Wednesday, 17 April 2013

What was the cause of 2007 Postelection Violence in Kenya?

By Lee Njiru

The solidarity exhibited between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin during the last elections, which propelled Uhuru Kenyatta to the presidency, and William Ruto to the deputy presidency should behove historians and political commentators to relook at the real cause of the 2007/2008 post- election violence.
The Kalenjin did not have a presidential candidate in 2007. They were not even sure that one of them would be appointed Vice-President in case Raila Odinga was elected president.
This fact notwithstanding, the Kalenjin could not stomach Kibaki’s victory. They struck Hitler’s blitzkrieg – style. The Kikuyus hit back, engulfing many other tribes in the Rift Valley. The economy of Kenya and that of the great Lakes region was almost on its knees.
When Uganda President Yoweri Museveni addressed the people during the swearing-in of President Uhuru and his deputy Ruto at Kasarani, he said thus: “The violence claimed more than 1,000 lives and displaced some 500,000 people. Events of this nature, first and most importantly, need an ideological solution by discerning why they happened.” This presupposes that Museveni is convinced that the real cause of the violence was not the 2007 elections. He is right. A Kenyan political analyst Joe Adama recently said in a newspaper article that the 2007 elections played an incendiary role in the violence. He is also right. If they were incendiary, then what was the explosive powder keg?
Here it is: In 2002 Kibaki ascended to the presidency in a wheelchair. His health had been somehow impaired following a near-fatal motor accident. Some of his hard-liner handlers who were appointed to the key Cabinet positions took advantage of this unfortunate condition and began a systemic institutionalisation of ethnocentricity and prejudice.
The main target was the Kalenjin elite. They engineered the sacking of more than 100 Kalenjins from the armed forces, civil service, and parastatals. The perpetrators of these injustices were boasting in the Press and in hotels with statements like, “They will never know what hit them” and “we control the monopoly of official violence”.
The careers of these people built painstakingly over the years from Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s Administration, burst like soap bubbles courtesy of Kibaki’s lieutenants deranged with raw power.
But they did not know whom they were dealing with. According to Joe Adama this Kalenjin elite went home frustrated. He was convinced that this reservoir of resentment played a key role in post-election violence. The Kalenjin likened these mass sackings of their pillars and luminaries to a pogrom and an attempt to exterminate the community. It chilled their collective spine, this McCarthyism. These injustices resonated with the Kalenjin masses from Mulot in Bomet to Mochongoi in Baringo to Kapsokwony in Mt Elgon. Over five million people were united in anger. They felt that their dignity and sense of earned entitlement had been violated. When they saw tears trickling down the cheeks of their beloved daughter who was Head of Civil Service, Dr Sally Kosgei, they became livid. It pierced the very heart of their self – esteem and dignity.
They chose, as if on a central cue, to bide their time. Why was there no immediate reaction? The reason is that the Kalenjin are not overly given to displays of emotion. They have a high kindling temperature even when provoked. But nobody should make a mistake. When they eventually catch fire and explode, they do not disappoint on the Richter scale. They are slow to anger. Resentment may simmer in them for up to five years. They are cold and methodical calculators. Unprovoked, they are wonderfully generous. Any broad-minded politician should know that the Kalenjin have a fearsome military culture and tradition. Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, a wise leader, tapped into this asset to effectively combat the shifta menace. A few Kibaki lieutenants, out of sheer bigotry and ignorance of Kenya’s geopolitics antagonised the same. The country paid heavily for this folly.
Mere allegations that the 2007 elections were stolen in favour of Kibaki gave the Kalenjin the perfect opportunity to show the world that they were not prepared to brook any injustice from any quarter.
Citing the 2007 election, as the cause of violence is, in a way, a red herring; a distraction from the real cause. The wild, almost maniacal love they showed for Raila was not real. It was meant to reflect the excessive hatred against the Kibaki administration, not Kibaki the person.

The writer is a Press Secretary for former President Moi

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