Sunday, January 6, 2008

Wrong impression about post election chaos in Kenya by Antony Otieno

Wrong impression about post election chaos in Kenya, by Anthony Otieno.
While the whole world is aware of the crisis is in Kenya, thanks to the international and local media, most of their reporting is accurate, however, there is need for an honest analysis of the situation in Kenya.

The media

It is sad at this moment in time to apply oudated tactics of muzzling the people who are expressing a democratci right. In the case of kenya, gagging the media would not help Kibaki and his cohorts, since the level of wareness and resolve among kenyans not to return to the dark days of dictatorship is so high. The courage of the Kenyan media and journalists despite setbacks intitated by Internal security Minster (Michuki) is worth noting, but more so the way in which they reportde the events during the campaigns and venteful day of vote counting. Howver, there are problematics with headlines (both local and intrenational) that have appeard in print media since the outbreak of post elections violence.
The ethnic dimension is appearing to be the main focus of international press and they are also reporting that it is a Kikuyu-Luo issue but that is not true. Besides the fighting in the slums where most Luos and Luhyias live in Nairobi and Nakuru, Luos are not the inhabitants of Rift valley or Coast province or Masaai areas where fighting has been reported against the Kikuyu. These kinds of statements misinform the world of the actual facts on the ground and hinder insights that could help get Kenya out of the situation.

Reducing the current post election conflict to a Kikiyu-Luo affair is cheap analysis that is devoid of facts and reflections of what happens on the ground. Most of the current Western media analyses do not taken into account the underlying factors such as the failure of institutions of the state, such as the electoral commission of Kenya whose mediocre performance has plunged the country into bloodshed, a draconian constitutional frameworks that has been at the service of the ethnic chauvinists and jingoist in power since 1963, the centralised power and networks that benefit from it, whose abuse and actions have led to marginalisation of certain groups from national resources, equitable public appointments, and the grand scheme involving local and international elites in exploiting Kenya under the “old order” and interests/forces that want to keep the status quo and their role in the current problem.

Biasness and partisan analyses are also observed in the local media especially the media owners association, Kenya broadcasting corporation, Kenyan citizens in the diaspora through various blog sites and debaters in the local Newspapers where intellectuals like Karuti Kanyinga among others have taken sides, instead of guiding the debate in a more honest way so that all Kenyans can identify where the problem lies (draconian laws, out-dated political system, poverty, inequality, corruption, appointment in public services, un-equal distribution of resources countrywide and lack of access to essential, services among others). Kenyans suffer under these conditions regardless of their tribe, and that is why those who live in the slums are from all tribes, though previously marginalized by earlier regimes like the Luo, Luhya and other minority groups make up the majority in those dwellings.

Leadership and national interest

Questions that people need to ask is why did Kibaki sought to be Kenya’s president, in 1992, 1997, and finally became one in 2002? Was it because he lacked money? Was he someone with an agenda for the “whole “ nation? And if he had one, what was the agenda? Was that agenda realised between 2003 and 2007? Why are Kenyans having a problem with his agenda presented during the campaigns and the people around him majority of whom have been rejected in their own backyards? Why did most Kenyans have a problem with giving him another mandate? Why would someone who is a billionaire and aged 76, not want to leave a legacy that would be remembered in positive terms? What is so painful to forego that Kibaki would not want a clean election? More important to ask is why the current “elite” and morons around Kibaki afraid of change of the current system and/or leadership to go into the hands of “lesser” communities? And lastly, why was the current regime rejected by majority of provinces and communities? Even though there are arguments that Kenya’s economy has grown at 6% over the past two years, the gap between the rich and poor has widened, with more people falling below the poverty line. The slums did not get smaller, nor did North eastern and Eastern provinces get piped water from lake Victoria, the Samburus did not receive hospitals and tarmac roads, No fish industry was built along Lake Victoria and loans given to fishermen. 40 years is along time for the Samburu, Turkana, Rendile and Somalis to wait for basic and essential services to reach them, it is a along time for Kamba people to wait for water and receive food hand outs during starvation, it is a long time before a the Luo and Luhya to have a fishing Board to take care of their interests is agriculture as done to coffee, tea, pyrethrum and dairy farmers; it is along time to wait for major industry in western Kenya; it too long time for Mijikenda to have resources from Coastal investments recycled back to alleviate their poverty, thirst for water, better schools and hospitals.

Obstacle to dialogue

In my view Kibaki is hostage to a number of factors that seems to contradict his call for putting the nation first. First and foremost are the networks of buddies and business comrades and elite form Mt Kenya who have been on the Gravy train since 2003. For what explains the refusal to find a middle ground while knowing so well that the outcome of the elections are not acceptable to everyone including their own people? The people holding Kibaki hostage are the ones Kenyans need to address in their quest for finding a peaceful solution to the current crisis. These people have a lot to loose if the man goes, thus the reason they are against recount, judicial review or re-run of presidential elections. Kenyan comes distant in their priority of needs. The opposition also have a role to play in the process and that will depend on the kind of proposal they put on table, which should be scrutinised by Kenyans since the issue at hand is about how Kenyans are governed and therefore Kibaki or Raila are just but people they expect to govern them through their mandate which includes listening to their views.

The Killings

Kenyans should stop Killing each other. The culprits are few people who are out busy with self-aggrandisement at the expense of a whole nation. Although the current killings are unacceptable since they are an outcome of a stupidity of failure by Kenyan politicians to grasp the communality interest, Kenyans and more so those who abuse the political system and state institutions and resources should know that "Kenya belongs to all who belong in it" and all should be given equal treatment. There is no justification for the minister of internal security to use the outdated tactics of targeting specific ethnic groups with paramilitary force and order to kill. The images ion television shows that most of these people could be apprehended and taken to court. Senseless beating and shooting based on order of a politicians with colonial hangovers will exacerbate acts of revenge instead of resorting to the rule of law to settle disputes or address acts pf violence that re currently being perpetrated by some Kenyans who exploit the chaotic situation. The paramilitary police used by Michuki on the Luo (this is historical tactic, Kenyatta did the same, in the 60s and early seventies) is selective and directed in one direction towards a group of people but that too will create more anger and feelings for revenge.
Struggles in the Rift Valley are also about past wrongs against the minority communities like Ogieks who were chased out of the forest and the places given to the central province groups. Masaai and Kalenjin whose l [prime was taken by the British, and later by the elite around Kenyatta. These grievances have never been addressed and due to the complex nature of ethnic blend in those regions, Moi for instance exploited this mix to cause chaos in order to vilify the onset of multiparty in Kenya. Ethnic clashes in 1992 and 1997, produced suffering and anger which have been kept low, but now fully exploited in the face of a dashed hope for change. These people thought there could be some equity with change pf government but that hope is gone, so we expect anger, but also revenge as result of past clashes that were instigated by Moi prior to 1992, and 97 elections

Democratic test

What I fear most is that if Kibaki is allowed to rule, Kenya will return to the dark ages, all the democratic gains will be lost. They will know that they can always rig elections and get away with it no matter what people do including protest, they don’t mind whether people die or not, since they will be able to get away with it.
Kibaki’s behaviour in relation to vote tallying and results in the 2007 elections makes democracy look sick in Africa. It bring to mind the question whether there are free and fair elections? Or whether franchise or high voter turn out as witnessed in Kenya can turn a regime out of office? What about the role of institutions to support such a process like an independent police, electoral commission, judiciary and a parliament that is sensitive to the needs of the country, free and non-partisan media, respect for the rule of law by all parties involved in the electoral process? Even though Democracy has never been perfect although being adopted by nations and peoples, its institutionalisation depend more on local history, culture and geography and not analyses and prescription as it is applied in other contexts. In the case of Kenya, the political, economic and social systems are complex and full of nuances, combined with other forces/vested interests/pressure groups that exert more power, thus making the ordinary voter appear to be a pawn rather than a "king" maker.

Therefore if Kenya is to build on the already made gains on the democratic front, a solution to the current crisis must be found in tandem with the reality on the ground. The reality that the “presidential election was rigged” and the incumbent is hell-bent on hanging to power no mater what cost, but also the reality that the opposition is making claims which have been proved right by the electoral commission itself and the various poll observers that Kibaki did not win the elections”. Although, calling for peace or on the major players to urge their supporters to clam down is an first step, the call for peace should not water down the main cause of the problem which is “rigged elections” and it is a threat to democratic gains. Being soft on this point would Bolden the antagonists especially the “winners” and based on their history of arrogance and lack of decorum in addressing national issues, they will brush aside the issue at stake and this will fuel anger which is not only expressed by the opposition, but the very people the winners want to “rule” at all cost.

Way out

Asking Raila or Kenyans to forget this and forge ahead, and wait for another 5 years by many partisan authors in various local dailies and international blogs is not sincere and honest since such calls are directed at one party and not the other two. Why are people not asking Kibaki to resign? Why not ask for recount and audit of the votes? If the Electoral commission is not honest, how sure can we be of the courts in Kenya? Kenyans know that the system is rotten thus the overwhelming vote and a clear message that they want something different. They should not be denied this difference by hiding behind discourses that keeps on mystifying the problem. If Kibaki goes on without the approval of Kenyans, he is not making it better for those already hurt in one way or the other through killings and destruction seen in the past days. These things will haunt the nation after he is long gone and people around him or groups supporting him will not escape blame and demands to be held accountable. Peace can only come when the two parties agree to talk, engage and get into a process that will heal wounds on both sides of the divide (the people, the Opposition and PNU politicians). Allowing Kibaki to go ahead and burrow his head as if nothing serious has happened will only exacerbate the arrogance of the group around him as witnessed during a recent press conference and the exchange between PNU Ministers and the press. Such one sided approach attach on the opposition will only help strengthen the status quo, the exploitation, discrimination and inequality along tribal lines, which with exacerbate problems even if calmness would return today.

What is urgently needed are;

Curfew in Opposition areas to be lifted and regular police patrols with a humane face be initiated in hot spots to give people confidence in the state institutions for their safety. The general service unit has no role in the process since it is a catalyst instead of providing safety.
The Kenya pipeline should immediately resume pumping Oil to western Kenya and Uganda. Cutting this supply is not different from scorched earth policy and if someone in the government has ordered such action, which was observed already before the election days, and then he or they are fuelling the crisis instead of solving it. This should apply to other services like electricity, food items among others
Kenyan civil society organisations, Law Society, The Kenya National Human Rights Commission and invited institutions to help in the process of reconciliation and putting in place a framework that would bring back the credibility of the electoral process and an acceptable conclusion
An independent audit of the presidential, results, or a re-run of presidential election supervised by a team of independent observers and representatives of the two parties (ODM and PNU) within an agreed time frame. It is now clear from ECK that they did not know who won. The ECK had put aside funds for a run off, and that money can be used to SAVE KENYA.


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