Tag Archives: kenya

Kenya still burning

4 weeks ago, the elections in Kenya went sour, and people were, justifiably, it seemed, angry with the seemingly obvious fact that the elections were rigged. I mean, 115% turnout in even one precinct is sufficient to call foul.

If, at that moment, the leading candidates had stepped forward, together, and said, something’s not right here, we’re going to get to the bottom of it, stay calm until we can get everything sorted out – if they could have just done that, postponed the anger for a day or so, gotten things worked out, perhaps we could have avoided this.

As it is, it took them more than 3 weeks even to talk to one another, and by that time, more than 700 people had been brutally killed. Now, things are escalating more each day. Rumor is that there’s a convoy of buses and trucks going from village to village, burning, killing, raping, anyone who appears to be from the “wrong” ethnic origin. Families that have lived next door for years are now bitter enemies, willing to kill each other with machetes, arrows, knives, rocks, whatever they have handy.

The optimism I had in the first days that things could be fixed, the problems could be resolved, there could be peace and reconciliation – I’m afraid that’s all gone now. With each passing day, the chance that things can get back to the way they once were gets slimmer and slimmer. The damage to the economy is devastating. Tourists won’t come back for years. The hotels that have already closed will discourage others from opening. Shipping companies are avoiding Mombasa, because it’s not safe. Nairobi has always been a hub of commerce for the surrounding nations, and folks are starting to look for somewhere else to go through.

And the violence is getting more and more organized. Weapons are being distributed. Strategy meetings are being held, and more and more people are being killed.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kibaki, the so-called president, continues to insist that there isn’t in fact any problem, and that it will all be just peachy if the opposition takes their complaints to court and lets the (Kibaki-appointed) judges decide what needs to happen next.

Where will it end?

Another marathoner killed

My heroes have always been runners – Sebastian Coe, Eric Liddle, Steve Prefontaine, Jesse Owens, and many others.

And, of course, Kip Keino, who won gold in Mexico City and Munich, and then went home to start an orphanage, where he’s got more than 100 kids who call him Baba. Not only a great athlete, but also a great man.

Most of the Kenyan distance runners are from the Kalenjin family of tribes, and they are in the center of the recent violence that’s going on in Kenya. Another one of them was killed this week, having missed his flight out for a race due to the fighting. Lucas Sang was killed the week before. And Luke Kibet, who’s the world marathon champion, is in the hospital recovering from being struck in the head by a stone.

I have no profound thoughts to add to this. Just continuing sadness at the methodical way that the greatest nation in Africa is tearing itself to pieces.

Update: Now the government is targeting these folks, claiming that they’re funding the “ethnic cleansing.” Who knows what to believe?


I saw this picture today on GulfNews.com. A young man – about my own age – runs with his daughter – about my daughter’s age – while she looks obviously terrified. I can’t quite imagine what I would do, faced with the situations that have been forced on thousands of moms and dads in the last two weeks in Kenya. I know that I would do anything to protect my daughter. What would I do if someone took my daughter from me and flung her into a burning building, and prevented me from going in after her? I don’t know. It is unthinkable. But a mom had that happen to her just two weeks ago today, in a town that I have always thought of as a sleepy, friendly, quiet country town. How does one live with that reality – either of having it done to your daughter, or of being the one that did it?

With that kind of thing going on in my homeland, it’s really very hard to care who’s winning the US presidential primaries. Ironically, though, these primaries will have a significant impact on Kenya in the very near future. Who’s in the White House, unfortunately, indirectly (and some times very directly) effects what goes on in Africa.

Meanwhile, the 10th Parliament had their first meeting yesterday, and the opposition majority elected an opposition Speaker, which will probably have the effect that the President will either not be able to accomplish anything for the next 5 years, or that he’ll simply ignore the constitution and the laws of the land, and do whatever he choose anyways. Events of the last two weeks seem to suggest which of these options he’ll choose.

Today, there are battles between opposition supporters and police, in which the police are armed with live ammunition and tear gas, and the opposition supporters have signs and large numbers. One death is reported, but one expects the reality is worse. The sun has gone down now, and it’s been raining most of the day, so hopefully things are quiet right now.

It’s very, very hard to get out of the deep sadness that these events are causing me. This isn’t supposed to happen in Kenya. Kenya hosts refugees, it doesn’t produce them. Kenya is peaceful, stable, and friendly. Kenya is Hakuna Matata. Kenya is home. It’s beginning to feel like I’ll never make it back home again.


Ushahidi got mentioned on BoingBoing. They’re mapping where violence has been reported in Kenya.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kibaki is persisting in his insistence that there is in fact no crisis, and therefore no international mediators are needed. So he’s snubbing Kofi Annan, who has offered to come help in any way that he can. I think that, of the two scoundrels, Mr. Kibaki is the greater scoundrel. Even to a cynical outside observer, it appears that Mr. Odinga is actually trying to get together to negotiate a solution. Mr. Kibaki keeps insisting that there’s no problem. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is declaring it the end of belief in any hope for African stability.

Kenya still in turmoil

Like Ruth, I reached saturation yesterday. I think it happened somewhere between the video of one man hacking at another man with a panga (machete) in Kibera, and the photo of dead children stacked in a morgue.

Although it’s been almost 20 years since I was in Kenya, it’s still home, and I’m filled with a deep sadness at the willful destruction and hatred going on there. I simply can’t get my mind around the kind of hatred that it takes to intentionally hack a 3 year old girl to death. It truly boggles the mind.

Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga, and the members of the ECK, have done an enormous injustice to their people, and a small subset of the people are carrying that injustice into their neighborhoods in a way that will reverberate for generations. It is truly tragic. I have to believe that it’s a tiny subset of the population, because to believe anything else would be monstrous. And certainly to hear people talking about it, everyone there is as horrified as I am at what’s happening. But, clearly, there are still mobs committing these atrocities.

Ruth has said, much more clearly than I could, what it is that I’m feeling. Like her, this is more real to me than news stories of tragedies in places I’ve never heard of, much less been, and I imagine that to most of my readers this is a far-away and somewhat less-than-real place.

So, if I’ve seemed somewhat distracted of late, at least you know why.

Unrest in Kenya

Several days ago, Kenya held presidential elections, and it seemed, to begin with, that things were going really well. It appeared, as I mentioned in a post that day, that Mr. Odinga was going to win, and there wasn’t much unrest at all.

Then, suddenly, the tide turned, Mr. Kibaki – the incumbent – was ahead by a significant amount, and there was what appeared to be a rather rushed swearing-in. Less than two hours after a tentative final count was announced, Mr. Kibaki was sworn in, and the rioting started.

Several precincts had in excess of 115% turnout, some of the final count reports that I’ve seen copies of are so obviously altered that it’s an insult to anyone’s credulity. So it appears that Mr. Kibaki’s supporters are perhaps largely at fault here.

And this morning the head election official made a statement that he was rushed into declaring a winner and holding a swearing-in, and that he has no idea who actually won the vote. Oy.

But, to make things worse, Mr. Odinga is fanning the flame, saying that he’s anxious to have talks with Mr. Kibaki to stop the violence … just as soon as Mr. Kibaki steps down and admits that he lost. Which, of course, he’s not about to do.

And, the additional aspect of this that non-Africans may or may not understand: Mr. Kibaki is Kikuyu, the tribe (yes, I know, some of you tell me that I’m supposed to avoid that term. But it’s the one that the Kenyan media uses, so I am not going to play the political correctness game. I’m not very good at it.) which is in the majority in Kenya, and which has traditionally held power. Mr. Odinga is Luo, the second-most-populous tribe, and the one that has traditionally been in the shadows. Indeed, Mr. Odinga’s father was the first Vice President, and it’s largely understood that he was put there in order for Mr. Kenyatta – the first president – to prove to everyone that he was impartial. But Mr. Odinga only stayed in that position for a very short time, and was swiftly arrested when he started talking about an opposition party.

So there’s a great deal of Kikuyu/Luo animosity behind the growing unrest, and it appears that most of the deaths so far – close to 300 when the sun set tonight – are Luos killing Kikuyus. In one incident, more than 30 people were killed while trying to hide in a church, which was torched by some young men.

This is all very frightening, and feels like a precursor to what happened in 1994 a few miles north in Rwanda. Folks say that it’s not anywhere as serious, but these tensions have been building since independence, and were there in other forms before then.

The Telegraph has an interesting (if oversimplified) summary.

There’s also the simple fact that, given the chance offered by a little chaos, folks are going to loot stores. They did it in Los Angeles, and they’re doing it in Nairobi and Nakuru. Then the police show up and beat people to death, or shoot them. Many of the photos that I’ve seen show heavily armed police beating unarmed civilians trying to get away with looted merchandise.

Latest news here.

President Odinga?

Early results seem to indicate that Raila Odinga will be Kenya’s next president, and that much of Parliament has been taken away from KANU too. (News from New York Times.)

Raila’s father, Oginga Odinga, was Kenya’s first Vice President, and first opposition leader. He also attempted to create a multi-party political system, but this failed when the constitution was modified to specifically make the country one-party.

The various analyzes that I’ve read indicate that the primary reason that Kibaki is being voted out is not that he’s been ineffective – he hasn’t, he’s brought a lot of prosperity to Kenya – but that his government shows tribal favoritism at all levels, and that if you’re not the right tribe, you’re out of luck. Odinga made this a major issue in his campaign, and it appears to have paid off.

What’ll be interesting is whether he can do anything substantive before people’s patience runs out. He’s made a lot of promises, and since he can’t possibly make good on all of them, or even most of them, and certainly not in the magical first 100 days, it’ll be interesting to see how long he remains the hero.

Still, it’s a historic event, putting a bit of a cap on what happened in 2002, and removing KANU from power pretty decisively.

Kenya Election

Kenya is having their presidential election today. Kenya is one of the three or four most important nations in Africa, economically, so this is a pretty big deal. Who runs Kenya has a pretty significant impact on Africa as a whole.

So far, apart from small glitches, it appears that things are running smoothly — that is, no violence yet, and no apparent ballot box stuffing. However, Mr. Odinga (the guy who is pretty likely to win) wasn’t registered to vote when he got to the polls. Oops.