last year’s campaigns.

The happenings in Bomet and Sotik are a microcosm of Kenya’s political elite, most of whom are inheritors. Prime Minister Raila Odinga inherited leadership of the Luo community from his father, the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Both of Raila’s deputies are inheritors: Uhuru Kenyatta is son of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta while Musalia Mudavadi inherited from the late Moses Mudavadi. Currently, Mudavadi is holding his late father’s cabinet portfolio as Minister for Local Government.

Joseph Nyagah is son of the late Jeremiah Nyagah who was in Kenyatta’s first cabinet after independence. Saboti legislator, Eugene Wamalwa is brother to former Vice President, the late Kijana Wamalwa. Oburu Odinga, Raila’s brother, took over his father’s Bondo seat after Raila decided to maintain his political base in Nairobi. Gideon Moi is the favorite son of ex president Daniel arap Moi.

Indeed, Kenya’s politics are filled with the wives, sons and daughters of former legislators, former senators (Kenya had a senate in the early 1960s), army generals, top clergy and high ranking civil servants. For instance, we have the son of former Police Commissioner, the late Phillip Kilonzo, in parliament. Dr Julia Ojiambo’s daughter, Josephine, is active in politics though in a different party.

Charity Ngilu joined politics thanks to connections made through her late husband, who was a government contractor. Naivasha politician, Jayne Kihara, was married to a former Member of Parliament for the area.

A second group of political inheritors consists of people not biologically related to their godfathers. For instance, President Kibaki was mentored by Jomo Kenyatta, while Kalonzo Musyoka and George Saitoti owe their positions to Moi’s guidance. Najib Balala is a product of the late Shariff Nassir. William Ruto would be nothing today if it wasn’t for Moi.

Most politicians in Luo Nyanza owe their positions to Raila Odinga’s family. Dr James Orengo, Raphael Tuju, Dalmas Otieno and Professor Anyang’ Nyongo have had to contend with this political reality at one time or another.

The ordinary man or woman born into a middle class or peasant family has little chance of getting to political leadership. However, Kenyans still have the power of the democratic vote, and should vote for people without looking at family background. There is no point voting for clueless people and then expecting rapid development overnight.

It is also obvious that the beneficiaries of inherited power are not ready to relinquish their priviledged status any time soon. Most of the presidential succession strategies being debated today revolve around which family will take over next. All the hype about “equitable distribution of resources” was really about “equitable distribution to political families”. That explains why politicians from across the political divide are busy appointing their spouses and children to head state organizations.

With this standard of leadership, it will be impossible to achieve Vision 2100, let alone Vision 2030. Ordinary Kenyans are hardworking, creative people. They should get equal chances to prove their worth.

Vernacular radio fuelled ethnic clashes

Studies on the post-election violence that killed close to 1,000 Kenyans show that vernacular radio stations incited ethnic animosity during the 2007 electoral campaigns.

“There was a lot of hate speech, sometimes thinly veiled. The vernacular radio stations have perfected the art,” Caesar Handa, chief executive of Strategic Research, told IRIN News. His company was contracted to monitor media coverage given to the main political parties in Kenya in the run-up to the 27th December presidential and parliamentary elections.

Among the FM stations that Handa singled out for criticism were the Kalenjin-language station Kass FM, the Kikuyu stations Inooro and Kameme and the Luo station, Lake Victoria FM.

Meanwhile, a human rights body has recommended that vernacular stations be warned of possible criminal prosecutions before domestic and international courts. The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights is urging Western governments to subsidize the acquisition of digital audio delay equipment to remove hate speech and profanity by callers.

Long before national elections were held last December, vernacular radio stations were already igniting ethnic consciousness among listeners, “urging them to support political leaders from their own tribe and to harbor bad feelings about people from other communities,” says Tervil Okoko, Chairman of the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ).

Okoko added, “The ethnic hate that the radio stations were propagating about other communities was unbelievable. I cannot make myself repeat what they were saying. The unfortunate thing is that we as journalists allowed speakers to say as they wished and we tagged along, sometimes laughing alongside them. We took sides in the issues and we became subjective, forgetting our professional tenants for objectivity and neutrality.”

Vernacular music sowed the seeds of ethnic tensions. The two Kikuyu stations, Kameme and Inooro, played songs “talking very badly about beasts from the west”, a veiled reference to opposition leader Raila Odinga and his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) colleagues, who come from western Kenya, said Mr Handa.

Radio Lake Victoria played a Luo-language song by the late D. O. Misiani, which referred to “the leadership of baboons.”

KNCHR singled out a Kikuyu song by Miuga Njoroge, broadcast on Inooro FM, as worrying. “I hear it was sponsored by the Party of National Unity (PNU),” said Kamanda Mucheke of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR). “The gist of it is that Raila Odinga is a murderer. He is power hungry. He doesn’t care about other tribes. He only cares about his tribe, the Luo community. It says that Luos are lazy. They don’t work. They are hooligans. That when they rent houses, they don’t pay rent.”

Mr Handa heard Kalenjin callers on Kass FM making negative comments about other ethnic groups, who they call “settlers,” in their traditional homeland, Rift Valley Province. “You hear cases of ‘Let’s reclaim our land. Let’s reclaim our birthright’. Let’s claim our land means you want to evict people [other ethnic communities] from the place,” said Handa.

One difficulty in monitoring such stations is that the language used is often quite subtle and obscure. “The call-in shows are the most notorious,” said Handa. “The announcers don’t really have the ability to check what the callers are going to say.”

On Kass FM, there were references to the need for “people of the milk” to “cut grass” and complaints that the mongoose has come and “stolen our chicken”, according to Mucheke from the KNCHR, which monitored hate speech in the countdown to the elections. The Kalenjin call themselves people of the milk because they are pastoralists by tradition and the mongoose is a reference to Kikuyus who have bought land in Rift Valley, Mucheke said.

By allowing such sentiments to be voiced on air, observers say, they earn a degree of legitimacy that can be used to justify attacks on other ethnic groups. Many Kenyans, used to making derogatory statements about other ethnic groups, do not realize the implications of what they are doing, according to Linda Ochiel, principal human rights officer at KNCHR.

“People treat it as a big joke. They don’t know such stereotypes eventually get fixated in people’s minds when they begin to kill people. It’s one of the triggers of violence in this country. When we begin to dehumanize other Kenyans and depict them as animals, it’s easy to take a machete and hack them to death,” she told IRIN.

Back in the year 2000, former President Daniel arap Moi warned on the dangers of vernacular radio stations. Ironically, it was during Moi’s tenure as Kenya’s second President that the country witnessed a heightened sense of tribal xenophobia.

Moi stated, “This vernacular radio station (Kameme FM) should be banned because we have seen that ethnic radio stations can be misused to incite anarchy and genocide as happened in neighboring Rwanda.” In response to Mr Moi’s threats, Kameme quickly called a press conference and its Managing Director, Rose Kimotho, assured all that Kameme will continue to stay well clear of politics. Subsequently, the Moi Administration went ahead to launch an official vernacular FM station, Coro, that also broadcasted in the Kikuyu language.

The controversy over vernacular radio became a major issue in Rwanda during the genocide of 1994. The Rwandan conflict was exacerbated by a hate message broadcast on the notorious Radio Mille Collines (RMC) during call-in shows where the minority Tutsi community was derogatively referred to as “cockroaches” by the Hutus, who were the numerically dominant tribe. “Kill the inkotanyi” (cockroaches) went a chilling clarion cry on RMC.

Within three months of the tribal instigated madness, a total of 850,000 people were killed, victims of the hate messages broadcasted over the radio.

The role of vernacular radio in Kenya’s violence has sparked great interest in international media circles. Prof. Frank Chalk of the Montreal Institute of Genocide and Human Rights has recommended stern measures for vernacular radio:

“We must convey to owners and managers of vernacular radio stations that the content of hate broadcasts and the names of those responsible for putting them on the air are currently being recorded, analyzed, and preserved for use in future criminal prosecutions before domestic and international courts as well as the application of other penalties such as placement on watch lists, freezing of overseas assets, and severe limitations on visas and travel.”

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REPORTS BY:
BBC News
Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights (MIGS)
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (IRIN News)
Toward Freedom website

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Mt Elgon MP got SLDF backing

A report on human rights abuses in Mt Elgon reveals that area Member of Parliament, Fred Kapondi, won the seat after rivals were threatened with death by the Sabaot Land Defence Force. However, Mr Kapondi’s electoral tactics were not unique. The report adds that in the past 15 years, all legislators from the constituency have used armed militias to get to parliament.

Mt Elgon. Its slopes have been witness to horrific torture and killings. Picture by BMS-Travellers

Mt Elgon. Its slopes have been witness to horrific torture and killings. Picture by BMS-Travellers

The report, released this week by Human Rights Watch graphically describes acts of torture committed by the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) and Kenya’s security forces. In a sense, the people of Mt Elgon are under attack from the two protagonists.

Virtually all males over the age of 10 have been targetted, either for recruitment by the SLDF or for interrogation by the Kenya Army and Police. “Mt. Elgon is a mountain of women, all the men have gone,” lamented a widow who found her husband’s body at the Webuye mortuary, two weeks after he was abducted by the army.

Here are excerpts of the report by Human Rights watch, with damning evidence against Mr Kapondi:

Wilberforce Kisiero, the MP for the former ruling party KANU between 1982 and 1997 was widely cited as one of the proponents of violence in the district. He was implicated in the state sponsored clashes of 1991-93, and named in the Akiwumi report, the parliamentary investigation into the political violence of the 1990s.

John Serut, the MP from 2002 to 2007, and Fred Kapondi, the current MP elected in 2007, were accused by local residents and human rights organizations of working to recruit, train, and finance militia who intimidated opponents in the 1997, 2002, and 2007 elections.

Having initially worked together (Kapondi was formerly KANU party chairman in the district), by the time of the 2007 General Elections, Serut and Kapondi had fallen out, according to residents. After that, the SLDF began to target supporters of Serut, including Serut himself. An area chief explained that because Serut supported the Chepyuk III settlement scheme against the wishes of most within the SLDF, Kapondi got a chance to run the boys, and this gave him the political powerbase he needed to win the election.

A neighbor of Kapondi told how he was repeatedly harassed by SLDF ‘boys’ who had a training camp on Kapondi’s land. Another chief described Kapondi leading a recruitment drive in his area for young men to join the SLDF in 2006. Kapondi was arrested in April 2007 and charged with robbery with violence in Webuye court, a non-bailable offense. He was nominated as the ODM candidate while in custody and acquitted on December 13, 2007, just days before the election.

Court officials told Human Rights Watch that the prosecution case collapsed when witnesses started disappearing and others changed their stories. Human rights activists described seeing the court packed with known SLDF militia during hearings.

Kapondi and others were also named in parliament by the then MP, John Serut, who accused them of fueling the clashes. But Serut himself, along with Kisiero and another former MP, Joseph Kimkung, were named by the government spokesman in a report seeking to identify the backers of the violence. Local residents say they have all been involved at various stages.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: It should be noted that former MP, John Serut, was implicated in a sexual harassment case at Parliament Buildings involving a female parliamentary staffer. This was just days after he was sworn into office early 2003.

More excerpts from Human Rights Watch:

Origins of the Mt Elgon land dispute:
Land disputes between two clans of the Sabaot tribe began in the 1920s. Colonial authorities forced these groups out of the Trans Nzoia area in order to pave way for white settlers. The Sabaot clans resettled in Mt Elgon forest at two locations: Chebyuk and Chepkitale.

In 1968, Chepkitale was declared a game reserve and its inhabitants forced out. Inhabitants evicted from Chepkitale complained, and in 1971 the government initiated a resettlement program for the displaced at the other location, Chepyuk. In effect, the government was trying to force the inhabitants of two villages into the area occupied by one. Moreover, the resettlement exercise was placed in the hands of area chiefs, local land officials, provincial administrators, councillors and members of parliament, many of whom were accused of corrupt practices in the allocation of land.

The Kenyan government evicted people originating from both areas from various locations that had been designated parts of the settlement scheme, and made a second attempt to allocate the land, known as Chepyuk II in 1989. This was equally controversial.

In 1993 the government of President Daniel arap Moi annulled the Chepyuk settlement scheme completely and ordered the creation of a third scheme, Chepyuk III. By now the population had increased even further. Because of controversy and complications, Phase three was never fully implemented and remained an apparently dormant issue throughout the 1990s.

After the 2005 referendum, the third phase was finally implemented but the exercise was marred by massive irregularities. This was a feature of the broader political conflict between the then sitting member of parliament for Mt. Elgon, John Serut, and his then protégé the future MP, Fred Kapondi.

What is the Sabaot Land Defence Force?

The SLDF is an armed group organized and funded by local politicians, although the actual politicians in control have changed over time. The SLDF is very similar in its activities to the majimboist groups that were armed by the state in 1991-92 and 1996-97 to drive out non-Kalenjin groups (mostly Luhya in Mt. Elgon) who were unlikely to vote for the ruling KANU party. This happened in Mt. Elgon, as well as across the Rift Valley and coastal provinces in the elections of 1992 and 1997.

The political objectives of the SLDF become clear when one looks at the pattern of attacks, the ethnicity and political affiliation of the victims, and the relationship between the timing of violence and the electoral cycle. Basically, the SLDF, as with many other armed groups in Kenya, has twin purposes, on the one hand land-related objectives, and on the other to further the political aims of certain local leaders.

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More of this report on the Human Rights Watch website.

Presidential race begins 5 years early

With an insatiable appetite for intrigue, Kenya’s politicians are already re-aligning for the next presidential election, even though the polls are 5 years away.

Martha Karua, the Minister for Justice. She will vie for the presidency - in 2012.

Martha Karua, the Minister for Justice. She will vie for the presidency - in 2012.

A highly charged political atmosphere contributed to the chaos of Kenya’s elections in December 2007. Five years of campaigning had whipped up violent emotions among the country’s 42 ethnic groups, with each feeling that its candidate had to win the presidency at all cost. Threats against opposing ethnic groups were issued by candidates across the national divide.

In spite of the deaths of hundreds and displacement of half a million people, Kenya’s politicians have not learnt much from the experience as campaigns begin 5 years too early. President Mwai Kibaki is serving his last term of office in accordance with Kenya’s constitution, with allies dumping him and embarking on their own campaigns.

The latest entrant into the race is the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Martha Karua.  The tenacious lawyer is a key Kibaki ally who played a prominent role in negotiations early this year that created Kenya’s giant coalition.

Negotiations led by former United Nations Secretary General Koffi Annan were meant to reconcile President Kibaki of the PNU party with opposition leader Raila Odinga of ODM after the disputed December polls. Karua, representing Kibaki’s PNU, maintained a hardline stance against the ODM. Eventually, a coalition was formed with Kibaki retaining the presidency and Raila becoming Prime Minister.

Ms Karua is said to have grown disillusioned with President Kibaki for his apparent preference for Uhuru Kenyatta as a successor. It just so happens that Kibaki is Uhuru’s baptismal godfather. Other persons said to be in Kibaki’s good books are Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and  Internal Security Minister, George Saitoti.

As a result of presidential ambitions among Kibaki allies, the PNU alliance is beginning to fracture. Ford Kenya has said that it will remain a separate entity as has the Democratic Party. Uhuru Kenyatta’s KANU party is not likely to dissolve itself if statements from its members are anything to go by. Kalonzo Musyoka’s ODM-Kenya is unlikely to willingly subsume itself into PNU. Thus, Kibaki and PNU are being described as lame ducks with little relevance in the emerging political equations.

The heightened presidential campaigns have been criticized by both President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Both of them say that government leaders should be serving Kenyans. Currently, almost 60% of the country’s population survives in abject poverty, with little access to water, electricity and health care. Rising food prices and fuel costs are making life harder for majority of Kenyans amidst ethnic tension and rising crime. In this light, early presidential campaigns are being viewed as an example of insensitivity and corruption among Kenya’s elite, most of whose income is largely untaxed.

Experience in Kenya’s history indicates that the person likely to become president is one entirely unexpected to win. Founding president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta spent over 20 years in exile and close to a decade in detention before he won the seat. His successor, Daniel arap Moi was a former school teacher from a small tribe in the Rift Valley and who was considered as, “a passing cloud.” The current president, Mwai Kibaki, had by the end of the 1990s been dismissed as a spent force with an uncanny ability to procrastinate crucial decisions.

If the past is any indicator, it can be concluded that the noise makers in Kenya’s political scene have little chance of winning the coveted seat.

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