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Kenya: More Pressure Needed to Stop Violence

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Feb 1, 2008 (080201)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"The deep frustrations that are felt on all sides of the Kenyan divide are understandable. There is no doubt that much more work remains to be done for Kenya to become a more equitable and democratic society. But Kenya has come too far to throw away decades of progress in a storm of violence and political unrest. We must not look back years from now and wonder how and why things were permitted to go so horribly wrong.- Senator Barack Obama, on Kenyan radio, January 29, 2008

The African Union, the United Nations, and foreign donors are joining Kenyan civil society and human rights groups in calling for an end to the violence, laying the blame clearly on political leaders for failing to take decisive action for peace and for tolerating organized violence by militia and hate groups. But after the murders of two opposition members of parliament, talks mediated by Kofi Annan, Gra‡a Machel, and Benjamin Mkapa broke off again this week.

Increasingly, donors are threatening to cut off aid unless the Kenyan government takes action to resolve the crisis. But critics say that time is short, and some, such as Kenyan scholar Ali Mazrui, are suggesting steps such as sanctions against overseas bank accounts of leaders who fail to promote peace. U.S. statements on the crisis have been ambiguous, and critics still suspect Washington of reluctance to put sufficient pressure on its military ally, the Kibabi government.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains several new commentaries from Pambazuka News, the weekly African electronic newsletter. that has been particularly active in focusing attention on the crisis. These commentaries include the most recent statement by Pambazuka editors Firoze Manji and Mukoma Wa Ngugi, both Kenyans; excerpts from a statement by Kenyan women's groups to the international mediators, a speech given on Kenyan radio on January 29 by U.S. presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama, and a commentary by Ali Mazrui.

For additional commentaries posted by Pambazuka News, visit and For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Kenya and links to additional news and background, see

Editor's Choice
Recommended Books on Kenya (last updated January 2008)

Kenya Today

B. A. Badejo, Raila Odinga: An Enigma in Kenyan Politics, 2006. (check prices at Powell's Books or Amazon)

Godwin Murunga and Shadrack Nasong'o, Kenya: The Struggle for Democracy, 2007. (check prices at Powell's Books or Amazon)

Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Wizard of the Crow, 2007. (check prices at Powell's Books or Amazon)

New Insights from History

David Anderson, Histories of the Hanged: Britain's Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire, 2005. (check prices at Powell's Books or Amazon)

Caroline Elkins, Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya, 2004. (check prices at Powell's Books or Amazon)

Angelique Haugerud, The Culture of Politics in Modern Kenya, 1997. (check prices at Powell's Books or Amazon)

Wangari Maathai, Unbowed: A Memoir, 2007. (check prices at Powell's Books or Amazon)

E. S. Odhiambo, Mau Mau and Nationhood: Arms, Authority, and Narration, 2003. (check prices at Powell's Books or Amazon)

Koigi wa Wamwere, I Refuse to Die: My Journey for Freedom, 2003. (check prices at Powell's Books or Amazon)

* Support AfricaFocus
* Purchase book No Easy Victories at a discount

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

The Violence in Kenya Must Stop Now

Firoze Manji and Mukoma Wa Ngugi

Pambazuka News 340, January 29, 2008:

Firoze Manji and Mukoma Wa Ngugi are Pambazuka News editors.

Each people at some point in history are threatened by great social upheaval. It is usually an accumulation of smaller events, seen and ignored, an accumulation of injustices that erupt at that present moment - a delayed consequence from history.

Whether a nation plunges into bloodshed depends on the leadership and whether they have the political imagination to deal with history that has caught up with their present times.

So in the France of the 18th Century, the revolutionary leadership answered the civil war with the guillotine. In Rwanda the answer was the genocidaires machete and the Rwandan Patriotic Front's gun. In the Congo, at the cost of over six million lives since 1994, the issue has as yet to be settled.

Kenya finds itself in such a decisive moment - the slide to a civil war along ethnic lines is in motion, but it has not yet accelerated to catch with up Rwanda - or indeed Bosnia and Serbia where ethnic 'cleansing' of populations was carried out. But the violence is getting a furious rhythm of revenge and counter revenge.

The small window history had left us, of past cooperation and anticolonial resistance across ethnic lines, is closing fast.

Reports and documents we have received here at Pambazuka News indicate that the Gikuyu community is being galvanized, ostensibly to defend the Gikuyu community. At least two documents are currently circulating in Kenya and amongst the Kenyan diaspora that can be described only as hate literature.

One purporting to be the declaration of 500 supporters of GEMA in the UK incites Kikuyus to provide funds for the 'war'. "if you don't join and register at this crucial time you are of no use to the community," they threaten. Another document, purporting to come from the 'The Thagicu Renaissance Movement' names a host of human rights activists - including the head of the Kenyan National Commission for Human Rights - as 'traitors'.

In their turn, a hate statement of a similar kind has been published by a group calling themselves 'Kalenjin Online' (http:// html) state "We shall defend ourselves and our interests to the bitter end. If they [the Kikuyu] want to bring clashes to Nairobi, they can go ahead. They will regret why they ever started it in the first place. We urge our people to ensure that every family is fully equipped with our normal tools; if we can afford, ferry two warriors from upcountry fully armed and house them until we have this thing sorted out." We have little doubt that similar hate literature from the Luo and other communities is also in circulation.

The intention of such groups is to stir up hatred and raise finances to support the carnage that has been perpetrated by the organized armed militia in several parts of the country. The western media - especially the BBC - has sought to portray this as 'tribal violence', neatly side-stepping the need to assess the political motives of who is behind the armed militia, who benefits from creating a climate of fear and distrust, and who are behind the distribution of the hate literature that is currently circulating from all sides.

But these are not ethnic clashes. These are acts of violence that are perpetrated by those who, devoid of any political solution to the crisis, reach for the ethnic card. But it isn't all Kikuyus, or all Luos or all Kalenjins who have robbed others of their land or carried out massacres on each other. These crimes have been perpetrated by a minority who have reaped the fruits of land grabbing. This is no land reform program, but rather the incitement of hatred for political ends, and to allow a small elite to benefit. The fruits of Uhuru have long been enjoyed by that minority

But in the present crisis, nobody will win - not even the rich who so far have been spared from the bloodshed. But as in all conflicts, it is the poor who will do the killing and the dying.

One would expect leaders worth their people's mandate to be using this space between ethnic killings and a full fledged civil war to provide a clear vision for the way forward and to speak to and beyond their immediate constituencies. But both Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga have hesitated instead of acting decisively, placing their self-interest before that of millions of their constituents. They have sought to use the crisis to maneuver better positions at the negotiation table. Both have been found wanting. Both claim victory in the presidential elections when it is abundantly clear that no one will ever know what the real result was.

If peace is to be restored, there is an urgent need for the militia to be forcibly disarmed. There is an urgent need for the GSU to be pulled off the streets, and for the police to be restrained from acting judge, jury and executioner with impunity. There is an urgent need to bring to justice those responsible for human rights violations. Lifting the ban on live media coverage is vital so that all citizens can know what is happening in the country.

And those responsible for the circulation of materials that incite ethnic hatred and conflict through hate radio; print media or the Internet should be immediately arrested and prosecuted. If either PNU or ODM were serious about the interests of the citizens of Kenya, these would be their immediate priorities. They would agree to the immediate formation of an interim government that would oversee the return to peace, disarming and bringing to account all those responsible for the crimes and carnage witnessed over the last month. But who will make them do this? Have we reached a level of humiliation that we are to be dependent on an outside force to intervene to sort out our mess?

It is clear that the interests of citizens, whatever their political or other affiliations, are far from the minds of the leadership of PNU or ODM or any other of the 'paper parties'. Citizens cannot stand by idle waiting for divine inspiration to hit the skulls of the leaders. It is time that the voices of citizens are heard. Are we going to sit watching while the carnage continues? We face a challenge: if our so-called leaders are unable to point the way forward for a solution, then isn't it time that we found a way to discuss, debate and achieve consensus on what future we want? We did so at the Bomas conference. We can do so again.

And that brings us to those many of us citizens in the diaspora - in Europe, USA and elsewhere. Are we going to add to the carnage by supporting those who have been circulating the kind of hate mail referred to above? Citizens in the diaspora have a critical role to play: we have duty of solidarity for all Kenyans, irrespective of their political beliefs, origins, cultural identity or creed.

Our solidarity has to go out to those who have been injured, who have been evicted from their homes violently or who have fled in fear, to those families who have lost members of their families. We must vociferously oppose those amongst us who are seeking to divide us. Our distance from vortex of the crisis should allow us to think about constructive ways forward that are built on a respect for human dignity and justice for all. We can play a role in bringing peace through justice and truth. Or we can add to the spiral into civil war.

To the international community and media, we say that you need to first and foremost understand that massacres against the Gikuyu, the Luo, the Kalenjin and others are politically motivated and premeditated acts of violence and terror. We have to name the problem correctly if we are to counter it. Calling the violence 'tribal clashes' only lends credibility to the genocidaires and gives their propaganda mileage. It sends the message to the aggrieved on all sides that there will be, and can be, no justice. It only strengthens the hands those who want to stir ethnic hatred for political ends.

If we are to move ahead, we have to proclaim out loud: WE ARE ALL KENYANS. AND THE FUTURE BELONGS EQUALLY TO ALL OF US!

Women's Memorandum to the Mediation Team
Serena Hotel, Nairobi, January 25, 2008

Kenyan Women's Consultation Group on the Current Crisis in Kenya

Your Excellency Kofi Annan Your Excellency Gra‡a Machel Your Excellency Benjamin Mkapa

[short excerpt with recommendations only. For full text visit]

We thank Your Excellencies for the opportunity to address this forum. We make this presentation on behalf of Kenyan women who have been meeting in Nairobi over the last two weeks. Action Aid International, Vital Voices, UNIFEM, Nairobi Peace Initiative and Urgent Action Fund-Africa have facilitated the consultations. A committee of 11 women present here, represents the larger group.


Recommendations on the resolving the Crisis

Immediate: A political solution backed by force of law that assures the following:

  • An immediate end to the killings.
  • A public acknowledgement by both parties that the current crisis was triggered by electoral malpractices in the tallying process that culminated with the announcement of results of the presidential election of December 2007.
  • An acknowledgement that Kenyans are entitled to know the truth and to seek justice over the issue having participated in the electoral process. The problem (and solution to it) is beyond the two political protagonists. Women as a group constitute 52% of Kenya's population and the majority of voters and those most affected by the current crisis.
  • An independent investigation into the trigger event to establish the truth of what happened: the outcome of which should be tailored to establishing a political solution to the current impasse and restoring public confidence in Kenya's institutions of democracy. Any agreement should be backed by force of law and ensure women's participation as key actors.
  • Immediate reinstatement of constitutional freedoms - the right to assemble, right to worship, right of media to broadcast live events. Citizens have a right to assert their constitutional rights without hindrance.
  • Cessation of violence against civilians by the police, militia and others.
  • Immediate cessation of hate propaganda currently on all media (by Legislation or administrative action).
  • Resettlement: should take account of the special needs of women and children displaced by the violence. State should provide security for the civilian population.
  • End to impunity for violations of human rights (by all parties) by investigating crimes that are being committed and prosecuting perpetrators.
  • Strengthening of institutions that support democratic constitutional governance (The Electoral Commission, the Judiciary, the Anti Corruption agencies and Parliament). This can be done through immediate legislative reform pending comprehensive constitutional reform.

Medium and long term - Nation Building

Women acknowledge that they must embark on a process of Nation building for sustainable peace to be achieved. Important mid-term solutions include the following: The times call for Women of Kenya call for transformative leadership at this time that brings values and ethics to the management of public affairs

  • A minimum constitutional settlement and reform that would ensure an urgent reform of institutions that support a constitutional democracy grounded on sound legal framework followed by ;
  • Comprehensive Constitutional Reform that would ensure equitable distribution of national resources, gender equality, affirmative action, equal rights for minorities and persons with disabilities including rights political participation. .
  • Transitional Justice mechanisms that deal with the question of historical injustices that include gross human rights violations, massacre, assassinations, economic crimes and corruption , ethnic and political clashes .establishment a historical record, confronting and gaining truth about past injustices, creating accountability for human rights violations and ultimately reconciling Kenyan communities.
  • Finalisation and adoption of the Peace and Conflict Prevention Policy.
  • Peace education for prejudice reduction in primary schools.

Recommendations for the Process

  • That there should be a mechanism for accountability by the mediation team to Kenyan women on the progress of the mediation. Such mechanism could be spelt out in a public mediation agreement.
  • That there should be continued engagement with women as key stakeholders in all stages of the mediation.
  • That a local gender advisor be appointed to provide the necessary expertise to the team of mediators. There is sufficient expertise within the women's movement in Kenya in the fields of gender, children's rights, women's rights, and peace and conflict transformation. - Political parties should have women represented on their teams in keeping with the enabling instruments. - That the mediation continues until such time as peace is restored in Kenya.

This statement is presented and signed by the Committee Nominated by the Women's Organisations 25th January 2008 (For a List of women attending the Women's consultations over the last three weeks, please contact Pambazuka News).

1 Florence Mpaayei -- Nairobi Peace Initiative - Africa
2 Atsango Chesoni -- Member ODM and Consultant, Human Rights
3 Njeri Kabeberi -- Center for Multi Party democracy
4 Mildred Ngesa---Association of Media Women of Kenya
5 Margaret Shava-- International Alert
6 Catherine Mumma --Consultant, Human Rights & Governance
7 Kaari Betty Murungi --Urgent Action Fund-Africa
8 Saida Ali --Young Women's Leadership Institute
9 Rukia Subow --Maendeleo ya Wanawake
10 Josephine Ojiambo - Member of PNU's National Coordinating Committee
11 Margaret Hutchinson --Education Centre for Women in Democracy

Statement by Senator Barack Obama,
29 January 2008

* Sen. Barack Obama delivered this statement on Capital-FM ( at 7:45 a.m. January 29, 2008

Thank you for having me on your show this morning.

I have been following the situation in Kenya closely, and I am deeply concerned by the news and photographs I have seen. I want you to know that my thoughts and prayers - and those of my family - are with all of the victims of the violence, and with all Kenyans who have been displaced from their homes.

Urgent action must be taken to stop this spiral of violence, and to help resolve the current political crisis. Kenya has long been known as a multi-ethnic society. The steps you have taken toward multi-party democracy in recent years have set a proud example for east Africa.

I have personally been touched by your generous, democratic spirit through my ties to my own family, and during my travels to Kenya - most recently as a United States Senator in 2006. This Kenyan spirit rises above ethnic groups or political parties, and was on display in Kenya's recent election, when you turned out to vote in record numbers, and in a peaceful and orderly way.

But recent troubling events in Kenya bear no resemblance to the Kenya I know and carry with me. The senseless and tragic violence poses an urgent and dangerous threat to Kenyans, Kenyan democracy, and stability and economic development in a vital region.

Most troubling are new indications that the violence is being organized, planned and coordinated.

Clearly, Kenya has reached a defining moment. There is no doubt that there were serious flaws in the vote tabulation. There is also no doubt that actions taken by both sides in the aftermath of the election have deepened the political impasse.

Now is not the time to throw Kenyan democracy and national unity away. Now is the time for all parties to renounce violence.

Now is the time for Kenya's leaders to rise above party affiliation and past divisions for the sake of peace. President Kibaki, Raila Odinga, and all of Kenya's leaders - political, civic, business, and religious -- have a responsibility to calm tensions, to come together unconditionally, and to pursue a political process to address peacefully the controversies that divide them.

This crisis and terrible violence must end. A negotiated solution must be peaceful and political, and should take account of past failures and prevent future conflict.

The rule of law and the rights of the Kenyan people - including freedom of the media and the freedom of peaceful assembly - must be restored.

Recent efforts by African Eminent Persons, like Kofi Annan, have yielded very modest progress, and there is no reason President Kibaki and Mr. Odinga should refuse to sit down unconditionally. To refuse to do so ignores the will of Kenyans and the urging of the united international community. While only Kenyans can resolve this crisis, I urge you to welcome the assistance of your concerned friends in working through this difficult time.

The deep frustrations that are felt on all sides of the Kenyan divide are understandable. There is no doubt that much more work remains to be done for Kenya to become a more equitable and democratic society.

But Kenya has come too far to throw away decades of progress in a storm of violence and political unrest. We must not look back years from now and wonder how and why things were permitted to go so horribly wrong. Kenya, its African friends, and the United States must now be determined pursuers of peace - and this determined pursuit must start today with individual Kenyans refusing to resort to violence, and Kenyan leaders accepting thei responsibility to turn away from confrontation by coming together.

Kenya's long democratic journey has at times been difficult. But at critical moments, Kenyans have chosen unity and progress over division and disaster. The way forward is not through violence. To all of Kenya's people, I urge you to renounce the violence that is tearing your great country apart and deepening suffering. I urge you to follow a path of peace.

Is Kenya Heading Toward a Civil War?

Ali Mazrui and David Ohito

* Ali Mazrui is Director, Institute of Global Cultural Studies, Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities, Binghamton University, State University of New York at Binghamton, New York, USA and Chancellor, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Thika and Nairobi Kenya.

* David Ohito is a Senior Reporter THE STANDARD Nairobi, Kenya

In a question and answer letter, Ali Mazrui and David Ohito grapple with the question of whether Kenya is heading toward a civil war.

Dear Prof Mazrui,

The latest wave of violence is threatening the country. In Nakuru the problem of ethic violence has emerged. Kikuyus are being attacked over land issues as historical injustices become the new phase of protest.

Kibaki insists he was duly elected and sworn in and any election dispute should go to court as spelled out in the Constitution.

Raila Odinga insists he is not going to a court full of Kibaki's appointees. The formula to a peaceful resolution remains elusive. what is your take on this?

I agree with your predictions that many African Heads of States may have saved their countries from civil war.

In Your opinion how far do you think will the International community wait before serious intervention other than mere statements? Is it good to impose sanctions economic, travel bans to Kenya?

Are there any options the West, US, EU, UK, and even Asia can take to help save Kenya from being a failed state?

Kofi Annan watched and acted too little too late as Rwanda degenerated into genocide. There was little international intervention. He himself later said he acted too slow too late while he was UN Secretary General. Is history repeating itself here? Can Kofi Annan recommend faster options to salvage Kenya?

Would you consider giving your proposals to Kofi Annan for a way forward and what would those options for a solution be?

Give any remarks that would help hold Kenya together without degenerating into genocide or civil strife.

Thank you.

David Ohito

Dear Ndugu Ohito:

In answer to your questions, I have lived long enough to know how civil wars begin in developing countries. I never expected there would be a civil war in Northern Uganda which would last twenty years, and unleash untold suffering and brutality. It has still not fully ended.

When the Sudanese civil war was ending in the South, who would have predicted another civil war in Darfur? Ethiopia has had a variety of civil conflicts, the latest involving ethnic Somalis in the Ogaden. The brutalities of the Sierra Leonean civil war took everybody by surprise.

Can such a bloody breakdown happen in Kenya? I am beginning to be truly fearful. What was once unthinkable is no longer inconceivable. While north of the Sahara the triggers of conflict are often religious, south of the Sahara they tend to combine ethnicity, power rivalry and economic deprivation.

As soon as casualties of a conflict reach a thousand dead, several thousand injured and at least a hundred thousand displaced, speedy action is needed to contain the explosion. A mini-civil war could be in the making. Kenyans and the international community cannot afford to be complacent.

Representatives of the African Union, the European Union, the United States, religious bodies, former African Heads of State, and Kofi Annan have approached the two sides of the Kenya conflict in terms of persuasion and the quest for a compromise. We now need more pressure and threats from the international community.

Initially the threats should be targeted at the elite, rather than the general population. Withholding economic aid would hurt the wider population, but suspending Kenya's membership of the African Union and the Commonwealth would deprive us of credentials to sit at the summit meetings, or meetings of foreign ministers, of such international organizations. Specific members of both the government and the opposition could be deprived of Visas to the western world if they are identified as extremists against the search for solutions.

Many members of the Kenyan elite also have Bank accounts abroad. The international community could threaten to freeze such bank accounts if there is no effort to solve the Kenya crisis.

Normally, the international community does not try to intervene in Africa until the problem is truly catastrophic. That has been the situation in Congo-Kinshasa, in Rwanda, Darfur and in Somalia. Kenya is a situation of trying to prevent a crisis from becoming a catastrophe. There is still time - but not a lot of time to avert an explosion.

Kofi Annan is trying his best, but he needs help in the form of massive political pressure on both sides. If mediation is not working, it may be time to threaten specific international sanctions, beginning with elite-focused threats of consequences.

What is at stake is not just the political stability of Kenya. It is also the economic viability of Eastern Africa as a whole. Kenya's economy has vibrations of region-wide consequences. How can we avert a region-wide catastrophe?

We are still far from a civil war. But our leaders should start discussing how to secure our borders against gun-running and importation of weapons. The border with Somalia especially needs to be secured, but without keeping out Somali refugees. Our leaders may also have to consider whether or not it is time to seek international help for peacekeeping in the Rift Valley. The situation is grave. Have we declared a state of emergency in the Rift Valley?

Yours sincerely, Ali A. Mazrui

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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