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.