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Kenya: Kibaki, Odinga Defiant


Sunday, January 13, 2008
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Hopes raised by John Kufuor’s visit dwindle as the Ghanaian president and African Union boss leaves Kenya after a failed attempt to find a solution to the political gridlock.

MOMBASA, Kenya, Jan. 11 – “Nyeusi ya wananchi, Kijani ni ya ardhi, Nyekundu ni ya damu na Nyeupe ya amani. Ni hakika ya bendera, daima mimi mKenya….Mzalendo halisi…” (Black for the citizens, Green for our land, Red for the blood and White for peace. The purpose of our flag, Forever I am Kenyan….A patriotic citizen…)

These are the words of Eric Wainaina’s song “Kenya Only,” which reverberate across various homes, as Kenyans ethnic violence eats the country away.

Adopted as the unofficial song of mourning soon after the August 1998 terrorist bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Wainaina’s song, which many in Kenya now consider an alternative national anthem, is back on air. This time it’s calling for peace, after the ethnic clashes that erupted across the country in protest to President Mwai Kibaki’s supposed Dec. 27 vote rigging.

As I leave our house in the morning I encounter just outside our gate on a path that leads to Bangladesh, a sprawling slum in Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa, lorries and truckloads of the dreaded paramilitary General Service Unit (GSU). They have in the past few days been restoring calm and imposing an unofficial curfew on paths leading from the informal settlement area into the middle class estates. Gunshots in the night have become the norm rather than the exception. In the evenings and nights the police have kept vigil and formed a man wall surrounding and ringing in the slum dwellers, who can’t leave their shanties to access medical care and emergency relief.

  Spent cartridges, wasted lives

As I stoop severally to pick up spent cartridges, I ask myself why Alfred Mutua, the government spokesman, has reiterated time and again that the police are not using live bullets. The reports released by the government showing that only ten people have died in Mombasa due to the skirmishes is amazingly low, given that every night for the past two weeks one or more persons has been shot dead in our neighborhood.

Mutua fiddles while Kenya burns terming what was happening as “isolated” cases of violence. Around the county, things are not different. There are aerial views being broadcasted of burnt homesteads from Mt. Elgon, Eldoret, Kericho, Kisumu, Nairobi and Mombasa. More than 500 people have died and an estimated 250,000 Kenyans displaced. Thousands more continue to flee as refugees into Uganda.

I fear for my daughter and other children who play outside and we can’t wait for them to go to school on Monday, already a week late.

My neighborhood Mikindani situated in Mombasa West is a shell of its former glory.

Supermarkets were looted, completely destroyed as marauding youths broke down concrete walls and iron burglar proof grills, stole electronics some of which were fixtures and selectively torched shops known to belong to Kikuyus and Merus, the two ethnic groups deemed to have voted enmasse for Kibaki.

We were virtually under House Arrest for all of two weeks – woe to people who had not stocked the refrigerators and pantries!

Many neighborhoods have been affected by the skirmishes and looting, which have left residents without food. Those who are able to make it to corner markets and supermarkets find prices up one 100 percent.  The tourism sector, which has been an integral part of Mombasa’s economy continues to decline, as tourists vacate beach hotels enmasse due to the negative travel advisories given out by their countries and consuls.

The calm that was slowly returning to the coastal area following reports that African Union Chairman and Ghanaian President John Kufuor had arrived in the country to mediate talks between Kibaki and opposition leader, Raila Amolo Odinga, appears to be in jeopardy after Kufuor’s efforts failed.

Several Mombasa residents I have talked to believe Kibaki acted in bad faith by naming half of his cabinet when President Kufuor had just arrived for mediation talks.

It is believed that the majority who voted for Odinga are the poor and low-income earners who are not feeling the effect of the more than 6 percent economic growth that the Kibaki government is flaunting.

The masses’ salaries have been near stagnant for the past five years and 50 percent if the county is still jobless.

Yet the prices of basic commodities have shot up. For example, between August and November 2007, the price of a dozen eggs shot up to 100 shillings (about $1.50), an increment 66 percent. There were also tremendous increases in the prices of wheat flour, bread and maize, Kenya’s staple.

Curses, black magic, poison

On lighter note, looting seems to have declined. Looters in Kisauni and Mwandoni in the northern coast of Mombasa returned property after one businessman engaged a Muslim elder to invoke an Islamic prayer called Al Badiri. The prayer is said to be invoked by people who were wronged in order to seek justice from God. It is one of the most feared curses here in Mombasa, for it is believed to bring calamities to those it is directed at. 

Fears of bewitchment have also helped reduce looting. Among Kenyan cities, Mombasa is often rumored to be a city of black magic. There has been gossip about business owners summoning the powers of magicians to help return their looted goods. The most intriguing tale was of a man who carried a large flat screen on his back, but couldn’t unload it because it got stuck to his body. Not even family members could take the TV off his back, the tale goes. The man roamed around with the TV for days like a mad person, sleeping at night while standing, and he eventually keeled over and died.

Local many residents believe that such prayers and curses, already resorted to by many others, actually do work. The fears of severe consequences, including in ability to pass urine and have bowel movements, have prompted many looters to return goods to original owners.

No end in sight

It doesn’t seem to help matters that as I file this article several dailies are reporting that Electoral Commission Chair Samuel Kivuitu disowned the elections results that declared Kibaki the winner.

As I write this, primetime news reports indicate that the opposition, Orange Democratic Movement, have promised a showdown in Parliament, come Tuesday, when the August House officially opens. Because they claim that ODM is the legal government, they have said they are going to sit on the right-hand side of the National Assembly Speaker, the area normally reserved for the government.

Odinga has also said that the opposition rally postponed last week will back on at Uhuru Wednesday.

In the run-up campaigns of the just concluded elections, the slogan and rallying call of Kibaki’s Party of National Unity was, “Kazi Iendelee” (Let the work continue), and ODM’s was, “Pamoja Tusonge Mbele” (Together, let us move forward). Clearly, their mottos have both come to naught, as Kenya has been set back economically, just like it happened during the 1992 Molo ethnic clashes, and the 1997 Likoni upheaval.

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About Moraa Gitaa

Moraa Gitaa is a published author, her latest work appearing in the book Africa Fresh! New Voices from The First Continent, an anthology of African writing featuring eight writers from Africa that presents an exciting look at cutting-edge fiction and reporting from Africa.Moraa is based in the coastal city of Mombasa in Kenya where she blogs and writes for Mshale.

3 Responses to Kenya: Kibaki, Odinga Defiant

  1. Anonymous

    January 13, 2008 at 4:12 PM

    It is not with surprise that I read the view that Mwai Kibaki is not the legitimate president of Kenya. This view is so pervasive that even many who supported the president have been deceived into taking it up.That it is so widespread is a tribute to the ODM’s knack for lies and its efficiency at pushing them as truth. It is also in no small part a result of the political ineptitude of the PNU and State House.The view is predicated on two strands of thought. The first, published by the ODM and a perpetuation of its hateful and divisive anti-GEMA strategy, declares that President Kibaki won only one of Kenya’s provinces and is therefore not the true president of all Kenya. The second, declares the election stolen by the incumbent, and rather cheekily insists that the extension of his tenancy at State House is a ‘coup’.

    National Support
    This first argument is only one of the few in the litany of lies the ODM has rammed through a servile, biased media. The facts speak for themselves, Mwai Kibaki won 4 out of Kenya’s provinces and MPs running on pro-Kibaki platforms won more than 100 seats with victories in every single province. None of his rivals even came close to the same level of support. Kibaki also won a sizeable number of votes even in the provinces where he was overall second best, reaching the 25% mark in every province but Nyanza, where he still managed to poll 17% of the vote. The ODM candidate on the other hand posted a measly 2% and 5% in Central and Eastern provinces, and managed 25% in only six of the provinces.

    ‘But the bulk of the president’s votes were GEMA votes,’ comes the reply. Well, that may be true but the formulation GEMA itself makes into one what are properly a multitude of ethnicities. More importantly however, our democracy as currently fashioned makes no demands on the ethnicity of voters desiring merely that the victorious candidate have the approval of at least 25% from five provinces to underline his nationalist credentials. To reiterate, it is not communities, faiths or regions that vote. It is individuals.

    This is no trivial point. The ODM has taken even before the election to making the case that their candidate was the People’s Candidate, Kenya’s candidate. That was all very well for that period when presentation and marketing were more important than truth; but in this the post-election period, the party and its supporters would do well to realise that by any estimation fully 4 million Kenyans declared their support for each of the two leading candidates. So it is that even now,as the party and its supporters persist in saying that the Kenyan people have been robbed, the Kenyan people are angry, they must remember that there are some Kenyans a substantial number, a majority even who actually voted for Kibaki – and who rejected the ODM.

    For starters, it is most irresponsible, if typical of the ODM to neglect to take into account the votes of these 4 million, they are after all just GEMA, Gikuyu, Embu, Meru, Mbeere, Tharaka; you know those people, not Kenyans. This diligently crafted Us vs Them dichotomy explains why the ODM’s leaders have not yet seen fit to visit, or even declare peace with the communities that are being victimised by the outbreaks of violence- communities which in the pre-election campaigns they worked very hard to demonise. When it is not demonising them directly, the ODM and its agents continually seek to invite the GEMA to join Kenyans in voting ODM, proposing all the time that to vote differently is unKenyan.

    This is part of the reason for the renewal in Kikuyu nationalism, a whole community has been forced to the wall by the invective of three years and two political campaigns. We stand in our millions -along with Kenyans of every ethnic persuasion in rejection of ethnic chauvinism- and declare to the ODM that we are adamant in our support for President Kibaki and that we too retain the inalienable right to the appellation, Kenyan. We respect that there are those, our brothers and sisters from across the country, with different political persuasions, but never in a million years would we think to pretend that those opinions made them less Kenyan than we are. If it is the sheer numbers in Central Kenya that intimidate the opposition into taking this position, also published as the 41 versus 1 strategy, then the ODM have to now get to their grassroots and urge a population boom. Anything else hurts all of us, and the victims of this hatred will not just be the Gikuyu. The economic and social effects of this policy of excluding one group from the whole will be profound, and as many in Western Kenya are finding, life without the other is not exactly a bed of roses.

    The end of this hatred is especially urgent for ODM for, in light of the premeditated and barbaric ODM action in the Rift Valley and across the country, it is unlikely that too many Kenyans, even those who had previously aligned themselves with the party will be particularly drawn to it and its divisive politics any more. The consequences of all the strident screeching about Majimbo and the theory that the Gikuyu hogged all the country’s resources have finally manifested themselves.

    Election irregularities

    I find it most unfair to look merely at one set of election irregularities while turning a blind eye to the other. Such a predisposition is not only unhelpful, but declares a bias that precludes a just assessment of the elections. It is not unlinked to the over-arching theory of Gikuyu hegemony as it dictates that only one side in the election had the wherewithal to interfere with the vote.

    The media and observers seem to have focused merely on crimes committed during the final vote tallying while ignoring the fact that there were several irregularities in ODM zones.

    For starters, there was no free will in the vote in Nyanza. Long before the election begun, candidates who would have stood against the ODM nominees were compelled to stand down and those who resisted were demonised and accused of perfidy to the tribe. There were prior to the elections, outbreaks of violence against the disloyal, outbreaks which led to the displacement and non-participation of such persons. There are also credible reports that women and those from communities likely predisposed to vote different than the ODM were obstructed from exercising their voting rights by hooligans either inspired by or hired by the ODM. As the ODM candidate demanded at a campaign rally in Eldoret, ‘hatutaki madoadoa’.

    Even worse, and as confirmed by KEDOF in their final vote report, agents representing parties allied to Mwai Kibaki and Kalonzo Musyoka were denied entry into vote counting and vote tallying centres, including most famously Nyayo Stadium where what had been widely billed a close race between Raila Odinga and Stanley Livondo was turned into a rout of suspiciously monumental proportions. This as Uhuru Kenyatta complained, came after Livondo and his group were locked out of the stadium.

    Some have asked why the government did not then use the police to back up the blocked voters and insist that the opposition agents be allowed entry at these events. The truth is that the tense pre-election atmosphere did not allow for any use of force by the government, indeed any such moves would have been seen as persecution and would have cost the government votes at the election. Those asking this forget that there were already killings in Nyanza of police personnel prior to the election and that it is this state of violence that ensured that Kibaki and Kalonzo affiliated agents were wary of performing their duties there. Importantly also, any such interference would have undermined the independence of the ECK which was the organisation charged with the proper conduct of the elections. The instruments of legal and legitimate use of force are restricted to use in the protection of the polling station and its environs from the vagaries of the contestants and their agents.

    Finally, it is most categorically not true that it is impossible to conduct a re-tally of the forms sent to Nairobi by the poll centres around the country. The agents of all the parties contesting the election carry with them copies of the results announced in these centres and should retain copies of the electoral forms. These can be availed for a national re-tallying, which as the Justice Minister Martha Karua told the BBC’s Hard Talk, the government is very willing to facilitate when ordered by a court of law. Karua herself was part of a group of politicians including George Nyamweya, James Orengo and Anyang’ Nyong’o who sat through the night of the 29th of December with ECK officials and went over the vote tallies from across the land. They subtracted the entire element of suspicious added on votes that the ODM had complained about and Kibaki’s total was adjusted accordingly.

    When it was found that the vote still indicated a Kibaki victory, the ODM side sought the very next day to reverse their previous urge for the expeditious publication of the result (remember the ODM had on the 28th and 29th been putting pressure on Kivuitu to announce the victor) and instead began a campaign (Raila even stormed Kivuitu’s home at 0700) to have Kivuitu delay the announcement. Commentators seem to have forgotten that Musalia Mudavadi had already announced the election for the ODM or that there were riots in Kisumu that demanded the election result be announced. Now it seems we only focus on the pressure from the PNU and ODM-K, forgetting all the time the even greater pressure from the ODM the previous day.

    As the leaked memo from World Bank country director Colin Bruce avers, the facts are clear. The ODM is only too aware that such a re-assessment would make clear that they lost the election, and are as a result wary of appealing to the courts for such a re-tallying. Mwai Kibaki is the legal, but also the legitimate president of Kenya, which fact will soon be proved in a court of law

  2. Pasty

    January 14, 2008 at 9:28 AM

    with great concern I have been following the chaos iin kenya from a small farm in missouri,usa..My daughter sarah gordon is a peace corps volunteer, she had just completed her training and was inducted as a volunteer Nov.29th,then she moved to the coast Bamburi,15kilm from mombasa,she was to begin her teaching assignment on the 7th of Jan. but schools were delayed opening from the holiday break. I am wondering how calm or not things really are..kenyans are such patient loving kind intelligent people..it obviously seems as though the current administration is not really willing to acknowledge the outcome of the elections..could you check on her for me..tell her I love her very much..patsy m conwell

  3. Anonymous

    January 20, 2008 at 7:53 AM

    I do not profess to understand politics, but I have a fair understanding of medicine, economics and technology. Everybody blames Mr Kibaki, but wait a minute, let us ask a few question
    1) Is Mr Kibaki fit either physically of mentally for any demanding job after serious illnesses with the medications he has to take every day? You only have to look at the poor man, he can hardly walk, hardly talk, hardly read. Is he held hostage by others and shown as a puppet, for their own ends, caring nothing for the poor man’s wellbeing? It is written all over him that he would rather enjoy his golden years otherwise. Was there some agreement between his wife and others for him to stand again, as it was she who first announced it, in spite of the fact that he categorically stated that he would not. Why is he not allowed to have a private audience with Mr Odinga or some negotiators? Are some people frightened that he may just own up about his captivity? Mr Kibaki is a good man, but was never known for decisiveness or leadership qualities and in his poor health, he could only be a figurehead. If he diddled the elections but was a capable leader, he would have a reason to be in power, but clearly he is not. Let the poor man go!

    2) If we want to be blunt, running a country demands technical expertise in engineering, teaching, medicine, agriculture, building, security, sciences, organization, finance etc. Where do lawyers fit into any of these categories hence what can lawyers really contribute? These functions are all positive, constructive. What are lawyers trained for? Accusing and defending people, whether they are criminals or not, writing contracts, because people do not trust each other etc. In other words, all their functions are based on negative emotions, situations, fears etc. Yet it seems that even a simple legal task, like working out a simple and fair contract (constitution) was beyond them. An educated, intelligent, logical fair person, who is familiar with Kenya could work it out single handedly in a month.

    Too many youngsters who are not prepared to work hard will study law. Then, what can they do afterwards? Chasing ambulances or go into politics.

    3) I have a lot of respect for Mr Michuki as a doer, among all the talkers. He is not a man to try to win a popularity contest, but to get tasks done. Was he demoted, sent like an errand boy, to tend the roads, which really would require an engineer? Are some people around Mr Kibaki frightened that this strong character makes his own decisions and carries them through with a force behind him?

    4) Would it be not more sensible to have Mr Kibaki as a patriarch, the President, without demanding duties and give Mr Odinga, a vigorous doer, who proved himself both as an engineer and as an entrepreneur, the task of running the country? It sounds totally illogical to have a man as a Vice President who does not seem to have experience in anything.

    We have to face practicalities, not personalities or tribes, if Kenya does not want to fall into the category, even years ahead, as a poor, backward country, sucked dry by polytics.

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