AOSK Historical
AOSK Compiled Brief Historical Background to the Present Crisis in Kenya

                              (Note:  AOSK is Association of Sisterhoods in Kenya)


Many of you must wonder why this terrible violence has broken out in this beautiful and once peaceful country of ours.  Though the disputed election results, announced on December 30, 2007, are regarded as the immediate cause of our present crisis, there are other root causes, one of which is the land question.

This seems to have emerged from colonial times when the Colonial Government forced the displacement of large numbers of people to make land available for white settlers and administered it under a flawed land policy, which gave great powers to the Administration. Following Kenya’s independence in 1963 successive Governments inherited, used and manipulated this flawed land policy to their own advantage.

The first President of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, a Kikuyu, solidified the Kikuyu advantage during his rule, by encouraging Kikuyu to settle on fertile Rift Valley land, given up by British colonials which, some say, should have been returned to the Kalenjins and Maasais from whom it had been seized by the British.  At the time of the General Elections in 1992, clashes, which broke out in many areas, indicated strongly that, though different ethnic groups had co-existed peacefully for decades, there was a latent land conflict ready to erupt.  

Another element contributing to the conflict is the question of power sharing arising from the fact that though Kenya is blessed with 42 tribes, each with its own rich culture, only two have held the presidency since independence, the Kikuyu (Jomo Kenyatta and incumbent President Mwai Kibaki) and the Kalenjin (former President Daniel Arap Moi). The fact that a new ethnic group, in the person of Raila Odinga (Luo), leader of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) had entered the scene, as a Presidential candidate, greatly added to the expectations and tension. 

During the post-independence period, a mostly peaceful time in Kenya, people co-existed amicably together on the level of economic and political stability; many intermarrying into other ethnic groups.  Kenya, at the time of this year’s General Elections, had come a long way in democratic voter practice since 1992 when Kenya had moved from a one party to a multiparty state.  The 1992 and 1997 multiparty elections were marred by rigging, disappearing ballot boxes, violence and tribal clashes.  However, things changed at the General Elections of December 2002, when opposition parties, united under the leadership of Mwai Kibaki, supported by Raila, to form the National Alliance Rainbow Coalition (NARC) and succeeded in removing President Moi from power, taking over a tattered economy. It seemed that every Kenyan was ready for ‘Change’.  

Various issues however, including the failure of the Kibaki led Government, during their five year term of office, to honour a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), that had led to the formation of the NARC COALITION, the failure to adequately tackle chronic corruption and poverty, as well as the unresolved issue of Constitution reforms, left many dissatisfied with the Kibaki Government and with the desire for further change. This CONSTITUTION change appears to lie at the heart of the problem, as the current constitution does not hold enough checks and balances on the Executive, but rather still facilitates a one party state and not that of accountable and effective institutions.  

However there were a number of contentious issues connected with the Constitutional change i.e. The System of Government, the inclusion of Kadhi Courts in the Constitution, Land Ownership etc. Another of these contentious issues was that of “Majimboism” (Federalism).  Although many proposed Majimboism as a way to a more equitable distribution of resources, opportunities and power others saw in it the danger of bringing about “Ethnic Majimboism”. Many people, looking now at the current crisis, hold that the ODM’s call for Majimboism may have been interpreted, especially by the 60% impoverished Kenyans living on $2 a day, as “Ethnic” Majimboism, through which each ethnic group would be forced to return to their ancestral area.  

In the years leading up to the Constitution Referendum the peoples’ representatives countrywide had worked upon many drafts of the constitution. The final draft, from the Constitution Commission, was known as the “Bomas” draft and although it contained a number of contentious issues, it was popularly held to be a vast improvement on the current Constitution. As various meetings were held, at all levels of society, to end the constitution deadlock, created over a number of contentious issues within the Bomas Draft, the Government suddenly stepped in, held a meeting at Kilifi, modified the then current constitution, made some changes and presented it, through the Attorney General, as the “Kilifi Draft”, to the people through a national Referendum. On November 25, 2005, the NARC Government was heavily defeated in this Constitution Reform Referendum by the newly formed Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) who led their supporters to reject the proposed constitution.  Following the Government defeat of the proposed Draft Constitution President Kibaki reshuffled his Cabinet, replacing Ministers who had voted against the proposed Constitution. Various parties split up forming new alliances i.e. NARC Kenya and ODM Kenya etc while ODM registered their movement as a political party and began to strategize for the coming General Elections forming a leadership team which they called the “PENTAGON.   

Over the last two years, since this time of the defeated Constitution Referendum, there has been powerful and non-stop “General Election” electronic and print--media hype by both parties.  Massive Bill Boards, displaying attractive and many unrealistic Election promises, huge public rallies and gifts of attractive T-Shirts, have attracted huge gatherings of youth, of whom it is estimated that over one and half million are unemployed. 

Although the ODM garnered ninety-nine seats in parliament to PNU forty-three seats, prior to the election three Opinion Poll Counts indicated that there would be a narrow margin between the top two presidential aspirants Raila Odinga (ODM) and President Kibaki (PNU).  Older people were declared to favour the more economically astute, Kibaki, while younger people were declared to favour the more charismatic speaker, Raila Odinga, who promised “CHANGE”.  On December 27, 2007 nearly nine million eligible Kenyans, out of over 14 million registered voters, voted in an unprecedented atmosphere of calm and order.  

However all was not well at a number of voter tallying centres or at the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) Headquarters when some centres failed to send in results on time or had sent in some irregularly signed tallying forms (Form 16A). There were also differences in some totals announced at Constituency sites from those announced by the Electoral Commission of Kenya. The electronic media added to the confusion by announcing the larger proportion of ODM results during the earlier part of the day, giving the impression that ODM had clearly won. When the election results had finally poured in giving Kibaki a narrow lead, celebrations countrywide began to turn into angry riots with ODM claiming that the elections had been rigged and that they were rejecting them. 

The Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) proceeded, amidst televised confusion, to announce the presidential results placing Kibaki of the Party of National Unity (PNU) first with 4,584,721 votes and Raila Odinga, second with 4,352,993 votes, resulting in a difference of 231,728 votes.  Amid threats of growing chaos Kibaki was hurriedly sworn in and given the certificate of President of the Republic of Kenya. 

The latent conflict exploded having been triggered by the above situation.  The irregular behavior of ECK over three days of polling results announcements certainly fuelled suspicion that the results had been rigged in favour of President Kibaki. However coming from a history of election rigging and violence many Kenyans acknowledges that there must have been rigging on both sides, both at the nomination and election stages.  Now as violence continues to replace legal procedures “truth” is daily more deeply covered under the blanket of anger, pain, blame, violence, retaliation and displacement. 

The Raila Odinga led ODM party, strongly backed by the Pentagon leaders, have accused the ECK and PNU of rigging the votes and have consistently called for nationwide protest marches and rallies to demand that “JUSTICE.BE DONE” Meanwhile PNU, and its affiliate parties, have challenged ODM to follow the legal channels if they wish to dispute the results. The ODM party however has refused to recognize the court system, stating that it is corrupt. Thousands of youth, across the country, who were caught up in the elaborate ODM campaign, expressed their deep seated anger when they saw the presidential seat moving from their grasp and have since vented their anger against supporters of PNU by looting, burning, stealing and killings.  These acts of violence were initially aimed at members of the President’s ethnic group (Kikuyu). There has been sufficient evidence collected however to indicate that many youth groups had been trained and/or financed, by certain politicians, to use the pretext of the elections to chase “outsiders” from their land and there has been the re-emergence of outlawed sects such as Nandi Land Defenders, the Mungiki, the Taliban and Baghdad boys etc, who form part of this lawlessness or are taking advantage of it.  

The first two weeks, following the election results, saw thousands of Kenyans, especially Kikuyu, or alleged PNU subscribers, from all parts of the country moving from the areas of violence and conflict to “safe” areas of churches, police stations and stadiums etc where camps were rapidly set up for “Internally Displaced Persons” (IDP).  The initial violence and displacement was immediately followed by similar acts of revenge by the dreaded Mungiki sect (Kikuyu), against the aggressors, which, those who had actually taken up crude arms declared was a means to defend and protect their people and property. Unfortunately many youths, on both sides of the divide, have been forced to join in this conflict.  Naturally, as one would guess, in this situation of chaos, hundreds of other Kenyans, mostly youth, have taken this as the perfect opportunity to loot and burn just for their own advantage or gain. (There have been incidents also of over- reaction and violence perpetrated by the security forces).  Three hundred and fifty thousand Kenyans are now regarded as ‘foreigners’ or internally displaced people (IDPs) in their own country while over 1,000 have been killed. The number we believe is far higher.

Even as post Election violence escalated and took on new aspects daily over the last month, President Kibaki’s PNU party formed a Coalition Government with PNU affiliated parties attracting ODM-Kenya Presidential candidate, Mr. Kalonzo Musyoka, to the office of 9th Vice President of Kenya.  (Mr Musyoka, an Akamba by tribe, came third in the disputed presidential election results). President Kibaki then, having appointed a Cabinet, called for the 1st session of the 10th National Assembly on January 15, 2008, in which Mr. Kenneth Marende was elected Speaker and all Members of Parliament (MPs), elected on various party tickets, including ODM and PNU, were sworn in. 

Although both parties emphasized that Kenyans had spoken through the ballot box and their “will must be respected” a stalemate was reached with PNU remaining adamant that President Kibaki had been duly elected and ODM asserting that President Kibaki had stolen the votes. Currently, with ODM refusing Legal Process, the most immediate way out of this deadlock seems to lie with the former UN Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan who, on January 29, 2008, formed a MEDIATION team, bringing together three ODM and three PNU leaders.  Meanwhile Mr. Kofi Annan has asked all leaders to call off all forms of violence and looting.  In the last week the killing of two ODM Members of Parliament (MPs) opened up a new spate of killings as well as looting and burning countrywide.  President Kibaki, his PNU Government and the ODM fraternity have both condemned the killings and have called on the police to investigate the murder.   

Tension in many areas is still high as killings and destruction of property continues, forcing thousands of people to flee to camps in various parts of the country.  The tremendous outpourings of pleas for peace, the numerous volunteers and the contribution of relief food and goods, from all sectors of society, form another chapter to this story to be told another time.  Meantime we continue to ask for prayers that peace efforts will prevail, especially during this very sensitive time of MEDIATION and that we do not lose hope as we continue to trust in the greater reality of a world filled with love where all tribes and nations live in harmony. 

                                                         God bless Kenya! 


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