21 January 2013

Kenya: We Need More Than Just Prayers for Polls

Photo: Capital FM
Uhuru Kenyatta (file photo).


In less than 50 days, Kenya will be going to the polls. We need to be worried.

In 2007, the disputed elections ended up in bloodshed. Already there are signs that this bloodshed may return. The tribal militia groups like the ferocious Mungiki that caused mayhem in the aftermath of the elections in 2007 have been reassembled to do what they do best ? kill those opposed to their political leaders' interests.

There is great uncertainty about Kenya's elections. The recent emergence of criminal gangs and tribal massacres in the Tana region and the apparent lack of ability by the police and other security agencies to contain this violence leave clear signs on the wall that the worst is yet to happen. There are still unresolved problems in the Rift Valley province, where during the 2007 post-election violence, the Kikuyu farmers were hacked to death by Kalenjin militias and chased from their farms.

There are reports that leaflets warning of future violence are circulating in the Rift Valley. There are also disturbing reports that other militias that cannot access hefty finances like the Mungiki have found solace in the security services that arm them to fight some proxy wars. Probably now the fight may not erupt between the Kalenjin and the Kikuyu, even though they still have an axe to grind over the unresolved conflicts in 2007. This is because the Kalenjin's own son, William Ruto, is a running mate to Uhuru Kenyatta, a Kikuyu.

That may soothe the sore thumb for the moment. But Nyanza province, where Bwana Raila Odinga has a political and ethnic base, may not keep its hands folded, especially if it feels that its own is being denied victory like was the case in 2007. The possible human carnage aside, Ugandans need to worry and prepare for these eventualities.

In 2007, Uganda ignored information that Kenya would erupt into chaos in the aftermath of the elections. Most of the importers did not think of the alternative port of Dar es Salaam when they were shipping their goods. Many of them had their goods stuck at the port of Mombasa. The goods could not reach Uganda because the road from there to Ugandan was clogged with abductors, violence and mayhem.

We faced a fuel crisis, partly because Uganda does not have fuel reserves and most fuel companies channel their fuel through Kenya. It would be prudent for a businessman who needs to import goods in about a month's time to reroute his imports to Dar es Salaam port until such a time when the elections in Kenya are concluded peacefully.

I don't know whether the government, together with the fuel dealers, is making contingent plans for the country's fuel! Some traders have often complained that the Dar es Salaam route is too long and too expensive, but given the two evils of distance and total loss due to violence, I believe choosing the former may be the wiser choice.

It is interesting to remember that in the aftermath of the 2007 electoral violence in Kenya, Uganda pledged to work with Tanzania to develop the southern alternative route of Tanga-Mutukula. It is now five years since that violence and nothing seems to be on the ground. I am not trying to sound alarm bells, but we really need to prepare for our neighbour's fate, and ours as well, in these coming March elections.

The author is the Business Development Director, The Observer Media Ltd.

Copyright © 2013 The Observer. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.