Kenya: further violence

Kenya has slipped a little down the news headlines. The levels of violence seem to have subsided a little. Today is the second of three days of protest called for by the opposition leader Raila Odinga to protest against the extremely disputed elections which saw President Mwai Kibaki re elected. Today six people were killed in clashes between riot police and protesters. Five of them killed in the town of Kisumu on the coast of Lake Victoria which has been especially hard hit in the recent violence. As I suggested in my last post on the subject it is difficult to assess whether this is becoming an ethnic conflict or if the issue is actually more complicated.

Although the Africa Union president John Kufuor did attend meetings last week little progress seems to have been made. The first meeting of the newly elected parliament was characterised by insults and rows over voting with an opposition MP being elected speaker after five hours.

Interestingly it has been suggested that there is a potential rift opening up between the European Union and the USA on the way forward. MEPs have called on the EU to block aid to the Kenyan government and some in Europe seem to be advocating a recount of the electoral votes whilst the USA has been suggested to be centrally concerned with Kenyan stability and has been suggesting a compromise with opposition members having seats in Kibaki’s government. Of course that has been tried previously with Odinga having been in government with Kibaki before walking out.

Whilst a reduction in the violence is welcome in so as far as it goes; this crisis is unlikely to have an easy solution.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Is it pushing things a bit to just blame it all on the Englezes?

  • Rory

    Yes, Sammy, it would be. They do have a lot to answer for but not on this occasion on account of English imperialism. Rather we can see that the event which sounded the death knell of that already dying imperialism, MacMillan’s “Wind of Change” speech was merely the segue to the overture that welcomed the latest comedy hit – International Capitalism – still going strong despite poor notices and audience revulsion ( a bit like Lloyd Webber’s “CATS” in that regard, I suppose).

    At the moment the poor long suffering people of Kenya are faced with the Hobson’s Choice of which crook should be allowed to help keep them in poverty and misery while the fat cats from Europe and the USA squabble over which of their crooks get to have the biggest slice of the Kenyan pie.

    Who ever wins it will cost the fat cats a little more than funding for a local rally or even “firsties” at dipping into to the lucrative “natural environment” pork-barrel. But, what the hell? Not that much more and, boy! smell them, there returns.

  • RepublicanStones

    Sammy, me ‘aul flower, i would love to do that….but as George Kimble once said

    “The darkest thing about Africa has always been our ignorance of it.”

    it is such a pity, as Kenya was a shining light crammed between several chaotic countires. i know people who served in Somalia and Eritrea, and soon to be headin to Chad….it seems the opportunity to take leave in Kenya is ‘up the left’.

  • Jon Juan

    I spent yesterday discussing Kenya, and listening to Kenyan scholars and activists attempting to figure out the significance of recent events, and found out some interesting things.

    i) Neither side is that interested in a recount: Raila’s party stuffed ballot boxes in Nyanza (Kisumu), though it’s judged that his rigging was less by degree than Kibaki’s.

    ii) the Kenyan media’s reporting of elections is largely shorn of the educative dimensions we have in Ireland and Britain. The early declarations happened to be in Raila’s strongholds – everyone in the commentariat knew this would be the case, and that Kibaki would draw closer as counting continued, but no attempt was made to communicate this, leaving the public to draw its own conclusions.

    iii) Kibaki made two appointments to the High Court on Christmas Eve, continuing a policy of stuffing the judiciary, which has made legal instruments impossible to use for electoral redress. Kenya’s institutions have sustained a lot of damage in recent times, and weren’t up to the job come this election season.

    Right now, I think the violence will die down to a long simmer in a few areas (Rift Valley? where indeed the ethnic dimension is almost tangential to a more complex story), some form of muddle will be agreed and it won’t be to Raila’s taste, business will resume, and parliamentary expenses (legendarily generous) will take some of the sting out of the public drama. More of an accommodation than a solution, and very painful for a lot of people on all sides whose displacement and disenfranchisement will continue for years to come.

    By the way, my sole and slight contribtion was to suggest compelling European analogues to Kenyan processes…

  • Yvonne

    Slugger O’Toole records news, commentary and diverse opinion on Northern Ireland.

    Token complaint that this has nothing to do with
    Northern Ireland.

  • joeCanuck

    Northern Ireland doesn’t exist in a vacuum, Yvonne.
    (Although sometimes it seems that way.)

  • Peadar O’Donnell

    ‘Token complaint that this has nothing to do with
    Northern Ireland. ‘

    No.
    As Turgon’s previous post on Kenya and responses showed there are many personal and institutional connections between Kenya and Ireland/ Britain – priests, ministers, doctors, soldiers, aid workers etc.

    Colonial parallels or non-parallels can be argued about across the spectrum.

    I’m wondering for instance who kitted out the riot police so beautifully, so ethically… and is that drinkable water that they are spraying on the slum dwellers? Where did Moi bank all that money? Are we happy buying flowers and veg grown on land grabbed by Mzungus and the Kikuyu elite in Naivasha – especially when it draws off the water needed for subsistence agriculture?

  • Dewi

    A cracked nation holds its breath – Nice article from the Economist.

  • Wilde Rover

    It would seem the Kenyan electorate is not as sophisticated as the more established democracies, where voters regard claims of election fraud as something to be ignored.

    Doubtless, their level of political sophistication will rise and they will eventually join the civilized states of the world.

  • Yvonne

    Token complaint. Understand?

  • Dewi

    “Token complaint. Understand?” – I’m sure Joe and all did understand. That’s the trouble – the discussion and debate on issues outside are on a far higher plane and a better intellectual level than the internal stuff – which after time gets terribly repetitive and boring.
    You have imaginative and practical solutions for everywhere else – including Welsh Rugby problems. So strange – but fascinating.

  • Rory

    “It would seem the Kenyan electorate is not as sophisticated as the more established democracies, where voters regard claims of election fraud as something to be ignored.”

    Ouch! and ouch! again, Wilde Rover. Do I not like this? Does not a bear enter the woods to search for honey?

    More, please, in this vein.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Kibaki made two appointments to the High Court on Christmas Eve, continuing a policy of stuffing the judiciary, which has made legal instruments impossible to use for electoral redress.’

    Wonder where he learned that trick ? Presumably from the USA where President Bush has been stacking the Supreme Court with ‘conservatives’ whenever an opportunity arose . Of the nine judges 5 are Roman Catholic, 2 are Protestant and 2 are Jewish.

  • Yvonne

    Well said Dewi 😉

  • Wilde Rover

    Rory,

    I shall do my best.

  • Jon Juan

    Token call for lateral thinking…

    Should I be more explicit in my descriptions of Kenyan politics? saying, for instance, ‘just like in Northern Ireland’ at the end of every paragraph?

    When I was growing up, in the late seventies, the violence of the Mau Mau rebellion in 1950s Kenya (and more specifically, the British representation of it which had filled British and Irish newspapers) was still a byword for savagery. My father invoked it regularly in response to various Ulster atrocities.

    The (hidden) purpose of my earlier post was to suggest that the violence in Kenya is comprehensible, and not unlike more local patterns of violence well familiar within ‘Northern Ireland politics and culture’.

    Thanks to Peadar for picking up on this, and for noting that we don’t have to call it a colonial parallel for it to make sense.