After seeing the news broadcasts and the dire but stirring images scattered across national and international newspapers, it is clear that Kenya has become the new expected, (daily) calamitous hotbed. One could ask oneself what is going on in a once prosperous country and the only answer one could realistically surmise is that such unrest has been a long time in the making.
There is an old adage by which many Kenyans had lived previously: “every thing in its own time.” The current situation surrounding the parties involving Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga is no different. Millions of Kenyans had been waiting (almost in vain) for the irretrievably corrupt regime of Daniel Arap Moi to come to an end. Moi had been in power since the death of the Great Jomo Kenyatta in 1978 and held the presidency of Kenya until 2002. Amidst countless allegations of deep-seated corruption and rigged elections, Moi remained the man in charge holding the fragile alliance of the Kikuyu and Luo tribes in the balance. Many claimed that were it not for an incredibly divided opposition, Moi would never have held office as long as he did. For the people of Kenya, though he was widely respected, the end of Daniel Arap Moi’s regime was long awaited.
To understand what is happening today in Kenya, one needs to understand the sharing of power and various compromises that have existed between the tribes of Kenya. Having influenced the colonial powers to leave Kenya, the dominant Kikuyu tribe and the Luos and Kalenjin tribes agreed to share power in order to keep Kenya for the Kenyans. Over time, and as the Kenyans say, “pole pole, kidogo kidogo,” (slowly slowly, little by little) the delicate balance of power began to shift towards the Kikuyus with forerunners Daniel Moi and his successor Mwai Kibaki holding the presidency of this volatile nation. Tribal divisions have long held sway in Kenya. With Raila Odinga leading the official opposition party, many were expecting that the Luos and other tribes would finally have a say in the decision-making processes affecting their lives. Some rioting had been expected should the election result in a loss; however, no one could have predicted such widespread chaos, fear, looting and the shocking fatalities.
At present, the bloodshed and violence must end, however with Raila Odinga playing devil’s advocate and Mwai Kibaki playing the angelic victim, Kenya appears to be at a stalemate. Mr. Odinga has been quoted as saying “Kibaki should not offer us anything because he knows very well that he did not win the elections…. In fact, it is us who should be inviting him for a coalition government….” (Nation Media) There is no doubt that the elections are suspect. Odinga was declared the winner in an unprecedented election, and then hours later, watched Kibaki being sworn in for his second term. Many are calling for a coalition government or for Kibaki to step down and hand over power to Odinga. Others are simply calling for peace and for the country to get on with the day-to-day business of living. As the death toll rises, and with allegations of election rigging on both sides being publicly broadcast, it seems a rather odious task to begin the rebuilding. Nevertheless rebuilding is necessary in a country where farmers are unable to sell milk due to the number of shops that have been destroyed and millions of Kenyans are fleeing to neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda. Properties were destroyed because the residents of those properties voted for “the other guy,” and roadblocks due to severe vandalism are crippling the transport of necessary goods. Moreover, any hopes to thwart the violence through peace talks between Odinga and Kibaki were shattered with the installment of Kibaki’s cabinet.
It is now clear that this troubled nation is no longer walking the road to prosperity. Rather, it is once again walking the road to extreme poverty and unrelenting hardship. These are the same roads walked by Kenyans since the rise of colonial powers, and these events are eerily reminiscent of those which preceded the Rwandan genocide of 1994.Tags: Africa
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This post was written by Safreena Rajan