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Date Thu, 11 Sep 2008 12:47:05 +0300

The widespread violence which marred Kenya earlier this year was seen by many
commentators ­ especially in the wake of the 1 January Eldoret church massacre
of refugees from the killings ­ as having dire parallels with the Rwandan
Genocide of 14 years before. It was Kenya's worst bout of violence since the Mau
Mau Revolt of 1950-1962, and indeed, did acquire some "ethnic cleansing"
overtones as Kikuyu and Luo murdered each other. This was echoed somewhat in the
South African xenophobic killings where in some areas, mobs of Zulus took
advantage of the general chaos to "hunt" Shangaans (Zabalaza has to decry the
comments of some commentators who claimed "anarchists" were responsible for the
violence ­ this puts our comrades lives at risk in the townships).

The bloodletting in Kenya and South Africa stunned the world, especially as
both took place in what were widely viewed as stable, "Westernised" democracies.
"We don't do this in Kenya," a shocked security official told Daily News
journalist Tracy Connor; "It is what happens in Yugoslavia and Sudan."
But for some time, Zabalaza would argue, both countries' ruling parties have
cynically disguised their anti-poor policies behind a smokescreen of
chauvinistic emotions which they have encouraged to run unchecked among their
constitutents. Both have played to the mob's narrow ethnic prejudices, sowing
dragon's teeth that they have now reaped where it hurts them most ­ a tailspin of
investor confidence. This analysis was kindly written for Zabalaza by Kenyan
journalist Juliana Omale-Atemi. She's not an anarchist-communist, but we felt it
was vital to have an experienced in-country view of the riots and killings which
marred Kenya earlier this year.

And Zabalaza can only agree with her conclusion that the solution to Kenya's
problems rests not with either international interventions, nor in elitist
compacts, but in ordinary Kenyans deciding to refuse party and ethnic
factionalism in order to embrace their neighbours ­ and build a new society
dedicated to righting the wrongs of decades of corrupt mismanagement and callous
social engineering.

Michael Schmidt (ZACF)


Kenya's troubles are far from over.
Nairobi's current veneer of calmness can
be misleading. It is difficult to imagine that
just seven months ago, this was the epi-
centre of the turmoil that eventually
engulfed large swathes of the country fol-
lowing President Mwai Kibaki's disputed
election victory. The breakdown in the rule
of law and order was further fuelled by the
public lack of confidence in the country's
institutions. But harder still, for Kenya, is
the breakdown of social relationships and
trust among Kenyan communities further
exacerbating Kenya's raw class and ethnic
It is five months since Kenya's Grand
Coalition Government was sworn in ­
negotiated by an international team of
mediators led by the former UN Secretary-
General Kofi Annan. The two principles in
this negotiated arrangement for power-
sharing are President Kibaki and Raila
Odinga the Prime Minister. Even then, the
new government in Kenya faces enormous
challenges necessitated by promised
nationwide reforms and a new constitution
­ notwithstanding the fragility of the
arrangements within the Coalition that
could very well undermine its survival as
the principals' lieutenants and foot-soldiers
jostle for vantage positions within and out-
side the Coalition.
There is also the sticky issue of whether
or not to grant blanket amnesty for mainly
youthful gangs and militia groups from both
sides of the political divide that took part in
the post-election violence which claimed
over 1 200 lives. The worst-hit areas were
the towns and settlements in the Rift Valley,
Western and Nyanza provinces and parts
of Nairobi and its environs. It is no secret
that there are serious divisions within the
Coalition regarding how to deal with hun-
dreds and possibly thousands of people
arrested by police in connection with the
violence that convulsed the country in the
six weeks after the disputed election
results were announced.
The calls for blanket amnesty have come
mainly from the Prime Minister's Orange
Democratic Party, a notion that is rejected
by the key players in President Kibaki's
Party of National Unity who want them to
face the full force of the law. However, the
former argue that the arrests were targeted
disproportionately against Odinga's sup-
porters while pro-Kibaki groups got off with
little more than a rap on the knuckles.
Closely intertwined with the calls for or
against amnesty for perpetrators of the
violence is issue of resettlement and
compensation for an estimated 350 000
displaced people and returnees following
the government's aggressive move to
shut down 176 camps for internally dis-
placed persons around the country.
Returnees find themselves between a rock
and a hard place, with the government prodding
them to reclaim their farms and homes on the
one hand and the hostility of former neigh-
bours demanding the unconditional release
of their youth before anything else can be
discussed. Even then, the long-awaited
Commission of Inquiry into Post Election
Violence began its hearings in July and
public expectations were high that the
Commission will shed light on what really
The Commission is mandated to investi-
gate the facts and circumstances related to
the post-election violence and investigate
the action or omissions of state security
agents. It will also make recommenda-
tions to prevent a repetition of electoral vio-
lence in the future and suggest measures
to bring those responsible for the violence
to justice and eradicate impunity. Women
are particularly keen to see how the all-
male commission, led by Kenyan Justice
Philip Waki will treat the distressing issue
of sexual and gender based violations that
were visited upon thousands of women
and children in the worst hit areas.
Through their various representa-
tives who have already made con-
tact with the commission, they are
emphatic that they have no room in
their hearts for granting amnesty to
the perpetrators of violence.
Meanwhile, the Independent Review
Commission, headed by retired South African
Justice Johann Kriegler has been travers-
ing the country to seek the views of Kenyans on
the recent political turmoil.
The Kriegler team is expected to asses the
Electoral Commission of
Kenya's (ECK) efficiency of and
capacity to discharge its mandate
to investigate the post-election
violence. The reputation of the
ECK was largely discredited follow-
ing the announcement of the con-
troversial election results in early
January leading to the eruption of vio-
lence around the country. The com-
mission is expected to recommend elec-
toral reforms, including constitutional, leg-
islative, operational and institutional
aspects as well as accountability mecha-
nisms for ECK commissioners and staff to
improve future electoral process-
es. Justice Kriegler chaired South
Africa's electoral commission in
1993 ahead of the elections that
ushered Nelson Mandela as the country's first
black president in 1994. He resigned in
1999. It is hoped that he will bring his experi-
ence to bear in the case of Kenya's transition to
internal peace and the strengthening of
democracy. Both the Waki and Kriegler
teams are the products of the international com-
munity's intervention through Mr
Kofi Anaan, who brokered the power
sharing arrangement between Kibaki and
Ultimately, only Kenyans can determine
how to heal the deep social and economic
rifts that exploded into the violence wit-
nessed in early 2008. This calls for ruth-
less honesty and the courage to deal with
decades of historical injustices and sys-
tematic impoverishment and displacement
of entire groups of Kenyans by years of
bad governance and skewed economic
and social policy with the historical injus-
tices led to the displacement of thousands
of people and in some cases, entire com-
munities from their ancestral land. Millions
were impoverished after years of misrule
and economic mismanagement. It is the
prayer of many that the current leaders will
put aside their personal interests, party
affiliations and ethnicities to enable Kenya
heal and grow. Kenya can only emerge
victorious if it avoids the temptation to grant
those suspected of arson, rape and murder
blanket amnesty. Leaders should instead
fight for fair and speedy trial. Kenya has
the capacity to rise up from the ashes vic-
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