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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Kenyans reject Truth Commission, local trials

The Grand Coalition has come under scathing attack from angry Kenyans, who have been dismayed by the decision to have a Truth Commission instead of criminal prosecution for the perpetrators of political and ethnic clashes.

President Mwai Kibaki addressing journalists last Thursday when announcing the controversial government decision.

President Mwai Kibaki addressing journalists last Thursday when announcing the controversial decision by the cabinet.

President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga want to shield their key allies from both the International Criminal Court or a Special Tribunal constituted in Kenya. Individuals implicated in organizing, funding or complicity in violence were seen grinning behind Kibaki as he announced that he was getting them off the hook.

Opinion polls show that a vast majority of Kenyans want the ruling classes to be stripped of their positions and face criminal charges at the International Criminal Court. There is widespread belief that the international justice process will be more credible than justice in Kenyan courts.

The sad reality is that, 18 months after post election violence, nobody has been jailed with most cases ending in acquittals. This has not inspired confidence among the estimated 500,000 survivors of the clashes. Most of them still survive in squalid camps with little government assistance.

Kenyans want a radical change in their governance structure. For many years, attempts at economic, social and political reforms have either been frustrated or hijacked by the ruling elite. Politicians have vast powers to appoint cronies to state positions and to allocate resources as they wish. Economic liberalization has only benefited the well-connected and Kenyan industry is dominated by companies allied to or owned by politicians. Corruption is the order of the day as nothing works without a word from “above.”

Today, recruitment into government jobs is a waste of time as politicians manipulate the process to benefit supporters from their ethnic groups. The recent recruitment of personnel for the August national census has been marred by favoritism and bribery. Rather than benefit the millions of unemployed youth, temporary census jobs have been allocated to teachers and civil servants already on the government payroll. In several districts, youths have vowed to disrupt the census unless the recruitment of enumerators is repeated.

Over the years, little has been done to fight corruption, ethnic violence and other crimes committed by the rich and powerful. This has fostered a culture of impunity because guilty parties do not suffer any consequences. Politicians in Kenya have become demi-gods who can get away with theft, murder, incitement and adultery. Moral rectitude among Kenya’s leaders has plummeted as they engage in torrid love affairs with married women from poor families. Girls seeking assistance for school fees or jobs are forced to perform sex acts, sometimes within parliamentary offices.

The culture of evil among Kenyan leaders has sparked bitterness among ordinary people. For many years, there was little that could be done about it as the masses suffered their indignities in silence. The prospects of sending powerful personalities to the International Criminal Court offers a chance at national renewal. As stated elsewhere in this website, the international justice process offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to purge the Kenyan political system of vermin pretending to be leaders.

Though the cabinet announced that it will support criminal prosecutions through the Judiciary, few expect this to happen. If anything, most of the talk was on “forgiveness and reconciliation.” Cabinet ministers repeated similar themes throughout the weekend at various public rallies as though they had been ordered to sell the idea to Kenyans.

As a measure of how far the government was willing to go in shielding ministers from international prosecution, President Kibaki candidly revealed that they considered withdrawing Kenya from the statutes that created the International Criminal Court.

“One of the options considered was withdrawal from the Rome Statute under Article 127 and repeal of the International Crimes Act, 2008,” said the President.

There has also been speculation that, because Kenya signed the International Crimes Act after the post election violence had subsided, there was a legal argument that the new law can only be applied after its been enacted. According to the Constitution of Kenya, a law cannot be applied on crimes committed prior to its inception.

It is clear that politicians are using every legal loophole to escape justice. Among those mentioned in various human rights reports are Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Agriculture Minister William Ruto, Heritage Minister William ole Ntimama and Tourism Minister Najib Balala.

Political activist Mary Wambui, widely believed to be Kibaki’s second wife, has been implicated in organizing and funding ethnic militia.

Other prominent politicians who will face criminal charges in future include: Professor Peter Anyang Nyongo, Dr Sally Kosgey, Henry Kosgey, Elizabeth Ongoro, Franklin Bett, Kabando wa Kabando, Njenga Karume, John Pesa, Jayne Kihara, Ramadhan Kajembe and their respective supporters.

A host of councilors, security officers and political activists have been named by the Waki Commission of Inquiry and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

In the past few months, as pressure mounted on the government to act against the masterminds of political violence, the suspects have vowed to implicate both the President and Prime Minister. The argument has been that Kibaki and Raila benefitted from the violence and, therefore, cannot avoid responsibility. While Raila used mass violence to protest what he sees as electoral fraud that denied him the presidency, Kibaki was silent as violence raged on his behalf.

Charges Kibaki and Raila will face at The Hague

President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and their loyalists will answer charges of planning, financing and executing the deaths of at least 1,500 people in the period between December 2007 and April 2008.

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Kibaki will answer charges relating to the use or misuse of the security services while Raila will be called upon to account for the actions of his supporters who were recorded in the international media chanting, “No Raila, No peace!!”

For Kibaki, the abductions, torture and disappearances of thousands of suspected Mungiki members could very well become a serious issue at The Hague. Kibaki lieutenants Uhuru Kenyatta, Njenga Karume, Kabando wa Kabando, Professor George Saitoti and others will answer for their roles in organizing revenge attacks by militia groups such as Mungiki. Prof Saitoti may face trial because he was appointed Minister for Internal Security in January 2008 as the violence began to peak. Saitoti is also on record as supporting the extra-judicial executions of Mungiki members (EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, its confusing, but The Hague will determine once and for all who ordered which killings).

Raila cohorts, William Ruto, Professor Peter Anyang Nyongo, Najib Balala, Jackson Kibor, John Pesa among many others will explain their utterances which were widely broadcast across the world and whose tapes are still in the possession of media houses. Raila will be held to account largely on the basis that the cries of “No Raila, no peace,” were made by his supporters. William Ruto will be forced to explain why severe ethnic violence took place in his backyard and why most of the victims blame him.

Nyong’o is on record justifying violence with arguments that, “one tribe cannot be allowed to dominate the country.” Kibor admitted on BBC radio of his involvement in ethnic cleansing at the Rift Valley while John Pesa is quoted instructing his constituents to take over businesses owned by migrant ethnic groups.

Najib Balala made the infamous “Lesotho” remark and has been implicated in funding violence at the coastal city of Mombasa. According to the Waki Report on Post Election Violence, Mombasa youths were given a daily stipend to engage in widespread looting of homes and businesses owned by immigrant ethnic groups.

Ethnic violence culprits escape justice again

One and a half years after the devastating violence that followed the December 2007 elections, not a single person has been prosecuted and jailed for the deaths of at least 1,500 people during a three month orgy of killing, looting and rape.

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Lack of political will among Kenya’s ruling elite has bogged down the prosecution process, meaning that those behind the killing and destruction will not stand trial any time soon. Meanwhile, the desire among western powers for stability in Kenya explains why the International Criminal Court at The Hague gave one more year for Kenya to establish a tribunal to prosecute those who planned, financed and participated in the clashes.

Kenya’s ruling elite were behind the violence whose victims were mostly slum dwellers and impoverished peasants. There is clear evidence of top politicians making hate speeches, administering oaths and paying youths for the mayhem. The two leading presidential candidates in 2007 – President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga – kept silent as fighting raged in their names.

Even today, inter-ethnic relations in Kenya are fraught with tensions, as politicians are not eager to unite the people. Politicians have boycotted peace meetings called to reconcile warring tribes because it is easier to campaign on a platform of ethnic nationalism rather than a campaign of unity. Indeed, majority of Kenyan leaders are mere ethnic warlords with no interest in national unity. They want to isolate their tribes in order to enhance their own power and eventually pass the baton of leadership to their children. In effect, what we are seeing in Kenya is the rise of a feudal class that wants to monopolize political and economic power for generations to come.

For sure there is more-than-enough evidence to begin criminal prosecutions against those involved in the political and ethnic clashes. Thanks to the media, there are acres of tapes showing looting and actual killings taking place. Politicians were recorded preaching ethnic incitement to their followers. Others were taped threatening those ethnic groups that they thought would vote for rival candidates.

The Majimbo (federalism) debate stoked ethnic tension prior to the 2007 elections. Anyone with a political knowledge of Kenya would have known how the concept of Majimbo was used to perpetrate ethnic killings in the 1990s at the Rift Valley and Coast Provinces. To bring up the same debate in an election year was not only naive but extremely reckless. The consequences were easily predictable, especially with millions of unemployed youths eager to take over the properties of people perceived as “outsiders.”

Kenya’s politicians are split among themselves over whether to establish a local tribunal or to let the International Criminal Court do the work. And it all has to do with the 2012 Presidential elections when President Mwai Kibaki will be stepping down.

On the one hand, Kibaki and Raila want a local tribunal because they think that they can manipulate judges and intimidate witnesses, resulting in acquittals and light sentences. On the other hand, a second group of politicians led by William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta fear that a local tribunal will turn them into sacrificial lambs. Ruto led fighting in Eldoret on behalf of Raila while Uhuru organized retaliatory attacks by the Kikuyu ethnic group on behalf of Kibaki.

Ruto is loudly complaining that Raila has abandoned the youth who fought for his premiership. Ruto says that both Kibaki and Raila should face trial as everybody else was fighting for either of the two men. Ruto believes that Raila has a soft spot for Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, and having Ruto in jail would automatically clear the path for Mudavadi to succeed Raila sometime in future.

On his part, Uhuru believes that his political rivals want him jailed. His rivals in the Kibaki camp for the 2012 presidential elections are Internal Security Minister George Saitoti and former Justice Minister Martha Karua. It should be noted that Karua and Uhuru’s rivalry grew because Uhuru thought that Karua as Justice Minister was going to ensure that Uhuru was knocked out of the presidential succession race.

Uhuru and Ruto want the International Criminal Court (ICC) to take over the cases for several reasons:

  1. They perceive that the ICC will be much more fairer as it does not have a vested interest in the 2012 elections in Kenya.
  2. Court cases at the ICC take years to conclude. By 2012, the cases will not even have began and when they do, it is possible that either Uhuru and Ruto will be president and will therefore use state resources to escape prosecution.
  3. It will not be possible to take the thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to The Hague to testify whereas a local tribunal will easily be accessible to IDPs.
  4. If the worst comes to the worst, Ruto and Uhuru can implicate both Kibaki and Raila at the ICC. Should we have a local tribunal, it will be very difficult to bring charges against the President and Prime Minister but the ICC is not intimidated by titles. After all, the ICC currently has a warrant of arrest for President Omar al Bashir of Sudan.

As for the Kenyan people, what do they want?

Kenyans want the entire political class to be taken to The Hague as this will ensure justice for the hundreds of thousands still suffering the effects of post-election violence. There are fears that, unless something is done stop to ethnic warlords, the next General Elections of 2012 will be the end of Kenya as we know it.

Just to show that Kenyans want The Hague Option, the Standard daily reports that the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) is questioning how a Parliament housing the perpetrators of the 2008 violence can agree on a law to incriminate itself. Many in the House have been named as purveyors of ethnic strife.

The NCCK’s Secretary General, Peter Karanja, has scoffed at the one year extension given to the Kenyan government by the ICC saying the repreive is a delaying tactic against justice.

Leaders into death and darkness

Kenyan leaders will plunge the country into untold civil strife unless a domestic or international intervention stops this reckless, insensitive and incompetent behavior.

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The people of Kenya are reeling in shock at a heartless political class that steals maize meant for 10 million hungry Kenyans. The Prime Minister’s family and other members of parliament have been implicated in the food looting spree.

Unprecedented corruption has resulted in the emptying of millions of barrels of oil from the national pipeline by characters with top-level connections. The architect, Yagnesh Devani, fled the country long before the details came to light.

The ruling elite have created for themselves a 42 member cabinet, with each minister having 3 assistants. Diplomatic positions are being dished out to childhood buddies, mistresses and political losers. Jobs in government departments are awarded to relatives whose incompetence is to blame for massive corruption, shortages and breakdown of infrastructure.

In the years before independence, the British Governor Sir Evelyn Baring said that an African-led government would, “take Kenya into death and darkness.” From the happenings of today, we can say for certain that the British were right.

Kenya is collapsing and unless the international community takes action, or unless there is a domestic uprising, Kenya will soon become a failed state. This is something that we at the Nairobi Chronicle are not afraid of saying. The situation in Kenya is extremely bad and the only reason the country is still together is because of the legendary patience of its people.

Kenyan leaders are mired in corruption up to their necks. President Kibaki and his allies have been linked to phony companies that win government tenders worth billions of dollars. The Kenyan cabinet is a collection of ethnic warlords, corporate fraudsters, con-artists and sex predators. There are rumours that some high ranking politicians are addicted to alcohol and narcotics, further explaining their warped thinking.

Tribal politics have made Kenyans to regard people from other ethnic groups as enemies. Politicians incite ethnic animosity over such issues as jobs, land and development projects. The truth is that most Kenyans live a similar lifestyle of poverty and hunger. But the politicians are hypocrites who cause ethnic bloodshed while wining and dining together.

The names behind the maize theft and oil siphoning scandals reflect the breadth and width of Kenya. Politicians from the Luo, Kalenjin, Luhya, Kikuyu, Arab and Asian communities have no problem scheming together while ordinary Kenyans hack each other to death simply for belonging to a rival tribe.

Kenyans have become so tribalized that when 1,000 Kikuyu youths are arbitrarily killed by the police, other ethnic groups dismiss it as a Kikuyu problem. When the Kenya Army killed thousands of men in Mount Elgon while raping their widows, little noise was heard from elsewhere in the country. When Muslim men are abducted from coastal villages and sent to Guantanamo Bay only to be released for lack of evidence, Kenya keeps quiet because it is a Muslim problem. The truth is that when the rights of one community are violated, the rights of everybody else are under threat.

Greed for power and wealth by Kenyan leaders will certainly destroy this country. Campaigns for the 2007 election began soon after President Mwai Kibaki was sworn into his first term of office on December 30th, 2002. Campaigns for the 2012 General Elections are already well under way. Permanent electioneering has pushed the development agenda out of sight, the needs of the people have been completely ignored.

Water, electricity and fuel shortages are the order of the day and contribute to a declining economy. Crime is on the increase as security forces concentrate their energies in protecting the ruling classes from the anger of their own people. Every cabinet minister, assistant minister and all members of parliament have a permanent police guard. Every public space in Nairobi is manned by squads of riot police in a bid to disperse public gatherings.

Since the signing of the National Peace and Reconciliation Accord that formed the Grand Coalition between Kibaki and Raila last year, the international community assumed that life in Kenya is back to normal. The United Nations, the African Union and the United States were instrumental in creating this government. However, they should know that the Grand Coalition is worsening the plight of Kenyans rather than making things better. Violence is likely to resume with worse intensity.

Kenya today is in similar circumstances as Russia in 1917, China after World War 1, Cuba in 1959 or France in 1790. The people are sick of the cruel ways of the leaders. The people yearn for somebody or something to liberate them from a lifetime of hunger, poverty and rape.

For now, a uniting figure such as Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong or Nelson Mandela is yet to emerge but it is just a matter of time. The impending social, economic and political tsunami that will sweep Kenya will either make it stronger or destroy it forever.