Conflict between Kambas and Taitas brewing

There’s growing tension between the Kamba and Taita ethnic groups following a dispute at the highway township of Mtito Andei. Politicians from Coast Province are exploiting the issue to whip up nationalist sentiment while threatening to secede from the rest of Kenya.

Image showing the source of the border conflict between Makueni and Taita Taveta County Councils. Satellite image by Google Maps

Image showing the source of the border conflict between Makueni and Taita Taveta County Councils. Satellite image by Google Maps

It began as nothing more than a storm in a tea cup, centred around a small highway township by the name of Mtito Andei. For many years, the County Councils of Makueni and Taita Taveta have quarrelled over the provincial border that runs either through or alongside the town.

Taita Taveta County Council puts the border at the Mtito Andei River, which means that Mtito Andei town should be under the jurisdiction of Taita District of Coast Province. On its part, Makueni County Council says the provincial border lies outside the township on the way to Mombasa. Makueni County Council therefore puts Mtito Andei township firmly in Eastern Province.

Taita leaders say that during President Jomo Kenyatta’s administration, they used to stand at the Mtito Andei River to welcome the presidential convoy as it drove from Nairobi to Mombasa (See above map). This, they say, is clear evidence that the border between Coast and Eastern lies at the river. The location of the Mtito Andei State Lodge has also added to the controversy.

The root of the dispute between Makueni and Taita Taveta is the collection of revenue from highway businesses at Mtito Andei. The township is located halfway between Nairobi and Mombasa, making it an ideal resting place for truck drivers, tourists and long distance buses. The town’s economy is based on restaurants, lodging houses, bars and petrol stations.

At the moment, control of Mtito Andei and its revenues lies with the Makueni County Council. Taita Taveta Council will find it very difficult to argue its case, considering that 95% of Mtito Andei’s inhabitants are Kamba and prefer living under Makueni County Council rather than Taita Taveta. Besides, the vast Tsavo National Park has created a huge barrier between Mtito Andei and the rest of Taita District, with the nearest Taita villages located at the Taita Hills almost 100km away.

Early this year, Makueni County Council officials worsened tensions by placing a border sign at the Tsavo River bridge, thereby pushing the provincial boundaries 50 kilometres deep into Coast Province. The border sign has since been defaced by persons believed to be allied to the Taita side.

The border dispute has attracted the attention of politicians at the national scene. Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka was at Mtito Andei recently and called for peace. He did not make any concrete statement over the issue but told the local people to await the government’s verdict.

Tourism Minister Najib Balala last week led other legislators from Coast in a scathing attack of the government over this and other issues. Balala claimed that Coast Province had deliberately been left poor and underdeveloped despite contributing to the national economy through the tourism industry and the Port of Mombasa. Balala and his allies accused the government of neglecting the Coastal tribes especially with regards to appointments to top government positions. They pointed at the Mtito Andei dispute as an example of “oppression of the Coast by up-country tribes.”

The group vowed to secede Coast Province from the rest of Kenya in order to keep tourism and port funds to develop the region. They said they will start a movement to that effect. Though these are treasonable words, there is little the government can do against Balala without whipping up ethnic animosity. The situation is complicated because Balala and his group are members of Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ODM party.

Balala was close to Raila in the run-up to the 2007 elections, but of late, the two do not see eye-to-eye. Balala has maintained a low profile in the past year as he seethes with anger over what he sees as Raila’s betrayal. Balala believes that Raila is sponsoring opponents to challenge him for the Mvita Parliamentary seat in 2012. Balala sees himself as a senior player in Coast politics and has not been happy with Raila’s ties to East African Co-operation Minister Amason Kingi Jeffah (MP for Magarini) and Ali Hassan Joho of Kisauni.

Najib Balala is among those mentioned in the Waki Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence. He is accused of paying youths Shs300 per day (US$4) to engage in looting and ethnic clashes in Mombasa. It was Balala who made the infamous “we will confine them to Lesotho” remarks against the Kikuyu tribe. By threatening to confine the Kikuyu to a Lesotho-like enclave, Balala was seen as supporting the forceful eviction of the Kikuyu from wherever they had settled, including Coast Province.

The Mtito Andei issue has given Balala a fresh lifeline to revive his waning popularity by doing what he does best: inciting ethnic hatred.

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Raila, Ruto clash not surprising at all

Deep ideological differences between Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Agriculture Minister William Ruto are responsible for the split in the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

raila_rutoIn their eagerness, or perhaps desperation, to win power in the 2007 General Elections, Raila and Ruto disguised their personal differences to unite under the ODM party. Both men knew that they could not get into government by themselves. This was more the case when Kalonzo Musyoka left ODM in mid 2007.

Immediately after Kalonzo’s exit, Raila and Ruto got into a very strong alliance that helped bring the Luo and Kalenjin votes directly to Raila’s presidential candidacy. Come the elections, the Luo and Kalenjin voted for Raila en-masse. When President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner, the Luo and Kalenjin were at the forefront in protesting the election results. The Prime Minister himself has acknowledged the role of Kalenjin warriors in forcing Kibaki to the negotiating table.

Today, that alliance lies in tatters. Raila and Ruto have inevitably parted ways and are both seeking alternative allies in readiness for the 2012 elections. While Raila is an obvious candidate, Ruto sees himself as presidential material for Kenya’s future. He will either run for the office or support somebody else in exchange for the Vice Presidency or the Premiership. Those mentioned as Ruto’s possible allies in 2012 are current Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta. Meanwhile, Raila is talking to politicians from Central Kenya in a bid to woo Kikuyu, Embu and Meru votes.

Raila and Ruto come from opposing schools of political thought. Raila is a socialist who learnt politics from his father, former Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Due to Communist leanings, Jaramogi fell out with President Jomo Kenyatta in 1966 and became a perpetual opposition to the Kenyatta and Moi administrations until his death in 1994. Jaramogi inculcated socialism in Raila by sending him to study Engineering in the former East Germany which was a Communist state. In the 1980s, Raila was tortured for involvement in the 1982 coup attempt. It was almost as though President Daniel arap Moi was deliberately targeting Raila in order to cause psychological anguish to Jaramogi.

Ruto, on the other hand, was an ardent student of the Moi brand of politics. Picked from obscurity before the 1992 General Elections, Ruto was appointed second in command of a new organization called “Youth for KANU 1992” or YK92 in short. YK92 had only one goal: to use any means necessary to ensure the victory of Moi and the KANU party. YK92 received an unlimited amount of funds to buy support for KANU. The source of the cash was a mystery but it is believed that the government engaged in massive printing of money. The Goldenberg scandal could have provided more slush funds.

Moi and KANU managed to win the 1992 elections but, needless to say, the operations of YK92 had flooded the economy with paper money. The years 1993 – 1994 witnessed the highest inflation in Kenya’s history as prices of basic commodities doubled and trebled. This was when the Shs500 currency note was introduced.

Come the 1997 elections, Moi supported William Ruto’s candidacy in Eldoret North constituency against the late Reuben Chesire. The interesting angle is that Reuben Chesire was related to Moi. However, friendship counts for little in politics and Moi is the master of use-and-dump strategies. With Moi’s backing, Ruto won the elections and was appointed to the cabinet. By 2002, Ruto was a powerful Minister for Internal Security and an ardent defender of Moi.

In a sense, Ruto symbolized the arrogance and corruption of Moi’s last years of office. He displayed a great deal of single-mindedness when defending Moi’s choice of Uhuru Kenyatta as successor in the 2002 elections. Ruto virulently opposed the constitutional review process led by Professor Yash Pal Ghai and which culminated in the Bomas conference. Often, Ruto appeared on national television frothing at the mouth as he dismissed constitutional reforms as an attack on the Moi presidency. To Ruto’s credit, Kibaki ally John Michuki confirmed in 2003 that constitutional reforms were meant to remove Moi and KANU from power.

Ruto has never subscribed to Raila’s populist approach to politics. Ruto is a hardcore conservative more comfortable with Mwai Kibaki than with Raila Odinga. It was naked opportunism that brought Raila and Ruto together. Raila needed the Kalenjin vote and Ruto wanted to get back into government after KANU’s loss in 2002.

Ruto is among politicians who believe that Raila is a reckless activist who cannot be trusted with leading Kenya. Ruto is certainly not a socialist. He is an extremely wealth man who made lots of money through his connections to Moi. Apart from unlimited access to YK92 funds, Ruto was allocated government land which he afterwards sold to state-owned corporations at a huge profit. For instance, Ruto made hundreds of millions of shillings selling land to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). Ruto’s companies won tenders to supply government departments and state corporations.

In 2007, Moi decided to support President Mwai Kibaki’s candidacy and told Ruto to follow suit. Ruto was convinced that Raila had the best chance of winning and refused to heed Moi’s calling. Now, it looks like Ruto is going back home to Moi and Uhuru Kenyatta as Raila’s political fortunes dwindle by the day.

One final point to consider: Did Ruto really fall out with Moi in 2007 or was it part of Moi’s political strategy of ensuring he had a stake in government regardless of who won the election? The hard fact is that if Raila had won the presidency, Ruto would have taken care of Moi’s interests.

Today, with Moi firmly on Kibaki’s side, Ruto doesn’t seem to be doing badly either. Early this year, Ruto survived a no-confidence motion in Parliament thanks to support from pro-Kibaki legislators.

Kenya to lose US aid as leaders fight for posts

by Scott A Morgan

Since the 20th of January of this year, there have been plenty of articles highlighting how the Obama Administration has been reviewing US policy towards several nations.

Kenya Army soldier with US Army instructor. US military aid could dry up following wrangles in the Giant Coalition.

Kenya Army soldiers with US military instructor. US military aid could dry up following wrangles in the Giant Coalition.

In the media, Zimbabwe and Somalia are still popular topics of discussion. But there is one country that has not garnered a lot of interest in a little more than a year but is now re-emerging as a hot topic.

During the historic campaign by President Barack Obama, Kenya was a keen observer of the electoral process in the United States. After all, President Obama’s father was from Kenya and Obama still happens to have family in Kenya. And there are several reasons for the United States to have a keen interest in what goes on in the country.

One of the reasons is the current infighting in Parliament. The Obama Administration is not pleased with the current pace of reforms. There has been an impasse between the Vice-President and the Prime Minister that has caused debate to come to a gridlock. This has effectively halted any activity by the Government.

Another problem that needs to be addressed is impunity. During the violence that permeated Kenya in the aftermath of the December 2007 elections, hundreds of people perished. There was also a report released by a human rights NGO that was critical of the actions by the security forces in the Great Rift Valley. To this date there has been no word regarding whether or not any member of the security forces will face justice for these acts.

Another reason for the increased focus in Kenya is the Somalia situation. Most of the pirates that have been captured by international naval elements in the Gulf of Aden have been taken to Mombasa and handed over to Kenyan authorities. In the past, a Somali insurgent group has threatened to attack Kenya for assisting the international community in the struggle to rein in the acts of piracy. Since Kenya has a direct border with Somalia, this is a threat that cannot be taken lightly.

The United States has always had good relations with Kenya. Now that the President is of Kenyan heritage it is perceived that US-Kenyan Relations will be in the spotlight on a larger than normal scale.

Early last year more than one pundit lamented that Kenya has slid from being “A Model for Democracy in East Africa”. The concern that the US has for the current political impasse could cause Washington to tighten the purse strings when it comes to foreign aid to Nairobi.

The Administration has been showing that it is not business as usual as it has placed sanctions on individuals that have been linked to corruption. One of the sanctions that has been enacted is to prevent them from travelling to the United States under any capacity. However, the US Ambassador has announced that the US will still support programmes that are administered by non governmental organizations (NGOs). The US Ambassador told a Kenyan newspaper that 85-90% of US aid is channeled through NGOs anyway.

When Obama was elected President of the US, ordinary Kenyans were hopeful that the US would not forget Kenya. In that aspect he has remembered them.

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The Author publishes Confused Eagle on the Internet. It can be found at morganrights.tripod.com

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ODM – PNU political circus continues

The tragic political circus of Kenya’s giant coalition continues while hundreds of people die from famine, criminal gangs, road accidents and a rogue police force.

The country’s politics are so polarized that decisions cannot be made without a rabble-rousing furore that only worsens the moribund governance in the country.

Take for example the events of this week. A simple act of opening Parliament in order to discuss matters of crucial importance to Kenyans, ended in chaos. Why? The Vice President and Prime Minister could not agree who among them should be the leader of government business. The week ended with total paralysis in Parliament as House Speaker Kenneth Marende attempted to save face by promising to work with President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga in getting a solution to the impasse.

Outside Parliament, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka was vowing to stick to the fight. Kalonzo said that President Kibaki, who backs him as Leader of Government Business, was the country’s chief executive by election and agreement and deserved respect. “We are going to move on and there are no two ways about it,” chest-thumped Kalonzo.

For his part, Raila has stated that his ODM party will not allow another leader “with a party of 12 MPs” to assume the position while the Constitution was clear on the holder. “The Constitution says the leader of the party with majority MPs in the House becomes the Leader of Government Business. How can a leader of a party with 12 MPs lead the majority? Where on earth has this happened? This seat belongs to ODM and we cannot allow another mistake to occur,” Raila said at a burial in Eldoret East constituency.

The prolonged ODM – PNU rivalry is not doing much to enhance inter ethnic relations among Kenya’s 42 tribes. Issues are still interpreted along ethnic lines, using arguments like, “why can’t tribe X be satisfied with what they have,” or “Kenya would be better if tribe Y was not here …”

Politicians have absolutely managed to convince Kenyans that their rivalry is about ethnic competition, that the fight over power is about one ethnic group fighting it out with another. The reality is different though, for what we see in Kenya is a power struggle among the ruling elite. A younger political elite from the 1980s and 1990s seeks to overthrow the post colonial establishment that has ruled Kenya since 1963.

All the drama around power sharing, government posts, respect and carpets is a side show meant to hoodwink the gullible Kenyan public to the real struggle behind the scenes.

Unfortunately, Kenyans have bought the “ethnic struggle” lie almost completely and it is just a matter of time before a large conflagration drowns this beautiful East African state in the blood of innocents.

Hopeless Grand Coalition proves Annan right

A meeting called by Kenya’s Grand Coalition government collapsed in chaos on Saturday, further vindicating a widespread perception that President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga are hopeless failures.

ali-gicheru_composite

Ironically, the retreat at the Kilaguni Lodge in the vast Tsavo National Park was meant to prove to the entire world that the Grand Coalition can solve its own problems without the need for international mediators such as former United Nations Secretary General Koffi Annan.

Kibaki and Raila, leading opposite camps of the giant coalition, could not agree on what to discuss at the much publicized meeting. Kibaki wanted to evaluate the performance of the coalition a year after its formation.

Raila and his ODM party not only wanted to renegotiate the terms of the partnership but want Chief Justice Evans Gicheru and Police Commissioner Mohammed Hussein Ali dismissed. Kibaki has already made his position clear, that the two will remain in government at least for now.

Yesterday’s events were both laughable and tragic at the same time. Laughable when senior government ministers appear in front of the press naively admitting their inability to function. Tragic because the fate of over 35 million Kenyans lies in the hands of bungling idiots who could not draft an agenda for a weekend meeting.

Though Koffi Annan is not known to gloat at the failure of others, he must be feeling that his work in Kenya is far from done. He had called both President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga for a meeting at Geneva base. Both shunned the meeting arguing that Kenya is a sovereign state that does not answer to foreign masters, or words to that effect.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka told Annan that Kenya’s government could handle its own affairs and that international mediation was no longer necessary. Indeed, this is the reason why the Kilaguni meeting was called: to demonstrate that the key partners of the Grand Coalition could meet at a place and time of their choosing to discuss the way forward for Kenya. Too bad none of the partners actually knew what they were going to discuss.

Right from the start, both Kibaki and Raila had opposing views about the meeting. When Koffi Annan first issued his Geneva invitations a month ago, Raila was of the view that the National Accord that formed the Grand Coalition was going to be renegotiated. Raila has complained of not having enough power to enact reforms and that he should get a higher salary than Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.

In reality though, Raila’s main concern is his inability to appoint ODM supporters to key government jobs as he promised during the 2007 election campaigns.

This is what is driving his calls for the dismissal of such key government personalities as Chief Justice Evans Gicheru, Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura and Police Commissioner Mohammed Hussein Ali. Raila wishes to appoint ODM affiliated personalities to the key positions in order to demonstrate his influence in government.

Raila further believes that Gicheru and Ali helped Kibaki consolidate his rather shaky electoral victory in the 2007 General Elections. Gicheru presided over the inauguration ceremony at State House on December 30th 2007 that gave Kibaki a second presidential term. Raila is also convinced that the post election violence could have forced Kibaki out of power if it wasn’t for the police and military.

The ongoing saga over the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) can also be seen in similar light. KAA Managing Director, George Muhoho, is a key ally of President Kibaki and his ouster would be a coup for Raila. However, it appears that Kibaki may have seen through the machinations and instructed Transport Minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere to give Muhoho a one-year contract just to prove who is in charge of appointments.

It is interesting that the latest failure of the Grand Coalition comes after a sustained national campaign by both Kibaki and Raila to show that they are happily working together. 2009 began with the unravelling of massive corruption scandals involving Kibaki and Raila allies. The inability of the two principles to act against those stealing from the government was telling.

Opinion poll ratings give the Grand Coalition an approval rating of only 30%, making it more unpopular than the Moi government. Religious leaders accuse the Kibaki-Raila duopoly of poor leadership and have called for fresh elections which the government outrightly rejects. The release of the United Nations Special Rapporteur’s report implicating the Grand Coalition in the deaths and disappearances of thousands of youths didn’t do much to enhance the government credibility.

With these manifest failures, Kibaki and Raila have spent the last month traversing the country campaigning for their coalition. Kibaki has been creating new districts in an unprecedented frenzy aimed at wooing the public but civil servants are questioning the strategy behind the move. Both principal partners have been at pains to prove that the Grand Coalition will survive until the next General Elections in 2012.

When Koffi Annan made his Geneva invitations, both Kibaki and Raila closed ranks to prove that they did not need foreign interference to solve disputes within the Grand Coalition. Last Saturday’s retreat was the culmination of Kibaki and Raila’s cosying up together but the disastrous end shows that Kenyans are in for another rough ride.

With ODM saying that they will announce their next moves in coming days, it should now be obvious to Annan that his involvement with Kenya will last far longer than he originally thought.

Kibaki blames media for unpopularity

President Mwai Kibaki has blamed Kenya’s media for massive discontent brewing against his government.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka also rapped the media saying it is “sensationalising” issues rather than focusing on development matters.”

Prime Minister Raila Odinga joined the fray saying that the Giant Coalition government was alive and kicking. “We are working and those who think the Government is not working can see the work we are doing,” said Raila.

The trio were speaking during the launch of Kazi kwa Vijana (Jobs for Youth) National Programme in Mashuru, Kajiado district.

Polls have indicated Kenyans are not happy with the performance of the grand coalition government in tackling corruption and reforms amongst other things.

The latest survey conducted by Transparency International-Kenya indicated that 72 percent of respondents feel the government is not keen on fighting graft. A survey done by Steadman indicated that 70 per cent of Kenyans believe that the Government has not achieved anything.

Only last month, religious leaders at a prayer meeting for the victims of two fire tragedies, lambasted the leaders for not doing enough in the fight against famine and corruption.

More on these stories from Capital FM and the Standard newspaper.

Political earthquakes as Uhuru and Ruto get cosy

Though there have been rumours about it, there’s now confirmation of an alliance between Agriculture Minister William Ruto and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta in readiness for the 2012 General Elections.

Uhuru Kenyatta

Uhuru Kenyatta

By any standards, campaigning three years before an election is premature at best and callous at worst. It does appear that Kenyan politicians learnt nothing from last year’s near civil war and the political chess game continues.

Amidst these moves, the plight of Kenyans is hopelessly forgotten. Alignments are shifting like the ocean waves as political heavyweights weigh their options. Millions of shillings are exchanging hands as people who struck billions in previous administrations gear up for the big race.

The likes of Martha Karua, high in ideals but low in finances, can only hope to cut a deal with the big boys. Will she be satisfied with the post of Prime Minister or Vice President in a Uhuru-Ruto or Saitoti government? Or will she link up with current Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka?

Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were on opposing sides during the 2007 General Elections. In reality, they have more in common with each other than with anybody else. They were both mentored by ex-President Daniel arap Moi in the KANU party. They are both approaching middle age and wish to seize the reigns of power before old age catches up. And to achieve their goals, they are willing to do whatever it takes.

Bearing in mind the enmity between Ruto’s Kalenjin tribe and Uhuru’s Kikuyu ethnic group not so long ago, the alliance has been received with disbelief. Both Uhuru and Ruto are implicated in ethnic massacres, with Ruto linked to Kalenjin warriors and Uhuru accused of planning reprisal attacks in Nakuru and Naivasha. Both of them are likely to face the International Criminal Court to answer charges of crimes against humanity. Today, the move by the two not-so-youthful politicians to join forces has rocked the country’s leadership from State House to the grassroots.

Luo Nyanza, long considered Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s backyard, has not been spared the onslaught of the Uhuru – Ruto alliance. Already, several Members of Parliament from Raila’s Luo tribe have responded amiably to overtures from Uhuru – Ruto. Politicians who lost their seats in the last election, and who blame Raila for their predicament, have seen an opportunity to hit back at the Luo titan.

The rapprochement between Uhuru and Ruto has perplexed ordinary people from the Kikuyu and Kalenjin tribes. It was just the other day that the two tribes were butchering each other with machetes, bows, arrows and stones. Churches were burnt, homes looted, women raped and children killed. In some places, hostility is so high that the two tribes dare not live together. This may frustrate the works of Uhuru – Ruto.

It is highly unlikely that Ruto can get Kikuyu votes because they believe Ruto incited the Kalenjin against them. Hundreds of Kikuyu were killed in Ruto’s parliamentary constituency as he insisted that there would be no peace until his preferred candidate, Raila Odinga, assumed the presidency.

While the Kikuyu have a vast array of presidential candidates to choose from, including Uhuru, Prof Saitoti, Vice President Kalonzo and Martha Karua, the Kalenjin can only choose between Raila and Ruto.

Though they voted massively for Raila in 2007, the Kalenjin are disappointed. Grievances include the Mau Forest issue, failure to shield Kalenjin militants from prosecution and failure to provide top jobs to the Kalenjin elite. Rising costs of farm inputs coupled with plunging prices for farm produce have forced the Kalenjin to explore other leadership options. Currently, they have Ruto, or a person close to Ruto such as Uhuru Kenyatta. However, Uhuru does not inspire much confidence among Kenyans.

As the Uhuru – Ruto axis of evil shapes up, other presidential candidates are not taking chances. Professor George Saitoti is currently on a behind-the-scenes campaign to recruit leading politicians from Central, Eastern and Coast provinces. With immense financial reserves, Saitoti has no problem inducing followers with gifts. His current position as Minister for Internal Security is also serving him well, as it grants him access to President Mwai Kibaki.

Martha Karua is however not doing well. She simply lacks the financial clout of Uhuru, Ruto and Saitoti. She is fighting a brave campaign traversing all provinces in Kenya but, short of cataclysmic change, the most she can expect is to bargain for a seat from the top guns.

As events unfold, where is Kalonzo Musyoka?

Kalonzo is said to be playing it cool. Despite vilification from Raila’s ODM, Kalonzo’s cards are looking pretty good. Kalonzo is not tainted with corruption scandals or ethnic massacres. A trained lawyer, Kalonzo is diplomatic, smooth talking and amicable. In the 2007 campaigns, Kalonzo talked of getting to the presidency through a miracle that will take him past every other challenger. Perhaps, Kalonzo is taking a back seat knowing that in Kenya, anything is possible.

After all, if Uhuru and Ruto can come together in spite of everything, who knows what the future has in store?

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