Posts Tagged ‘CORD’

It’s 8 O’clock on Monday morning when I start putting this piece together. A little happier than I have been about Mondays in the recent past – happy because today there will be no street protests in my city, Kisumu.

Mondays have been marked with street protests called by Kenya’s opposition coalition CORD over electoral reforms ahead of the 2017 presidential elections. Though the protests were meant to be peaceful, they have resulted in the death of five people, several injuries caused by bullet wounds, loss of billions of shillings due to closed businesses during the protests and destruction of property.

It does not end there.

The street protests being championed by the opposition coalition have renewed the deep rooted ethnic animosity between some of Kenya’s largest tribes. In the run up to the stolen 2007 presidential election, political animosity pitted the Kikuyu (who mainly supported President Kibaki’s PNU at that time) against the Luo and Kalenjin (who supported ODM leader Raila Odinga). Today the Kikuyu and Kalenjin are together in the ruling Jubilee Coalition while the Luo and several other tribes make up the CORD coalition under the leadership of Mr. Odinga.

The rivalry between the Luo and Kikuyu is something that has been exploited by politicians for their own political gain and it dates back to the immediate post-election period when Kenya’s founding President Jommo Kenyatta (father to Kenya’s current President) allegedly betrayed a pre-independence MoU with Jaramogi Oginga Odinga (father to CORD’s Mr. Odinga). The rivalry would become amplified when Kenyatta fired Jaramogi as his Vice President in 1966.

This political rivalry was revived in 2005 after a short stint in which the two communities were in power together and successfully defeated former President Daniel arap Moi’s KANU candidate (Uhuru Kenyatta). The relationship between the Luo and Kikuyu would take a nose dive over another alleged betrayal of an pre-election MoU between former President Kibaki and Mr. Odinga.

The political campaigns in the run-up to the 2007 elections would ignite the ethnic mistrust between three communities; the Luo and Kalenjin on one side and the Kikuyu on the other side. The Luo and Kalenjin would accuse the Kikuyu of being responsible for all their economic problems.

When the election results were disputed, the ODM Party would immediately call for mass protests that quickly degenerated into full-blown ethnic conflicts that led to the death of more than 1,300 people and the displacement of about another half a million people.

Before it got that bad, there were the reckless political statements that incited communities against each other. There was the planning. The mass action called by the opposition (whose victory was stolen) provided a conducive environment to execute.

After a supposed resolution of the conflict following international interventions under the leadership of Dr. Koffi Anan, cases against those thought to be most culpable began at the ICC. One by one the cases were dismissed until no one is currently facing charges.

This has been interpreted back in Kenya as :”people can get away with these crimes.”

Fast forward to today, the war drums similar to those that were beating in 2007 have started beating again. Last night I watched two videos that were sent to me via social media. In one of the videos a Kikuyu politician  is heard proposing the shooting dead of opposition leader Raila Odinga and adding that, “the Luo will throw stones for a week and then move on.”

That statement has sparked angry responses, most coming from the Luo community who are also demanding action against the said politician. One of the reactions I read goes:

” I put it to you MK and those who share your caustic tongue that if Raila is ASSASSINATED, Luos will not DEMONSTRATE. They will FIGHT! An all out war of HONOUR!”

Another politician at the same function called for the mass circumcision of Luos (Luos are one of the few African communities that do not circumcise their men). What should worry anybody about that statement is the fact that forced circumcision was one of the ways in which Luos who were living in predominantly Kikuyu regions were tortured during the 2007/2008 post election violence.

My examples might have revolved around statements from Kikuyu politicians because that is what triggered this post but for the sake of being fair it is worth noting that even the tribes on the opposing camps have made extremely dangerous statements as well.

One comment on Twitter aptly describes my feeling about this whole conversation though:

You see, politicians can only get away with this because their supporters allow them to. They cheer them on because deep down that is what our society is.

These statements are coming as the CORD coalition intensifies it’s push for electoral reforms through mass protests and just months to the 2017 general elections. Kenya is at cross-roads and even though the situation is calm today, the volatility can be felt in the air.

After 2007/8 we said “never again” but it looks like we forgot too fast. Maybe because we never really saw someone pay dearly for their actions – on that we blame the ICC.

This post was written for – a network of African Politics bloggers.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration has since inception tried to limit the freedoms Kenyans fought for, died for and eventually enshrined on their supreme law which is the Kenyan Constitution.

These attempts were first legal in nature  but are of late taking a very dangerous turn. It started with an attempt to curtail media freedoms enshrined in Article 33 and 34 of the Kenyan Constitution. This was in the form of Security Amendment Bill that was passed by parliament in December 2015 and signed into law by Kenyatta. It took the courts to restore these fundamental freedoms to the Kenyan public who are either journalists or media consumers.

Then bloggers and social media commentators were frequent guests of the state charged under section 28 of the Kenya Information and Communications Act 2013 with the offense of “misuse of a licensed telecommunication equipment.” 2015 saw seven people charged under this law. In January 2016 alone, 17 people were arrested charged with this offense before the courts declared this law inconsistent with provisions of the bill of rights in the Kenyan constitution.

(My colleagues and I from the Africa Blogging network had a lengthy discussion about social media freedoms in Africa during the Republica 2016 conference in Berlin two weeks ago, watch the video bellow.)

Two weeks ago, businessman Jacob Juma was shot dead in what looked like a well planned attack on one of the ruling government’s harshest critic. Juma openly spoke about corruption in Uhuru’s government and had on several occasions called out key government officials including the Deputy President for allegedly involving himself in corrupt practices.

Juma’s death still remains unresolved even as evidence disputes the theories propelled by police about the events leading up to and after his death.

Yesterday though was the saddest day in Kenya’s recent history as police resorted to the use of excessive force to disperse peaceful protesters as shown in the photos bellow.


Bernard Ngatia from Ndumberi, Kiambu County succumbed to his injuries this morning. PHOTO: Associated Press

In the above photos, you can actually see that all the victims had severe head injuries with some of the photos capturing police aiming at the heads of the protesters. Is this how police are supposed to disperse demonstrators? Was it necessary to hit the victims in the head? What were the orders?

These images are a stark reminder of the Moi era when freedom of expression was not guaranteed. It’s the excesses of that administration that led to Kenyans enshrining these fundamental freedoms in their constitution.

Article 37 of that constitution states: ” Every person has the right, peaceably and unarmed,  to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities.”

These and many other demonstrators who were viciously attacked were demonstrating seeking an overhaul of the electoral commission ahead of the 2017 general elections. They were within their civil rights which were then violated by police officers across the country.

The listed events points to a pattern of an administration that is keen on curtailing basic freedoms. Freedoms that those currently in power did not fight for. Neither Uhuru Kenyatta nor his deputy William Ruto ever spent a night in police custody as a result of fighting for these rights; they do not understand what it cost Kenyans to achieve them.

Under their administration they have supervised the subversion of these fundamental rights that the Kenyan public gave themselves. These rights must be guarded jealously because our lives literally depends on it. It’s either that or a trip back to Moi’s dark days.

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