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In the last weeks, we have had to close and move a small business, to be reopened at some unknown date, leaving 6 people unemployed. We've also had to relocate several family members. The areas that they were in, east of Nairobi, are being purged of non-Kikuyu by armed gangs.

There are about half a million internally displaced people in Kenya now, and more every day. To explain why I'll follow a timeline through Kenya's history. It is not—cannot be—the entire complex story, but no news program I have seen has even tried this much; I will follow one particular thread.

Nairobi exists because of the Rift Valley, bordered by escarpments to the east and west. The British were building a railroad line from the coast at Mombasa to Kampala, and came to a stop here, while working out how to engineer the line across. From the top of the east escarpment to the floor is a vertical mile ...

As they colonized, they seized huge tracts of land from the tribes, forcing the people to work as labourers and to pay taxes. A large of the arable land usable as plantations was confiscated in this way. Notably, large parts of the land of the Kalenjin, Luhya, Luo, Massai, and others in Rift Valley and Western.

In 1963, Kenya gained independence, and the British made serious efforts to compensate the landowners, transferring the land to the new government for redistribution. Did it go to the tribes it was taken from? The government of Jomo Kenyatta, a Kikuyu, distributed the land to political cronies, other Kikuyus, and kept a large part for himself. His son, Uhuru Kenyatta, is commonly believed to own a quarter of the arable land in Kenya; this is probably somewhat exaggerated.

Forward to 1991; KANU (the party of Jomo Kenyatta and then Uhuru Kenyatta, and President Moi) has firmly maintained a single party system since independence. A new party, FORD (Forum for the Restoration of Democracy) has been formed, counting among its founders Jaramogi Odinga Odinga. On December 3rd, a KANU delegates conference meets to discuss permitting the registration of other political parties. One of the delegates, former Vice President Mwai Kibaki, argues that ending the single party monopoly would destroy Kenya: "akin to cutting a fig tree with a razor blade".

However, President Moi announced his attention to repeal section 2A, and Parliament quickly approved. Ford was registered on December 31st. Within a few days, Kibaki resigned his ministerial position in the Moi government, on the pretext that the 1988 elections had been rigged, and formed the DP (Democratic Party).

In 2002, President Moi reaches the term limits he agreed to in reform in 1992, and KANU contests the elections with Uhuru Kenyatta as its candidate. The other parties (including FORD), form NARC (National Rainbow Coalition) to present a united opposition, for the best chance of winning. Since the they also know that almost all the Kikuyu vote will go to a Kikuyu candidate, they decide to split that vote by choosing a Kikuyu of their own: Mwai Kibaki.

Forward again, 2007; Raila Odinga (son of Odinga Odinga), now in ODM (the Orange Democratic Movement) contests the presidential election. Kibaki forms PNU (Party of National Unity), to try to build a coalition for re-election. Both do well, and there is a serious contest. On election day, December 27th, ODM captures 92 seats (of 210) in Parliament, with PNU losing ground. (80% of the incumbents were replaced, an impressive result.)

The ECK in Nairobi reported the results from the first 180 constituencies, both parliamentary and presidential, without serious incident. By Friday night (election day+1), Raila led by 800,000 votes; a lead that was statistically insurmountable. (US election observers will be familiar this idea, but in Kenya even the TV news wasn't making predictions.)

Then the ECK locked the EU observers out of the counting room, and for two days reported parliamentary results without the corresponding presidentials; the totals should match, but no-one could compare them. On Sunday there was a power outage local to the convention center, then all press was expelled, and the ECK reported "results" giving Kibaki a 200 thousand vote win.

Note that this result is not "disputed" as various diplomats and news reports would have you believe. It is not possible. Not by any stretch. It requires that seven hundred thousand more votes were cast in the presidential than in the parliamentaries. This is not possible, voters are not permitted to vote in one and walk away with the other ballot. Each goes in its own box. You can blank a ballot, but that is counted (as spoilt/other).

All of which was perfectly obvious to all Kenyans as they watched Kibaki swear himself in for a second term. We all know how the voting works.

Which brings us back to the land. The immediate reaction in Western and the Rift Valley was to push Kikuyus out. Off of the land that had been stolen, either long ago or recently, even off of land legitimately purchased, as the Kikuku have never permitted anyone from any other tribe to buy land in Central.

The Mungiki, a Kikuyu criminal gang that is permitted to operate with impunity by the Kibaki government, then began more or less systematically purging non-Kikuyu from areas they felt they should control, usually where they were a majority already. (Towns in the Rift Valley such as Nakuru, areas around Nairobi.)

Had Kibaki won legitimately, or had the counting been reported properly, and Raila won, none of this would have happened. One or the other large group would have been disappointed, but the overall feeling would be just as good as the day before the election, in which everyone was excited, whatever the outcome might be.

You see, in 2002, all Kenyans were able to vote. And the vote counted.

Originally posted to Robert Ullmann on Mon Feb 04, 2008 at 02:08 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  notes, sources (15+ / 0-)


    Andrew Morton: Moi, the Making of an African Statesman,  1998

    Babafemi A. Badejo: Raila Odinga: An Enigma in Kenyan politics, 2006

    KTN and NTV news broadcasts

    personal conversations with EU observers and several MPs; personal knowledge.

    We were so happy in 2002, with such hopes, and expected the same. To be destroyed by one person who had been in government since 1963, and just can't let go, even if it means tearing down everything he accomplished in 44 years. Sic transit ...

    -- Robert Ullmann, Nairobi

  •  the foolish... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NCrefugee, dogemperor

    ...policy of segmenting loosely defined social groups into harden differenciations by colonial governments in order to in essence divide and conquer has led to no end of troubles it seems in many different places, hopefully as the generations pass it can be reversed and the attitudes will soften once more as long as power brokers are preventd from taking up the colonial mantle in their style of governing

  •  I'm wondering if the Wakamba are being drawn in (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama, dogemperor

    to the conflict.

    I haven't heard of violence in Eastern Kenya, but I don't know.  And I'm wondering how the tearing up of the railroad and the severing of power and phone lines is effecting the rest of the country.

    I'm also interested in the Kikuyu area around Limuru, north of Nairobi.

    These are for personal reasons.

  •  fantastic diary -- we cannot ignore africa (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama, dogemperor

    Thank you for this diary.

  •  Tyranny is on the march (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  While I know little about Kenya (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave, Wee Mama, annan, dogemperor

    I am so glad someone made the attempt to educate us and return this site to the broad source of information it once was!

  •  Thanks for the history - so sorry that Kenya (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave, dogemperor

    is having to endure this. I hope a better way opens up for everyone soon.

  •  This is the strongest (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dogemperor, Coherent Viewpoint

    most clearly articulated summary to explain the current Kenyan crisis that I have read to date. This is a story (Kenyan elections) I have been following since it began (December 27th, 2007). It fills the black hole of information that is curiously missing from all mainstream news reports, namely that it is impossible for the declared winner to have captured enough votes to overcome the deficit. It also demonstrates the importance of independent observers (european union, others beyond reproach) who promptly reported the lack of credibility of the election results (unfortunately without using stronger language; diplomatic speak however left no one in doubt that the president had actually lost the election convincingly).

    Clearly a cynical decision was taken to win at all costs by someone. Leaders are calling out for "peace", without calling for accountability. The president is in control of all the tools of government. All. It strains credulity that a head of state can claim ignorance of malfeasance that directly benefits him. Note that there has been no military takeover in Kenya. This is the level to which people believe in democracy and its structures.

    Violence is never an answer. Before I go any further, I have to be clear that I cannot abide violence towards me, so I cannot abide it to my fellow human beings. Yet it erupts spontaneously sometimes. Usually when one feels that an action is driven by contempt for people by the perpetrator. Perhaps the best way to see it is like the Rodney King incident of riots in Los Angeles that highlighted the "police brutality" question that victims had been singing to the high heavens, to no avail apparently. So stuff happened, and etc, etc. I don't know if there was a lasting legacy because NY cops shot a guy 41 times 15 years later, etc, etc, another one (Dialu?) was forcefully wedded to, and pleasured by a plunger and so on. However

    Another path, and a very dramatic one to justice has been achieved, without resorting to violence. This is exemplified  in the death penalty cases that have resulted in a moratorium on executions in Illinois (republican governor) and removal (or whatever the legalese term is) of the death penalty in New Jersey.

    Guess who was the driving force? A bunch of college kids in Illinois who took up investigations as part of a class project. Imagine, college kids! All the highly regarded professionals, titans of jurisprudence, pillars (panders?) of society alike were taken on by, and defeated by, college kids.

    Make no mistake though; it took a republican governor to finally stick his neck out and side with true justice (the kids). It also took a professor who gave the kids class project in the first place. But damn, how about them kids, hey!

    None of this would have ever happened if America wasn't what it was, made those kids believe getting it right is getting it right. There is such a thing as American values,and it is the capacity to right a wrong.

    Any Obamaniacs reading this should immediately get what I am saying: "Yes we can" is not loose mouthing off. Ask the Illinois death penalty kids (who are probably now "Yes We Did"  pillars of society stuck with mortgage crisis blues and war on terror "victories", but I digress).

    Yes they did. And the whole nation is better off for it.
    Of course America is still a little crazy, in so far as the attitude is still "We are gonna fry the mother fxxxxx's, but we gotta mek sure we fry the riht one."

    The death penalty thing in Illinois and NJ is a true victory and it didn't come from up top. But you do need the riht leader up top to deliver the final blow to injustice. You need to be right on day one.

    Kenyans are fighting for the right leader up top. And they sure as hell do not have the luxury of an x- (x = 1-4, depending on who you ask) trillion dollar plus half to one million lives lost iraq type experiment to figure out that something "ain't right" up top.

    The right leader (professor) got the Illinois kids pointed in the right direction (I believe it was an investigative journalism class), and the right leader signed the papers that commuted death sentences in Illinois (republican governor) and the right leader signed NJs death penalty away.

    Is America (or the struggle of the people therein) really that different from Kenya?

    The US state department has withdrawn its congratulatory message to the Kenyan president, but they haven't really said why. With this excellent diary, we are beginning to see why.

    Another point to be made about justice: One usually seeks it from the court of law. The death penalty moratorium was legal, but extra-judicial. Nor could the legal branch have ever righted the wrong about wrongful conviction. In legalese speak " As long as the trial met the standards of being fair and impartial, and was to wit procedurally correct, therefore the sentence stands because society carried out the exercise in impeccable fashion". What it means is that the ultimate question of truth is irrelevant to the administration of justice in the legal realm. It requires another authority to right the wrong (i.e. the question of truth). In this case a bunch of kids, and the right elected leader came and got the story right.

    Another aside: The leader gets to pick the judges. do you wonder why some people cannot submit themselves to the judicial system? The Kenyan opposition has refused to take their case to court in Kenya. Anybody who might question why only needs to think back to the year 2000, Kathrine Harris, voter supression, Jeb, Florida vote, supreme court verdict, etc etc. And to quote from movie Lord of War "your supreme court of kangaroos". 'Nuff said.

    Kossacks or is it  kossites?? (dogs, homies, peeps, people, babes, dudes, fellas, guys, citizens, womwn womyn(gocha), men, whatever), fire up yourselves and your posses and make sure you pick the right leader: Peoples lives here and everywhere depend on it.

    I talk too much and thank you all for the time.

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