By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Eastern and Southern Africa
NAIVASHA, Kenya – Violence erupts once again in Kenya, one month after the disputed December 27 presidential election. Hundreds of people in rival tribes wielding machetes, clubs, and hammers clashed in the streets of Naivasha, Nikura, and Kisumu earlier today. According to Baraka Karama, a journalist for independent Kenya Television in Kisumu, the streets were literally covered in blood.
For several weeks angry Lous supporter of Raila Odinga have blocked roads, set buses, homes and cars on fire and attacked members of President Mwai Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe.
According to witnesses, a gang of youths killed four Kikuyus with machetes and stoned to death two others in the villages around Eldoret. Other witnesses claim another person was burned alive in a minibus. “We wish to find one, a Kikuyu. … We will butcher them like a cow,” exclaimed David Babgy, 24.
In Naivasha this past weekend, thousands of armed Kikuyus confronted Luos, wanting revenge. At least 22 people were killed, nineteen of them Lous, after they were chased through a slum by a gang of Kikuyus and trapped in a shanty that they set on fire. According to a mortuary worker, 64 bodies laid in the morgue after this weekend’s clash.
The death toll has now passed the 800 mark.
The post election dispute has gone beyond the disputed presidential election, exposing a deep seated ethnic resentment. The bloodshed has been largely centered on the Rift Valley towns of Naivasha and Nakuru. After Kenya’s 1963 Independence from Great Britain, President Jomo Kenyatta proclaimed the Rift Valley for his Kiyuyu people. Since then Kiyuyus have dominated politics and the economy through a patronage system and corruption. The December 27 presidential election has unearthed years of concealed resentment; pitting neighbors against one another.
Mediation efforts have failed and there appears to be no sign of relief. Kibaki claims the door of communication is open but that his presidency is not negotiable. Odinga has rejected a power-sharing strategy and remains adamant that Kibaka must step down from his position. Thus the dispute remains at a deadlock.
On Sunday, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan sent a proposal to both sides, asking each to choose a team of three negotiators and a liason officer who will work to reach a solution that is agreeable to both sides. Annan, who organized the first meeting between Kibaki and Odinga last week, is urging both sides to be prepared to make hard decision in order to restore the country’s stability.
Meanwhile, about 250,000 people are homeless. Schools have been closed for several weeks and used as shelters. Navisha, Kenya’s flower capital, and Nakuru, known for its wild-life filled lakes, has become war zones. The once picturesque tourist towns of Rift Valley are now no-go zones. The violence has resulted in slowed economic activity that will likely hit the tourism sector hard.
In 2007, Kenya earned 65.4 billion shillings in tourism. Last week, according to the Kenya Tourism Federation, the sector could be forced to lay off about half of its 250,000 employees to cope with losses arising from the unrest.
For more information please see:
MSNBC (AP) – Kenya Fighting Leaves Road ‘Covered in Blood’ – 28 January 2008
Reuters: Africa – Kenya’s Rift Valley Burns, Death Toll Soars – 28 January 2008
Yahoo News (AP) – Kenya Election Violence Spreads in West – 28 January 2008
Reuters: Africa – Violence Exposes Kenya’s Deep Ethnic Fault Lines – 28 January 2008
AllAfrica.com – Kenya: Rivals Given Roadmap to Peaceful End – 28 January 2008
Reuters: Africa – Kenya Shilling Recovers Losses vs Dollar, Unrest Weighs – 28 January 2008