Pambazuka News 340: Violence in Kenya must stop now
- Dear Friends,
Excellent issue of Pambazuka, and I will contact Firoze abt our POP, as I
know him! They have a large readership and can give us some great
exposure, so hope they will! Janet
----- Original Message -----
From: "Firoze Manji" <fmanji@...>
Sent: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 1:43 AM
Subject: Pambazuka News 340: Violence in Kenya must stop now
PAMBAZUKA NEWS 340: THE VIOLENCE IN KENYA MUST STOP NOW
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Pan-African Postcard, 5. Books and arts, 6. African Writers Corner
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Highlights from this issue
EDITORS CORNER: The Violence Must Stop Now
FEATURE: Women’s Memorandum to the Mediation Team
COMMENT & ANALYSIS:
- Statement on Kenya by Senator Barrack Obama
- Ali Mazrui and David Ohito on Kenyan violence
- All Africa Conference of Churches on the post-election crisis
PAN-AFRICAN POSTCARD: Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem on Sudan and the AU Chair
AFRICAN WRITER'S CORNER: Poem by Mshairi
BOOKS AND ARTS: Review of Fahamu’s “From Slave Trade to Free Trade.”
1 Editors corner
THE VIOLENCE IN KENYA MUST STOP NOW
Firoze Manji and Mukoma Wa Ngugi
Each people at some point in history are threatened by great social
upheaval. It is usually an accumulation of smaller events, seen and
ignored, an accumulation of injustices that erupt at that present
moment - a delayed consequence from history.
Whether a nation plunges into bloodshed depends on the leadership and
whether they have the political imagination to deal with history that
has caught up with their present times.
So in the France of the 18th Century, the revolutionary leadership
answered the civil war with the guillotine. In Rwanda the answer was
the genocidaires machete and the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s gun. In
the Congo, at the cost of over six million lives since 1994, the
issue has as yet to be settled.
Kenya finds itself in such a decisive moment - the slide to a civil
war along ethnic lines is in motion, but it has not yet accelerated
to catch with up Rwanda - or indeed Bosnia and Serbia where ethnic
‘cleansing’ of populations was carried out. But the violence is
getting a furious rhythm of revenge and counter revenge.
The small window history had left us, of past cooperation and anti-
colonial resistance across ethnic lines, is closing fast.
Reports and documents we have received here at Pambazuka News
indicate that the Gikuyu community is being galvanized, ostensibly to
defend the Gikuyu community. At least two documents are currently
circulating in Kenya and amongst the Kenyan diaspora that can be
described only as hate literature.
One purporting to be the declaration of 500 supporters of GEMA in the
UK incites Kikuyus to provide funds for the ‘war’. “… if you don't
join and register at this crucial time you are of no use to the
community,” they threaten. Another document, purporting to come from
the ‘The Thagicu Renaissance Movement’ names a host of human rights
activists – including the head of the Kenyan National Commission for
Human Rights – as ‘traitors’.
In their turn, a hate statement of a similar kind has been published
by a group calling themselves ‘Kalenjin Online’ (http://
kalenjin.html) state “We shall defend ourselves and our interests to
the bitter end. If they [the Kikuyu] want to bring clashes to
Nairobi, they can go ahead. They will regret why they ever started it
in the first place. We urge our people to ensure that every family is
fully equipped with our normal tools; if we can afford, ferry two
warriors from upcountry fully armed and house them until we have this
thing sorted out.” We have little doubt that similar hate literature
from the Luo and other communities is also in circulation.
The intention of such groups is to stir up hatred and raise finances
to support the carnage that has been perpetrated by the organized
armed militia in several parts of the country. The western media –
especially the BBC – has sought to portray this as ‘tribal violence’,
neatly side-stepping the need to assess the political motives of who
is behind the armed militia, who benefits from creating a climate of
fear and distrust, and who are behind the distribution of the hate
literature that is currently circulating from all sides.
But these are not ethnic clashes. These are acts of violence that are
perpetrated by those who, devoid of any political solution to the
crisis, reach for the ethnic card. But it isn’t all Kikuyus, or all
Luos or all Kalenjins who have robbed others of their land or carried
out massacres on each other. These crimes have been perpetrated by a
minority who have reaped the fruits of land grabbing. This is no land
reform program, but rather the incitement of hatred for political
ends, and to allow a small elite to benefit. The fruits of Uhuru have
long been enjoyed by that minority
But in the present crisis, nobody will win – not even the rich who so
far have been spared from the bloodshed. But as in all conflicts, it
is the poor who will do the killing and the dying.
One would expect leaders worth their people’s mandate to be using
this space between ethnic killings and a full fledged civil war to
provide a clear vision for the way forward and to speak to and beyond
their immediate constituencies. But both Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga
have hesitated instead of acting decisively, placing their self-
interest before that of millions of their constituents. They have
sought to use the crisis to maneuver better positions at the
negotiation table. Both have been found wanting. Both claim victory
in the presidential elections when it is abundantly clear that no one
will ever know what the real result was.
If peace is to be restored, there is an urgent need for the militia
to be forcibly disarmed. There is an urgent need for the GSU to be
pulled off the streets, and for the police to be restrained from
acting judge, jury and executioner with impunity. There is an urgent
need to bring to justice those responsible for human rights
violations. Lifting the ban on live media coverage is vital so that
all citizens can know what is happening in the country.
And those responsible for the circulation of materials that incite
ethnic hatred and conflict through hate radio; print media or the
Internet should be immediately arrested and prosecuted. If either PNU
or ODM were serious about the interests of the citizens of Kenya,
these would be their immediate priorities. They would agree to the
immediate formation of an interim government that would oversee the
return to peace, disarming and bringing to account all those
responsible for the crimes and carnage witnessed over the last month.
But who will make them do this? Have we reached a level of
humiliation that we are to be dependent on an outside force to
intervene to sort out our mess?
It is clear that the interests of citizens, whatever their political
or other affiliations, are far from the minds of the leadership of
PNU or ODM or any other of the ‘paper parties’. Citizens cannot stand
by idle waiting for divine inspiration to hit the skulls of the
leaders. It is time that the voices of citizens are heard. Are we
going to sit watching while the carnage continues? We face a
challenge: if our so-called leaders are unable to point the way
forward for a solution, then isn’t it time that we found a way to
discuss, debate and achieve consensus on what future we want? We did
so at the Bomas conference. We can do so again.
And that brings us to those many of us citizens in the diaspora - in
Europe, USA and elsewhere. Are we going to add to the carnage by
supporting those who have been circulating the kind of hate mail
referred to above? Citizens in the diaspora have a critical role to
play: we have duty of solidarity for all Kenyans, irrespective of
their political beliefs, origins, cultural identity or creed.
Our solidarity has to go out to those who have been injured, who have
been evicted from their homes violently or who have fled in fear, to
those families who have lost members of their families. We must
vociferously oppose those amongst us who are seeking to divide us.
Our distance from vortex of the crisis should allow us to think about
constructive ways forward that are built on a respect for human
dignity and justice for all. We can play a role in bringing peace
through justice and truth. Or we can add to the spiral into civil war.
To the international community and media, we say that you need to
first and foremost understand that massacres against the Gikuyu, the
Luo, the Kalenjin and others are politically motivated and pre-
meditated acts of violence and terror. We have to name the problem
correctly if we are to counter it. Calling the violence 'tribal
clashes' only lends credibility to the genocadaires and gives their
propaganda mileage. It sends the message to the aggrieved on all
sides that there will be, and can be, no justice. It only strengthens
the hands those who want to stir ethnic hatred for political ends.
If we are to move ahead, we have to proclaim out loud: WE ARE ALL
KENYANS. AND THE FUTURE BELONGS EQUALLY TO ALL OF US!
* Firoze Manji and Mukoma Wa Ngugi are Pambazuka News editors.
* Please send comments to editor@... or comment online at
WOMEN’S MEMORANDUM TO THE MEDIATION TEAM
Serena Hotel, Nairobi, January 25, 2008
Kenyan Women's Consultation Group on the Current Crisis in Kenya
Your Excellency Kofi Annan
Your Excellency Graça Machel
Your Excellency Benjamin Mkapa
We thank Your Excellencies for the opportunity to address this forum.
We make this presentation on behalf of Kenyan women who have been
meeting in Nairobi over the last two weeks. Action Aid International,
Vital Voices, UNIFEM, Nairobi Peace Initiative and Urgent Action Fund-
Africa have facilitated the consultations. A committee of 11 women
present here, represents the larger group.
Kenyan women assert their rights as citizens of this country to
participate in all political processes and initiatives that seek to
find solutions to the crisis that currently that our beloved
motherland faces. We are mindful of our special responsibilities in
all the spheres of nation building including truth & justice seeking,
peacebuilding and reconciliation. We embrace all our diversities as
we collectively seek solutions. We acknowledge that in the resolution
of the current conflict, there has to be ‘give and take’ from both
sides of the political divide. We assert that as citizens we must
take responsibility for resolving and transforming the conflict and
the inclusion and participation of civic groups, including women’s
groups at the community level is critical to the success of efforts
to resolve the conflict.
The important role of women’s participation in the prevention and
resolution of conflicts is reaffirmed in The Constitutive Act of the
African Union, The AU’s Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality, The
Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of women in Africa, The
African Charter on the Rights and welfare often Child, and by United
Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. The resolution stresses the
importance of women’s equal participation and involvement in all
efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, and
the need to increase their role in decision –making with regard to
The UN Resolution 1325 further calls on all actors involved, when
negotiating and implementing peace agreements, to adopt a gender
perspective, including, inter alia
a) The special needs of women and girls during repatriation and
resettlement and for rehabilitation, reintegration and post conflict
b) Measures that support local women’s peace initiatives and
indigenous processes for conflict resolution, and that involve women
in all of the implementation mechanisms of the peace process.
c) Measures that ensure the protection of and respect for human
rights of women and girls, particularly as they relate to the
constitution, the electoral system, the police and the judiciary;
All these instruments recognise the centrality of women to the
development of democracy and democratic institutions and the
importance of their participation at every level, and in every
process. Women are central actors and ‘right holders’ in any process
that addresses sustainable development, security and human rights.
During this crisis, Kenyan women have been at the forefront in
community peace building and mediation efforts in the North Rift and
Is there a conflict? What are The Facts?
A political crisis has engulfed the country following the
announcement of presidential results on December 30, 2007.There are
allegations of a flawed tallying process by the electoral
commission , hence the dispute as to who the actual winner of the
presidential vote was. As a consequence, violent conflict broke out
in many parts of Kenya from December 30, 2008 and continues to this
day. This conflict is expressed in the following ways:
1. Spontaneous and organised demonstrations against the ECK and the
2. Killings that have so far claimed the lives of over 700 Kenyans.
These killings are by a) extra judicial executions by the police of
targeted communities and demonstrators. b) Militia executions,
torture and mutilations of civilians targeted at particular ethnic
communities (these include forced circumcisions & castrations) and c)
by ordinary citizens
3. Criminal conduct by citizens looting, burning and destruction of
private and public property.
4. Increased sexual violence against women and children.
5. Suspension of constitutional freedoms including the freedom of
conscience, assembly and worship.
6. Violation on the rights of the media and right to information by a
ban on media broadcasting of live events.
7. Ethnic and politically instigated evictions of populations of
certain communities from their properties resulting in large numbers
of internally displaced Kenyans ( approximately 260,000)
8. Ethnically instigated employment displacement of workers in
certain regions (tea peckers in Kericho) and eviction rental properties.
This situation has resulted in:
- A breakdown in the rule of law and a lack of confidence in
institutions of law and order.
- Breakdown of social relationships and trust among Kenyan
Communities and an exacerbation of existing ethnic tensions.
- Human insecurity (including food insecurity).
- Continued systematic and widespread violation of human rights and a
lack of respect for the sanctity of life.
- Proliferation of propaganda by all parties including the state and
an increase in hate media on all media (FM stations -in particular
vernacular FM stations, print, electronic and new media -text
messaging, email, internet) that demonises particular communities.
What are the gender dimensions of the conflict?
Institutionalised discrimination against women even before the
current violence broke out has informed the expression on gender-
based violence. Discriminatory laws sanction marginalisation and
exclusion of women. Despite a 2006 presidential decree for a 30%
inclusion of women in public institutions, there is no constitutional
provision or law providing for affirmative action.
Rapes and sexual violence on women and children has reportedly
increased. Statistics from the Nairobi Women’s Hospital show a steep
increase in admission and treatment for rape. Majority of the new
cases since January 1 2008 are of victims of gang rapes. Increased
exposure to HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases.
High levels of poverty and landlessness affect women disproportionately.
Humanitarian Relief Aid
The majority of displaced are women and children. Humanitarian Relief
kits often fail to take account of the needs of women and children.
There exists a gap in the provision of Sanitary towels, infant mix
and Mosquito nets. Sanitation and hygiene needs of women in the camps
Security in the camps and troubled areas is insufficient. Threats of
gender specific attacks against women are high.
People living with HIV/AIDS have had their treatment interrupted;
Provision of Health services has been compromised. Access to PEP’s
and immediate medical care fro rape victims’ non-existent. The
closure of certain areas by security personnel has locked in
populations from accessing health facilities.
Recommendations on the resolving the Crisis
A political solution backed by force of law that assures the following:
- An immediate end to the killings.
- A public acknowledgement by both parties that the current crisis
was triggered by electoral malpractices in the tallying process that
culminated with the announcement of results of the presidential
election of December 2007.
- An acknowledgement that Kenyans are entitled to know the truth and
to seek justice over the issue having participated in the electoral
process. The problem (and solution to it) is beyond the two political
protagonists. Women as a group constitute 52% of Kenya’s population
and the majority of voters and those most affected by the current
- An independent investigation into the trigger event to establish
the truth of what happened: the outcome of which should be tailored
to establishing a political solution to the current impasse and
restoring public confidence in Kenya’s institutions of democracy. Any
agreement should be backed by force of law and ensure women’s
participation as key actors.
- Immediate reinstatement of constitutional freedoms – the right to
assemble, right to worship, right of media to broadcast live events.
Citizens have a right to assert their constitutional rights without
- Cessation of violence against civilians by the police, militia and
- Immediate cessation of hate propaganda currently on all media (by
Legislation or administrative action).
- Resettlement: should take account of the special needs of women and
children displaced by the violence. State should provide security for
the civilian population.
- End to impunity for violations of human rights (by all parties) by
investigating crimes that are being committed and prosecuting
- Strengthening of institutions that support democratic
constitutional governance (The Electoral Commission, the Judiciary,
the Anti Corruption agencies and Parliament). This can be done
through immediate legislative reform pending comprehensive
Medium and long term –Nation Building
Women acknowledge that they must embark on a process of Nation
building for sustainable peace to be achieved. Important mid-term
solutions include the following: The times call for Women of Kenya
call fro transformative leadership at this time that brings values
and ethics to the management of public affairs
- A minimum constitutional settlement and reform that would ensure an
urgent reform of institutions that support a constitutional democracy
grounded on sound legal framework followed by ;
- Comprehensive Constitutional Reform that would ensure equitable
distribution of national resources, gender equality, affirmative
action, equal rights for minorities and persons with disabilities
including rights political participation. .
- Transitional Justice mechanisms that deal with the question of
historical injustices that include gross human rights violations,
massacre, assassinations, economic crimes and corruption , ethnic and
political clashes .establishment a historical record, confronting and
gaining truth about past injustices, creating accountability for
human rights violations and ultimately reconciling Kenyan communities.
- Finalisation and adoption of the Peace and Conflict Prevention Policy.
- Peace education for prejudice reduction in primary schools.
Recommendations for the Process
- That there should be a mechanism for accountability by the
mediation team to Kenyan women on the progress of the mediation. Such
mechanism could be spelt out in a public mediation agreement.
- That there should be continued engagement with women as key
stakeholders in all stages of the mediation.
- That a local gender advisor be appointed to provide the necessary
expertise to the team of mediators. There is sufficient expertise
within the women’s movement in Kenya in the fields of gender,
children’s rights, women’s rights, and peace and conflict
- Political parties should have women represented on their teams in
keeping with the enabling instruments.
- That the mediation continues until such time as peace is restored
This statement is presented and signed by the Committee Nominated by
the Women’s Organisations 25th January 2008 (For a List of women
attending the Women’s consultations over the last three weeks, please
contact Pambazuka News).
1 Florence Mpaayei -- Nairobi Peace Initiative –Africa
2 Atsango Chesoni --Member ODM and Consultant, Human Rights
3 Njeri Kabeberi ---Center for Multi Party democracy
4 Mildred Ngesa---Association of Media Women of Kenya
5 Margaret Shava-- International Alert
6 Catherine Mumma --Consultant, Human Rights & Governance
7 Kaari Betty Murungi --Urgent Action Fund-Africa
8 Saida Ali --Young Women’s Leadership Institute
9 Rukia Subow --Maendeleo ya Wanawake
10 Josephine Ojiambo – Member of PNU ‘s National Coordinating Committee
11 Margaret Hutchinson --Education Centre for Women in Democracy
*Please send comments to editor@... or comment online at
3 Comment and analysis
STATEMENT BY SENATOR BARACK OBAMA, 29 JANUARY 2008
Thank you for having me on your show this morning.
I have been following the situation in Kenya closely, and I am deeply
concerned by the news and photographs I have seen. I want you to know
that my thoughts and prayers - and those of my family - are with all
of the victims of the violence, and with all Kenyans who have been
displaced from their homes.
Urgent action must be taken to stop this spiral of violence, and to
help resolve the current political crisis. Kenya has long been known
as a multi-ethnic society. The steps you have taken toward multi-
party democracy in recent years have set a proud example for east
I have personally been touched by your generous, democratic spirit
through my ties to my own family, and during my travels to Kenya -
most recently as a United States Senator in 2006. This Kenyan spirit
rises above ethnic groups or political parties, and was on display in
Kenya's recent election, when you turned out to vote in record
numbers, and in a peaceful and orderly way.
But recent troubling events in Kenya bear no resemblance to the Kenya
I know and carry with me. The senseless and tragic violence poses an
urgent and dangerous threat to Kenyans, Kenyan democracy, and
stability and economic development in a vital region.
Most troubling are new indications that the violence is being
organized, planned and coordinated.
Clearly, Kenya has reached a defining moment. There is no doubt that
there were serious flaws in the vote tabulation. There is also no
doubt that actions taken by both sides in the aftermath of the
election have deepened the political impasse.
Now is not the time to throw Kenyan democracy and national unity
away. Now is the time for all parties to renounce violence.
Now is the time for Kenya's leaders to rise above party affiliation
and past divisions for the sake of peace. President Kibaki, Raila
Odinga, and all of Kenya's leaders - political, civic, business, and
religious -- have a responsibility to calm tensions, to come together
unconditionally, and to pursue a political process to address
peacefully the controversies that divide them.
This crisis and terrible violence must end. A negotiated solution
must be peaceful and political, and should take account of past
failures and prevent future conflict.
The rule of law and the rights of the Kenyan people - including
freedom of the media and the freedom of peaceful assembly - must be
Recent efforts by African Eminent Persons, like Kofi Annan, have
yielded very modest progress, and there is no reason President Kibaki
and Mr. Odinga should refuse to sit down unconditionally. To refuse
to do so ignores the will of Kenyans and the urging of the united
international community. While only Kenyans can resolve this crisis,
I urge you to welcome the assistance of your concerned friends in
working through this difficult time.
The deep frustrations that are felt on allsides of the Kenyan divide
are understandable. There is no doubt that much more work remains to
be done for Kenya to become a more equitable and democratic society.
But Kenya has come too far to throw away decades of progress in a
storm of violence and political unrest. We must not look back years
from now and wonder how and why things were permitted to go so
horribly wrong. Kenya, its African friends, and the United States
must now be determined pursuers of peace - and this determined
pursuit must start today with individual Kenyans refusing to resort
to violence, and Kenyan leaders accepting thei responsibility to turn
away from confrontation by coming together.
Kenya's long democratic journey has at times been difficult. But at
critical moments, Kenyans have chosen unity and progress over
division and disaster. The way forward is not through violence. To
all of Kenya's people, I urge you to renounce the violence that is
tearing your great country apart and deepening suffering. I urge you
to follow a path of peace.
* Sen. Barack Obama delivered this statement on Capital-FM at 7:45
a.m. January 29, 2008
* Please send comments to editor@... or comment online at
IS KENYA HEADING TOWARD A CIVIL WAR?
Ali Mazrui and David Ohito
In a question and answer letter, Ali Mazrui and David Ohito grapple
with the question of whether Kenya is heading toward a civil war.
Dear Prof Mazrui,
The latest wave of violence is threatening the country. In Nakuru the
problem of ethic violence has emerged. Kikuyus are being attacked
over land issues as historical injustices become the new phase of
Kibaki insists he was duly elected and sworn in and any election
dispute should go to court as spelled out in the Constitution.
Raila Odinga insists he is not going to a court full of Kibaki's
appointees. The formula to a peaceful resolution remains elusive.
what is your take on this?
I agree with your predictions that many African Heads of States may
have saved their countries from civil war.
In Your opinion how far do you think will the International community
wait before serious intervention other than mere statements? Is it
good to impose sanctions economic, travel bans to Kenya?
Are there any options the West, US, EU, UK, and even Asia can take to
help save Kenya from being a failed state?
Kofi Annan watched and acted too little too late as Rwanda
degenerated into genocide. There was little international
intervention. He himself later said he acted too slow too late while
he was UN Secretary General. Is history repeating itself here? Can
Kofi Annan recommend faster options to salvage Kenya?
Would you consider giving your proposals to Kofi Annan for a way
forward and what would those options for a solution be?
Give any remarks that would help hold Kenya together without
degenerating into genocide or civil strife.
Dear Ndugu Ohito:
In answer to your questions, I have lived long enough to know how
civil wars begin in developing countries. I never expected there
would be a civil war in Northern Uganda which would last twenty
years, and unleash untold suffering and brutality. It has still not
When the Sudanese civil war was ending in the South, who would have
predicted another civil war in Darfur? Ethiopia has had a variety of
civil conflicts, the latest involving ethnic Somalis in the Ogaden.
The brutalities of the Sierra Leonean civil war took everybody by
Can such a bloody breakdown happen in Kenya? I am beginning to be
truly fearful. What was once unthinkable is no longer inconceivable.
While north of the Sahara the triggers of conflict are often
religious, south of the Sahara they tend to combine ethnicity, power
rivalry and economic deprivation.
As soon as casualties of a conflict reach a thousand dead, several
thousand injured and at least a hundred thousand displaced, speedy
action is needed to contain the explosion. A mini-civil war could be
in the making. Kenyans and the international community cannot afford
to be complacent.
Representatives of the African Union, the European Union, the United
States, religious bodies, former African Heads of State, and Kofi
Annan have approached the two sides of the Kenya conflict in terms of
persuasion and the quest for a compromise. We now need more pressure
and threats from the international community.
Initially the threats should be targeted at the elite, rather than
the general population. Withholding economic aid would hurt the wider
population, but suspending Kenya's membership of the African Union
and the Commonwealth would deprive us of credentials to sit at the
summit meetings, or meetings of foreign ministers, of such
international organizations. Specific members of both the government
and the opposition could be deprived of Visas to the western world if
they are identified as extremists against the search for solutions.
Many members of the Kenyan elite also have Bank accounts abroad. The
international community could threaten to freeze such bank accounts
if there is no effort to solve the Kenya crisis.
Normally, the international community does not try to intervene in
Africa until the problem is truly catastrophic. That has been the
situation in Congo-Kinshasa, in Rwanda, Darfur and in Somalia. Kenya
is a situation of trying to prevent a crisis from becoming a
catastrophe. There is still time - but not a lot of time to avert an
Kofi Annan is trying his best, but he needs help in the form of
massive political pressure on both sides. If mediation is not
working, it may be time to threaten specific international sanctions,
beginning with elite-focused threats of consequences.
What is at stake is not just the political stability of Kenya. It is
also the economic viability of Eastern Africa as a whole. Kenya's
economy has vibrations of region-wide consequences. How can we avert
a region-wide catastrophe?
We are still far from a civil war. But our leaders should start
discussing how to secure our borders against gun-running and
importation of weapons. The border with Somalia especially needs to
be secured, but without keeping out Somali refugees. Our leaders may
also have to consider whether or not it is time to seek international
help for peacekeeping in the Rift Valley. The situation is grave.
Have we declared a state of emergency in the Rift Valley?
Ali A. Mazrui
* Ali Mazrui is Director, Institute of Global Cultural Studies,
Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities, Binghamton University,
State University of New York at Binghamton, New York, USA and
Chancellor, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology,
Thika and Nairobi Kenya.
* David Ohito
is a Senior Reporter
* Please send comments to editor@... or comment online at
THOUGHTS ON THE KENYAN POST ELECTION CRISIS
All Africa Conference of Churches
Reflections arising from the report on the AACC solidarity visit led
by Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Following the post election violence that rocked the Republic of
Kenya after President Kibaki was declared the winner of the December
2007 elections, the All Africa Conference of Churches, with
headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, sought to contribute to the calming
of the situation and the resolution of the problem by inviting a team
of eminent African Church leaders led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to
come and offer solidarity to the people of Kenya and help profile the
cause of peace to the nation. The Archbishop was accompanied by the
President of the All Africa Conference of Churches the Rt. Rev.
Nyansako ni Nku, the Chairperson of the Independent Electoral
Commission of South Africa and former General Secretary of the South
African Council of Churches Dr. Brigalia H. Bam and the General
Secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches, the Rev. Dr. H.
The information gathered during this visit indicated something of the
complexity of the problem, as well as the fact that finding a
solution, both on a short term and on a long term basis will need to
take into consideration a number of factors such as:
- The Historical background
- The tension defined
- The expressions of the violence
- The Role of the Church
- The Role of the media
- Possible Ways forward
It is with these in mind that the AACC offers the reflections
Whilst the visit was short, the AACC heard clearly the voices of many
to the effect that only Kenyans could intervene in this situation.
Any form of ‘international mediation or intervention’ was looked at
askance. Whilst the National Council of Churches of Kenya opened its
welcoming arms to the visit, the delegation sensed that not all the
churches were fully convinced of the merits of the solidarity visit
of the Archbishop even though these were expressed in respectful
ways. On the other hand messages of appreciation from ordinary
Kenyans were frequently received by the AACC, often couched with
expressions of hope that the visit would help bring peace. The sense
of the AACC
is that these doubts about the efficacy of the visit were driven
- the sense of patriotic pride that hurts from anything that may be
perceived as suggesting that the Kenyans are not able to resolve this
problem on their own;
- the uncertainty of what an even handed approach might lead to, or
- the firm belief that there are indeed Kenyans who can be able to
facilitate an adequate response to the crisis.
Most disturbing is the often mutely expressed statement by some
Kenyans that “this is not the first time that Kenyans have
experienced this kind of crisis, and just as they have resolved the
past similar crises, so will they resolve this one as well”. This
attitude feels indifferent to the loss of life of even one Kenyan. It
is not worthy of any nation that values the lives of all its citizens.
On the other hand it is possible that the conviction that it will
take a Kenyan mediator to intervene effectively may be born of
recognition that the communities at conflict have historical, long
standing voiced and unvoiced and often nuanced concerns that an
outsider may not easily be sensitive to. Participation in an
ecumenical prayer service for church leaders at All Saints Anglican
Cathedral on Sunday January 6th, 2007 gave one a glimpse of such
concerns. The issues at stake may range from perceived unfair
resource sharing, ethnic distrust and many other such issues that may
have compounded themselves into modern Kenyan politics. What is
obvious is that these stretch from beyond colonial times to modern
Kenyan governance with all the complications that were subsequent to
colonial domination. The regularity with which these issues are
referred to by the Kenyan community should make it possible for the
Kenyan society to overcome them. But the question is whether these
are confronted with such honesty in the corridors of power where they
should be dealt with.
The AACC is of the mind that there is therefore need for such
historical facts to be understood as part of the process to the
resolution of the impasse, both on a short and on a long term basis.
Whether this is done by an international or local mediation body is a
moot point. The critical factor is the independence of the mediation
body, together with the rigour and sense of fairness that such a body
would bring. Such a body must assist the country to find speedily a
workable resolution to the immediate impasse, thus creating space for
a longer term solution that will lay the foundations for the healing
of the country and the strengthening of the overall sense of common
nationhood among all the peoples of Kenya.
But for now the question is what is it that the AACC team heard as to
the nature of the reigning crisis?
The tension defined
While the conflict erupted as a consequence of disputed presidential
electoral results, the communities at conflict have a historical and
long standing and often unvoiced concerns, dating back to
independence days when many Kenyans felt that their expectations were
not met. The independent government inherited colonial structures and
failed to address the injustices and inequalities that had
characterised the nation because people had different persuasions.
And therefore, over the years, it has appeared that the president of
the day brings his community closer to power to benefit from national
resources more than other communities.
The various parties have differing views as to the nature of the
violence that has been evident. Some see it as a political tool, pre-
meditated and deliberately unleashed with an element of ethnic
cleansing in its make up. Claims were made that some of the
perpetrators of the violence were paid to do so.
Others see it as a spontaneous and unorganised natural reaction to
what they see as vicious day light robbery at the polls which the
voters could not stomach.
The delegation wondered if there was adequate political will to stop
the violence and find a solution that is acceptable to all. The PNU
and the ODM both appear unshaken in their conviction that the other
party is responsible and has the capacity to stop the violence. If
preventing the deaths and the destruction of property was paramount
in the thinking of all the parties, it must be obvious that the
leaders of all the parties should have come out together at least to
denounce the violence in full view of the nation and offer assurance
that an equitable solution was being sought. Such a joint
condemnation of violence should have been made regardless of the
cause, whether pre-meditated, spontaneous, ethnic or otherwise. This
agenda item is still outstanding.
The Role of the Church
Reports from the church leaders spoken to indicate that the church is
appalled by the violence, and had in fact, at the time of the arrival
of the delegation, already started to take steps to respond to the
crisis. But the church leaders did not try to hide the fact that
there was a lot of division even amongst themselves. Some church
leaders, if not most, were perceived to have aligned themselves with
specific party positions, thus robbing the church of an
authoritative, collective and independent moral voice that could
champion the cause of peace and unity for the nation in spite of the
different political views. The churches, according to the NCCK, are
clear in that the healing of the nation must go hand in hand with the
healing of the church.
The initiatives of the church had not yet gained a high media profile
at the time of the solidarity visit. But a common front for an
effective ministry to the nation through the National Alliance of
Churches had been forged. The Alliance has four major task forces, viz:
1. The political
2. The humanitarian
3. Communication, and
4. The Spiritual.
Through these the church is poised for a significant ministry impact
to the nation. The church leaders have a responsibility to:
- Encourage and enable the political leaders to come together to call
for the end to violence and speak for the preservation of life.
- Encourage the leaders to ensure that there is space for alternative
voices to be heard without this descending into a conflagration of
- Impress strongly on the political leaders to embrace alternative
ways of resolving conflict to violence.
While the question of the source of violence cannot be ignored for an
effective response to be developed, it is essential that this should
not be allowed to create a stalemate as it is likely to. The churches
themselves are not of one view on this matter. As the visit report
indicates the gulf is big between the parties as to the causes of the
violence. The church can and should assist for common positions to
counter and forestall violence to be developed and embraced by all.
The delegation noted that there is suspicion of the usage of church
language among the various parties. The ODM alleged that some of
their leaders have been referred to as “devil worshippers” and that
in spite of the fact that those leaders are Christians their churches
did not assist them to clear their names before the nation. On the
other hand it may be inferred that in expressing concern that ‘the
churches must support a constitutionally elected government’ the
government (PNU) was calling for the public support of the church in
this crisis. It simply is essential that the church does not try to
hedge its bets but instead clarify its message. Such a message has to
be based on that which will heal the nation and purify the
institutions of national governance so that the faith of the people
in these is restored. This in itself will go a long way in redeeming
the church thus restoring its moral authority which this situation
has sought to compromise.
The role of the Media
At the time of the solidarity visit some measures were in place to
limit the work of the media. This is regrettable. The churches cannot
afford to overlook it. The role of the media in this crisis may need
reflection with the view that the confidence of the populace on the
media should be nurtured as an essential element in the work of
healing the nation. Questions were raised with the delegation as to
whether the media may have fuelled (wittingly or unwittingly) the
crisis during the period preceding the elections.
The role of the media in the formation of national attitudes can
never be overemphasised. The media’s role is more than merely
reporting what is happening. It has to stimulate creative thinking in
the nation about the values that the nation cherishes and raise
questions where any section of society seeks to undermine or
demonstrates disregard of the common good and the institutions that
seek to serve the common good.
- The media must be used to bring people together instead of
- It should use history to heal and build people instead of dividing
- It must demystify myths about ethnic practices instead of
It is in this light that the role of the media in this crisis should
be examined. Reasons behind the limitations that were imposed on the
media in the course of this crisis could either be that the media
used its freedom irresponsibly, or that those with authority did not
like what they saw of themselves in the mirror that is the media.
Since the media is a prime catalyst for exchanging ideas in a free
society it is essential that its freedom is guaranteed with
instruments of protest against it in place where its objectivity is
suspect. The alternative is a perception that totalitarian seeds are
being sown. The Republic of Kenya, a bastion of peace and developing
democracy in Africa, cannot afford to lower its guard on this score.
Possible Resolution Scenarios for consideration by the Church
The AACC believes that there is an important role for the churches of
Kenya to play in helping towards the resolution of this impasse.
Primarily the church should assist the key leaders of the various
parties to accept joint responsibility for diffusing the crisis.
1. Top in the process should be agreed strategies to stop the
violence. The political leaders must mobilise all their people to
desist from violent activities and in fact declare violence the enemy
of the nation.
2. The leaders must reinforce the right to freedom of expression.
Police and rally marshals should be deployed under the command of the
police to protect demonstrators, passers by and property. They must
seek to ensure that no one abuses the right to freedom of speech as a
licence to kill, injure or loot property.
3. The Kenyan Law and Order Enforcement agencies, especially the
police, should be encouraged to desist from using excessive force
during such demonstrations.
4. Church leaders must help engender a spirit of cooperation among
the opposing political parties that will allow a structure that is
accommodative to lead the administration of the country.
5. Church leaders must accompany such a structure with processes that
will limit the chances of reneging on positions agreed to. They must
help create and nurture space for mistrust to be reduced.
6. On a longer term basis Church leaders should help both the
political leaders and the general population to identify those
institutional structural deficiencies that made this crisis possible,
such as the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) in order to pave the
way for the strengthening of such structures, thus laying the
foundations for a more secure and dependable electoral system.
7. On a long term basis Church leaders have to assist put in place
processes that will contribute towards the enhancement of a common
sense of Nationhood that transcends ethnicity so that the sharing of
resources and access to justice is not only equitable, but seen to be
so by the nation at large.
8. Church leaders must prioritise the healing of the church as they
themselves have acknowledged this need.
* Please send comments to editor@... or comment online at
4 Pan-African Postcard
KHARTOUM SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO SPEAK IN OUR NAME
The Government of Sudan is one of the most unscrupulous governments
in the world. And this is no mean ‘achievement’ given the many
claimants to this dubious honour. It is so cynical that the words
‘shame’ and ‘sensitivity’ do not exist in its political dictionary
and they do not have any equivalent meaning in its diplomacy either.
Otherwise how can one explain its persistence in seeking the
Chairmanship of the African Union despite its continuing ignoble
record in the massacre and Gross Violation of the rights of its own
citizens in the Darfur region, a killing field assuming the
proportions of industrial mass murder. With the best of good will and
efforts from the African Union through AMIS and now jointly with the
United Nations through UNAMID the Khartoum government has played
games with the lives of its own citizen with impunity.
It has been angling the chairmanship since 2006. However other
African states have been so embarrassed by Khartoum that they were
unwilling to allow it to be spokesperson of Africa’s premier
diplomatic and political institution. It was largely because of
Khartoum that the AU abandoned the OAU twin practice of rotation of
the hosting of the Summit between the different regions and also the
automatic assumption of the office of the Chair of the Union by the
host country. Khartoum hosted the Summit in 2006 but did not become
chair of the Union. Subsequently Gambia hosted the Summit in July
2007 but its erratic soldier-turned president and more recently
mutating as HIV/Aids Doctor, Yaya Jameh, did not become the
Khartoum has not given up its ambition and it is again one of the
contenders for the Chairmanship at the 10th ordinary Session of the
Assembly of Heads of state and Governments of the Union holding this
week in Addis. The other contender is Egypt though there are also
rumours that Tanzania may be a surprise contender to stop Khartoum.
From all indications Tanzania may not enter the race unless really
pushed. This is a shame because neither Sudan nor Egypt , for
different reasons, deserves to head the Union. In Egypt’s case in
spite of its status as the most significant of the North African
countries in the Union it has always been a reluctant member. Like
its other cousins in the Sahara except Libya, it is in Africa but its
heart and soul are in the Middle East. I am not sure when the
Egyptian President last attended an AU summit. It is supposed to be
one of the five pillars of NEPAD but only on paper. It is more
interested in the Arab League than any other multilateral body and
generally prefers bilateralism with African states and special deals
with extra African interests. Egyptian Chairmanship will induce more
inertia in the AU for a year and probably sabotage any collective
action on Sudan.
While Sudan shares some of the Egyptian Arab-centrism it is one of
the most active member states in Pan African affairs however not
always for the best of reasons. While its Arabised elite continue to
look towards the Middle East it has to face the reality of having
huge Negroid population not only in the South but across the country.
The dominant elite may be Arabised and Muslim but the people are
Africans. Even its name belies its racial claims. Bilad el Sudan
means Land of the Blacks! The most obvious character of Sudan is the
least talked about. When it serves its interest Sudan plays the Pan
African and anti imperialist cards in the AU and the Arab/Islamic
cards with Arabs and other Muslim countries.
It used the OAU and is now using the AU platform to fence off
Western , mostly Anglo-American isolation campaign against it.
Unfortunately the credibility of the west in general and successive
US administrations in particular but more so Bush’s 8 years of
unilateralism, have created willing ears and sympathy for Khartoum
among other African states. Thus the AU has become a shield for
Khartoum and it uses it very well. Its strategy is very simple but it
continues to hoodwink African states most effectively. On every issue
it will initially insist on no intervention at all proclaiming its
sovereign rights. After so much controversies and prolonged inane
negotiations it agrees to some form of African intervention
especially to prevent Western or UN intervention.
But it had no intention of cooperating to end the suffering of its
people. Several years down the line after so much haggling and zig
zags it agreed to a hybrid of AU and UN. Thanks to the dithering of
the powerful countries in the UN and the humanitarian-driven approach
to Sudan with a not so hidden agenda for regime change even the
hybrid force cannot take off immediately. African states have shown
their readiness to deploy more troops but UN Security Council
politics is delaying things all to the benefit of Khartoum and its
killer allies in Darfur.
It cannot be right that a country and a government that kills its own
people is allowed to be spokesperson for Africa. Khartoum should be
disallowed from assuming the chair of the Union. If this means that
Egypt takes the seat so be it but the best option should have been to
have another state . Were Nyerere alive he would have had no
hesitation in coming to the rescue. Even at this late hour one hopes
that Tanzania and President Kikwete will come forward to save the
Union from being chaired by an indifferent Egypt or a cynical Sudan.
*Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem writes this syndicated column as a
concerned Pan Africanist
*Please send comments to editor@... or comment online at
5 Books and arts
REVIEW OF 'FROM SLAVE TRADE TO 'FREE' TRADE'
FOREIGN POLICY (www.foreignpolicy.com) describes itself as "the
premier, award-winning magazine of global politics, economics, and
ideas." This influential right-wing magazine produced in Washington
DC, devoted a two page tirade as a review of Fahamu's book "From
Slave Trade to 'free' trade". The review, written by Jeffrey Herbst,
provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Miami
"... 'From the Slave Trade' speaks to more Africans than the speeches
and databases of the world’s international financial institutions."
With a recommendation like that, how could you resist getting your
own copy (it's available free as a download)!
Details at: http://www.fahamu.org/pzbook.php
6 African Writers Corner
THEIR BODIES ARE A BATTLE GROUND (POEM)
we hear a woman’s raped every
30 minutes this fact needs to be
adjusted as 56 & more
many more were assaulted
inside the first 2 days of
of the elephants’ skirmish
their bodies are the frontline
where foes are belittled
& age-old grudges viciously settled
meanwhile rallies sermonise
peacemakers negotiate &
they play the blame game who instigated
what who killed whom excuse me while
i spit & yet do not speak
of the trauma & the terror
& shun the soundless screams of
untold others who in mute silence suffer
they talk about democracy
about ethnocracy autocracy
& just about any cracy you can think of
malevolence shrouded in words
while powerless women little girls
boys & men are abused what
do they know about sacrilege how much
do they care about the shame & humiliation?
how many little girls did you rape today baba?
we know bodies may be healed but
spirit bruises soul lacerations are
indelible quotidian &
never ever leave your side
their bodies are a battlefield
whose destruction’s a conscious
act of ethnic cleansing
in some place we hear
the price for one rape is a goat how
many goats for gang rapes or
for sodomised little boys
we know this isn’t about gratification
nor passion & we are aware of the imperative
revenge domination control
opportunism thuggery it
really doesn’t really matter as the
sacrifice’s been made
the earth’s tasted their blood
their tears soak the ground
they ask what they should do
as they pray for divine reckoning &
vengeance of cosmic magnitude
they live in constant sorrow & in dread of the hatred spewing
men with rungus for fists & serrated panga eyes
do they not feel pain when you
hurt them do they not bleed when you defile them?
their bodies are a battle ground
a weapon of war their
bodies are a combat zone
their degradation a
weapon of mass destruction
*Mshairi (poet in Kiswahili) administers the Kenyan Blogs Webring -
KenyaUnlimited and the African Women’s Blog. You can find more work
from the poet at http://www.mshairi.com/blog
*Please send comments to editor@... or comment online at
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