I have been trying to get a grasp on the recent violence that is occurring in Kenya. The number of deaths is approaching 1000 as UN peacekeepers struggle to stabilize the region. This quote summed up what sounds like the most accurate description of what is happening in Kenya:
“But the real tragedy of Kenya, is that the political conflict is not about alternative political programmes that could address … landlessness, low wages, unemployment, lack of shelter, inadequate incomes, homelessness, etc. … [instead] it boils down to a fight over who has access to the honey pot that is the state. …[citizens] are reduced to being just being fodder for the pigs fighting over the trough.”
This is a sad state of affairs. In the January 6th Washington Post article by Carline Elkins,What’s Tearing Kenya Apart? History, for One Thing. Elkins summarizes neatly the current situation. Elkins writes:
Now Kenya, too, appears to be on the brink. The East African country — widely seen as a model of economic and democratic progress since 2002, when the 24-year dictatorship of Daniel arap Moi was swept aside — has been moving toward an ethnically charged civil war since a disputed election on Dec. 27. President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of a second term after a vote that opposition candidate Raila Odinga denounces as rigged and that European Union observers agree was seriously flawed. As tens of thousands of Kenyans flee their homes and hundreds lie dead, part of the blame rests with Britain and its imperial legacy.The immediate cause of the crisis was Kenya’s delicate ethnic balance. The incumbent president, Kibaki, is a member of Kenya’s largest and probably most powerful ethnic group, the Kikuyu, who total about 22 percent of the population; his rival, Odinga, is a member of the Luo, who comprise some 13 percent of the populace and live predominantly in western Kenya. In their bitter contest, in which Odinga promised to end ethnic favoritism and spread the country’s wealth more equitably, ethnicity was the deciding factor, and a marred victory on either side had always been likely to spark violence. Both men are rich, elitist African politicians who have far more in common with each other than they do with their supporters; in their struggle over power, both are using their followers as proxies in a smoldering war. Still, Odinga has a real point about vote tampering; the chief of the E.U. election monitoring mission said that his officials had been turned away from the central vote-counting room in Nairobi, and even Kibaki’s hand-picked head of Kenya’s electoral commission, Samuel Kivuitu, told reporters that he did “not know whether Kibaki won the election.”
Elkin goes on to give an account of Kenya’s history and shows how today’s issues were born during the colonial era. I strongly recommend reading this piece. She ends by writing:
Fears of ethnic ascendancies, power-hungry political elites, undemocratic processes and institutions — all are hallmarks of today’s Kenya, just as they were during British colonial rule. This does not excuse the undemocratic behavior of the current Kenyan president, nor that of his opponent Odinga, both of whom are bent on seizing power and neither of whom is necessarily a true voice of the masses. Nor does it excuse the horrific violence that has unfolded throughout the country or the appalling atrocities committed by individual Kenyans. Rather, it suggests that the undemocratic historical trajectory that Kenya has been moving along was launched at the inception of British colonial rule more than a century ago. It’s not hard to discern similar patterns — deliberately stoked ethnic tensions, power-hungry elites, feeble democratic traditions and institutions — in other former British colonies such as Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Iraq that share similar imperial pasts. In retrospect, the wonder is not that Kenya is descending into ethnic violence. The wonder is that it didn’t happen sooner.
I see this, and so much of the conflict around the world, as the result of Western colonial and imperial history. I’m sure tribes in Africa, and around the world, have been engaged in warfare long before Western colonial powers landed on their turf, but the manner in which the Earth’s surface has been chopped up into International Nations with guarded boarders and people been forced away from traditional methods of power sharing and forced into a governing systems based on purely Western ideals has caused untold suffering to the human race.Aside from the underlying historical reasons for this crisis, the question now is how to stop the violence and bring a peace to the region that everyone is happy with. One article in the Christian Science Monitor titled, Kenya Vows Tougher Crackdown states:
The police are using tactics adopted by the British colonial police before independence, claims Mr. Kiai, using maximum force to crush any opposition.Yet, despite concerns that increasing government force could exacerbate the crisis, other African leaders at this week’s AU summit called for tougher action to stop the violence in Kenya.Rwandan President Paul Kagame told the Reuters news agency that Kenya’s Army might have to take over before things get worse. “I know that it is not fashionable and right for the armies to get involved in such a political situation,” he said. “But in situations where institutions have lost control, I wouldn’t mind such a solution.”Observers at the summit said the AU was becoming more serious about its role in tackling the continent’s problems.
I believe the African Union (AU) must become more serious about tackling the nation’s problems. African nations need to overcome the compartmentalization left by the colonial rulers and form a creditable and powerful union that is responsible for the lives of all Africans.This letter to the editor, titled, Kenya’s Caugh is E. Africa’s Cold, states:
The upheaval in Kenya has instilled fear and insecurity in the neighbouring countries. Kenya has, for the better part of the post-colonial Africa, been a disciplined, peaceful and restrained nation and despite many contradictions.
It has been agreed that in order for to find a long lasting solution to the current violnece changes in the constitution are needed. In CSM’s article, How Can Kenya Avoid Ethnic War it is stated that:
the only way to tackle tribalism is by creating a Constitution that gives a place to each community. Ethnic identity has always been a factor in Kenya’s culture – and indeed in developed countries of the West. But the influence of ethnicity will diminish over time, they argue, when Kenyans see that their nation’s laws are more fair, that economic opportunities are evenly distributed, that their government is more even-handed and responsive, and that those who commit crimes at election time are prosecuted, no matter what tribe they belong to.
I hope that Kenyans, the African Union and the United Nations are able to bring lasting peace to Kenya and the rest of the world’s innocent victims that have been targeted by colonial and imperial powers that suck them dry of their capital, divide them up and leave them to sort out the mess on their own.