Kenyan Political Violence: Checking Back With the Morgue

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Suspicion that the violence had a strong political dimension was further heightened by the apparent unwillingness of the police to quell it with the same zeal with which they had dealt with other ‘public disorder’ incidents — particularly those related to activities by anti-government protesters. … On one occasion, the police did not even act against raiders who were looting and burning within sight of a police detachment, some local and foreign journalists and members of the clergy (Article 19, 1998)

On 25/11/07, a government vehicle (White Mitsubishi Pajero, GK A545H) (See vehicle in Annex 1) assigned to the Assistant Minister for Water, Raphael Wanjala, was impounded in Naivasha carrying assorted crude weapons. The weapons included 100 pangas, whips, bows and arrows and 70 Somali swords. Also found in the car were President Mwai Kibaki s campaign posters and those of Mr Wanjala. No known action has been taken against Hon Wanjala regarding this incident. –“Still Behaving Badly” (KNHRC, December 2007)

MORGUE: 1. A place in which the bodies of persons found dead are kept until identified and claimed or until arrangements for burial have been made. 2. A reference file in a newspaper or magazine office.

A few days ago, one of these “content managers” who earn their living laying people off in order to “enable to the company to compete,” came out in one of the “papers of record” against “this thing they call [institutional] memory.” Huffing and puffing, he wrote: “Newspapers have absolutely need of memory.” With that attitude and style, the man is obviously nothing but a two-legged jackass. But the truth of it is as that it was the senior editors who, through their notorious subservience, gave rise to the origin of this species.Batista Bastos, Jornal de Negócios (Portugal)

Add to the morgue file on Kenyan post-political violence.

See also

If reporters on the ground were to have read the 1998 and 2002 reports, which detail these sorts of activities, they might be able to recognize them if they saw them again — or observe that the situation is dissimilar from previous situations, if that is the case.

Article 19:

Although the authorities and the media often presented the violence as ‘ethnic clashes’ between local Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities, this characterization obscured the links between this apparently local trouble and the political conflict at the national level — in particular, the tension between KANU and DP. The joint mission was struck by the fact that the violence occurred exclusively in Laikipia, Molo and Nakuru Town, all of which were now DP constituencies following the December 1997 elections. It will also be recalled that the results of the parliamentary elections had left KANU and the DP as the dominant parties in Rift Valley and Central Provinces respectively.

The Central Province and the Rift Valley constituencies in which the DP had obtained seats are populated mainly by Kikuyus. The rest of the Rift Valley has a Kalenjin population. It is easy to understand why the power struggle between KANU and DP was so commonly conceptualized as one between Kalenjin and Kikuyu interests.

There was also strong evidence that tensions had been fanned by various parliamentary candidates through potentially inflammatory campaign speeches during the run-up to the December elections. These tensions came to a head following the lodging of Mwai Kibaki’s petition challenging the results of the elections. A significant number of KANU supporters regarded the petition as ‘politically wrong’ and responded angrily to it. Given the narrowness of KANU’s and President Moi’s victories, this reaction was hardly surprising.

Suspicion that the violence had a strong political dimension was further heightened by the apparent unwillingness of the police to quell it with the same zeal with which they had dealt with other ‘public disorder’ incidents — particularly those related to activities by anti-government protesters. It was suggested by many observers that the unwillingness of the police to act against the perpetrators of the violence in the Rift Valley was because they did not have the requisite orders to do so from their superiors. On one occasion, the police did not even act against raiders who were looting and burning within sight of a police detachment, some local and foreign journalists and members of the clergy .

It was also alleged that the prosecuting authorities appeared to be unwilling to enforce the law even-handedly. It was pointed out to the joint mission that no Kalenjin had been charged with murder since the violence had begun, although many Kikuyus had been killed by Kalenjins, particularly during the fighting which had happened in Njoro on 25 and 26 January 1998. By contrast, a number of Kikuyus were being tried for murder in relation to Kalenjin victims of the same clashes. It was also reported that in the few cases in which Kalenjins had been charged with offences, they were usually released on bail, with less stringent conditions than those applied to Kikuyus in similar situations.

And so on. The HRW report features interviews with persons engaged in this sort of activity — chasing the potential voters of rivals out of an area, with a promise of political patronage (property, employment).

Beyond what raiders described about visits from politicians as they prepared for violence, Human Rights Watch obtained important new information about the involvement of politicians after the violence was unleashed. In first-hand testimonies, raiders told Human Rights Watch that prominent politicians visited them during this period. According to the raiders, these politicians provided food and money during ongoing clashes. Based on these visits, the aid these politicians provided, and statements by the raiders’ leaders to the effect that they had powerful political backers, some of the raiders believed they benefited from political sponsorship for their continued activities-and ultimately, rewards for phasing them out. After raids in August 1997 led to the large-scale displacement of the up-country population in affected areas, politicians encouraged the raiders to halt the raids in exchange for jobs or assistance to leave the country. In some cases the raiders interpreted this offer of continued assistance as a reward for their work so far and a sign that the violence had gone on too long and had become a liability, not as an indicator that the politicians objected to their actions. To the contrary, raiders attributed comments to politicians endorsing the goal of majimbo even in the midst of the violence. Allegations also surfaced during the Akiwumi Commission hearings that prominent politicians provided material and financial support, as well as political backing, to the raiders in their hideouts even during the period of active violence. As noted, the implicated politicians, for their part, have publicly denied they supported the raiders’ agenda and offered their own accounts of their interactions with them.

The Article 19 report (PDF):

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