1 December 2012

Kenya: Elections May Lead to Violence

POST-ELECTION VIOLENCE IN 2007: Political leaders in Kenya still depend on their ethnic communities for support and there are underlying rivalries and tensions between some of the biggest tribes.

There are clear signs that the coming general elections may not be completely trouble-free after all. In some parts of the country, the much feared tribal clashes have already occurred and there are tensions in several areas where various communities do not trust each other.

Despite some largely uncoordinated efforts by the coalition government of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, as well as other private organisations, to ensure that the elections will be peaceful, free and fair, there are many factors that point to ethnic, social and other forms of trouble in Kenya during the months ahead.

Ethnic tensions still exist partly due to what some view as the unfair demarcation of electoral boundaries, which is likely to disadvantage some of the smaller communities.

Courts have largely dismissed most of the complaints, allowing only a few alterations to the boundaries prescribed by the IEBC.

Political leaders still largely depend on their ethnic communities for support and there are underlying rivalries and tensions between some of the bigger tribes.

Earlier this year, Kenya experienced strikes by teachers, university lecturers and medical staff in public institutions. The government has been strained in trying to fulfill the somewhat outrageous demands by the striking public workers.

In its budget of about Sh 1.5 trillion, for the Financial Year 2012/2013, the government did not factor in some of the emerging challenges such as the demands for salary and allowance increments by nearly 350,000 public workers.

If the government is to factor in the recent agreements, which prescribe phased increases in salaries and allowances for the striking workers, then it has to borrow heavily (both locally and abroad), increase taxes and scale down on some of the development projects. In an election year, the increasing expenditure on such things as salaries for public officers could prove disastrous.

Elections in Kenya are still very much determined by ethnic considerations as there is very little cohesion among the 42 or so ethnic communities.

The tensions caused by deep inequalities in the distribution of national resources are only likely to increase as the elections draw near, especially with the prospect of several tribes ganging up against others in the search for power and privilege.

While the three parliamentary by-elections that took place recently in Kajiado North, Kangema and Ndhiwa were relatively peaceful, they do not truly reflect the political situation in the country.

The bigger ethnic tensions will come during the bigger electoral contests for the presidency, deputy-presidency, governorships, senate, parliamentary seats and county representations as prescribed under the new constitution.

Apart from the multi-ethnic and cosmopolitan Kajiado North constituency on the southern outskirts of Nairobi, where the Kikuyu community is still relatively dominant, the other two constituencies, Kangema and Ndhiwa have only a single dominant community, the Kikuyu and the Luo, respectively.

Apart from the persistent ethnic factor, not much should be read into the results of the recent by-elections. Of course all the main presidential aspirants campaigned in the areas where they thought they had some chance to make an impact.

As widely expected, the Kangema and Ndhiwa by-elections gave landslide victories to candidates of Uhuru Kenyatta's TNA party and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) of PM Raila Odinga, respectively.

The Kajiado North contest was also won by the TNA candidate because of the dominance of the Kikuyu tribe in the area, although the margin of victory was slightly less than the two others.

Most political analysts and commentators in Kenya have given the opinion that the results of the parliamentary by-elections and 15 others for local civic seats in different parts of the country are an indicator that the next presidential elections in Kenya will be a two-horse race between Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his main rival Uhuru Kenyatta.

According to the new constitution, the presidential contest will essentially be a two-horse race. The constitution prescribes that the winner in the first round must garner at least 50 (+1) per cent of the total vote in the country, while at the same time getting 25 percent in 24 of the 47 newly-created counties.

A first round victory for any of the 13 or so presidential aspirants is almost impossible since Kenya has 43 different tribes with varying political interests.

In Kenya's ethnicity-driven political scene, the candidate who can bring together the several of the bigger tribes such as the Kikuyu, the Luhya, the Luo, the Kalenjin, the Akamba, the Mijikenda, the Kisii, the Meru and the Somali, around his bid for the presidency, will emerge the winner, most likely in the run-off election.

Currently, the main contest for the next presidency appears to be between the Kikuyu (17 percent of the population) through DPM Uhuru Kenyatta and the Luo (11 percent of the population) with PM Raila Odinga.

The other major tribes are only playing what appears to be supporting role. Since independence, the Kikuyu and the Luo have been the main players in Kenya's political landscape, with the Kalenjin, through retired President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi (1978 - 2002) playing a significant intermediate role.

Due to their numerical superiority and relative wealth as compared to members of the other major tribes, the Kikuyu have been the politically dominant ethnic community in Kenya since the pre-independence period in the 1950s with a resistance movement against the British colonial administration known as the Mau Mau.

The other big tribes such as the Luo, the Luhya, the Kalenjin, the Akamba and the Mijikenda initially played only a supporting.

They took charge during the late 1950s, with independence was in sight, as the Kikuyu were suppressed by the British colonial administration.

During the 49 years of independence, the Kikuyu have already produced two of Kenya's presidents; Mzee Jomo Kenyatta (originally known as Johnstone Kamau) and current President Mwai Kibaki.

During their rule, the very industrious and often callous Kikuyu have managed to amass more wealth than any other community in Kenya.

Soon after independence, in 1966, the Kikuyu-Luo political alliance that has been widely credited with ending the colonial rule broke up when the then Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga quit the government of President Kenyatta to form an opposition party known as the Kenya Peoples Union (KPU).

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was the father of the current leading Kikuyu presidential aspirant, DPM Uhuru Kenyatta, while Jaramogi Odinga (who died in 1994) was the father of leading Luo presidential dandidate, PM Raila Odinga.

Since their political alliance broke up in 1966, the Kikuyu and the Luo have been the main rival ethnic communities in Kenyan politics.

They briefly formed an alliance during the late 1980s and the early 1990s in efforts to oust the regime of the then increasingly dictatorial President Daniel arap Moi, whose ruling party, Kanu, had been declared the only legitimate political outfit in Kenya through a constitutional amendment in 1982.

The new Kikuyu-Luo alliance of the late 1980s, along with support from some of the major tribes such as the Luhya, the Akamba and the Mijikenda, succeeded in forcing President Moi to re-introduce political pluralism in 1991, before breaking up again during the multi-party elections that took place in December 1992.

The Kikuyu and the Luo came together again in 2002 to oppose the choice of Uhuru Kenyatta as President Moi's successor in the then ruling party, KANU.

An alliance known as the National Rainbow Coalition was born in 2002, with Mwai Kibaki as its presidential candidate. The leading Luo politician at the time (and now) PM Raila Odinga declared at the time in Kiswahili at a major political rally in Nairobi's Uhuru Park: "Kibaki Tosha" (Kibaki is Enough) as the Luo and the Kikuyu overwhelmingly voted to oust the Moi regime.

The Kikuyu-Luo political alliance broke up yet again in 2005 during the national referendum on a proposed new constitution when Raila Odinga opposed the draft that was presented and was joined by political leaders from the other major tribes around the country.

Only the Kikuyu and their ethnic cousins, the Embu and the Meru in the Central regions of Kenya strongly supported what was then known as the 'Wako Draft' constitution.

President Kibaki then sacked Raila Odinga and all those political leaders who had opposed the draft new constitution from the Narc government.

The rejection of the "Wako Draft" constitution in a national referendum in November 2005 brought about renewed rivalry and some hatred between the Kikuyu and the Luo.

Raila Odinga was (and still is) perceived by most people of the Kikuyu tribe as being the main force behind any opposition to the Kibaki regime.

The ethnic tensions brought about by the referendum that rejected the Wako Draft was to spill into the elections in December 2007, bringing about violence and chaos.

During their opposition to the Wako Draft, Raila Odinga and several of his political allies had formed the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) to oppose the NARC regime of President Kibaki.

Prior to the 2007 elections, the ODM was to split into two when Steven Kalonzo Musyoka and several of his supporters walked away to form what became known as ODM-Kenya, whose name was again changed recently to become the Wiper Democratic Movement (WDM).

Following the highly charged and controversial presidential elections in which the incumbent President Kibaki was alleged to have stolen the votes through election rigging in order to retain his seat, violence broke out in many parts of the country, with the Kikuyu being targeted by the other tribes, especially where they had acquired large tracts of fertile lands in the Rift Valley Province under the immediate post-independence Kenyatta regime.

Since the 2007-2008 post-election violence and its political aftermath, the Kenyan political landscape has hardly changed, as ethnic rivalries and tensions continue to dominate.

The recent inter-ethnic violence in the Tana Delta area of Coast Province in which more than 115 people (perhaps more) were butchered in raids and retaliatory attacks between the Pokomo sub-tribe (part of the Mijikenda) and the Orma, appears like some dangerous prelude to what could happen during and after the next general elections in Kenya.

Tribal and political tensions already exist in different parts of the country. In Coast Province, the emergence of the secessionist Mombasa Republican Council and the recent attacks on churches following the assassination of radical Islamist Sheikh Aboud Rogo are ominous signs of the violence that will accompany the next general elections.

The MRC has already declared its opposition to the elections, apart from declaring openly that Coast Province is not a part of Kenya.

Clandestine forces from the United States have been linked by many Kenyan Muslims to the assassination of Shiekh Rogo who was accused of being the top operative of Somalia's radical al-Shabaab movement in Kenya.

Ethnicity still dominates Kenyan politics and any alliances that are formed prior to the next general elections are basically to be perceived as tribal in both essence and nature.

As the recent parliamentary by-elections show clearly, ethnic affiliations still form the basis of voting patterns in Kenya. Even where many tribes live together especially in the cities and major urban centres, the voting is usually along ethnic lines.

Two of the major contenders, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are facing trial at The Hague over alleged crimes against humanity.

In their quest to gain sympathy and consolidate their ethnic support, the two have repeatedly accused PM Raila Odinga of being behind their ICC tribulations.

The reason provided by his accusers is that PM Raila wants to eliminate other strong presidential contenders from the race.

The anti-Raila political movement has already resulted in the formation of the G7 Alliance whose main players are VP Kalonzo Musyoka, Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto and Eugene Wamalwa.

The other associates to the G7 Alliance would by Musalia Mudavadi and Raphael Tuju who are widely perceived to be "projects" against PM Raila Odinga, conceived by President Kibaki and his close circle of State House cohorts.

If the G-7 Alliance can remain intact, until the elections next year, a doubtful prospect given the ethnic and personal interests of the members, then it may have a realistic chance of preventing PM Raila Odinga from becoming Kenya's next president.

At the moment, the political and socio-economic situation in Kenya requires very careful and resourceful management, which the government is incapable of providing, given the deep divisions within it.

The result of the various political contests under the new constitution could be an even more deeply divided country than ever before.

Even if violence does not erupt to the magnitude of the 2007-2008 chaos, the country will always experience ethnic and other skirmishes.

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