Four Kinds of Violence In Kenya

Wednesday, January 30, 2008
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Reports from human rights groups, based on information from monitors in the field, indicate that there are four sources of the ongoing violence in Kenya.

The first type of violence, which erupted in the immediate aftermath of the elections, was spontaneous, anarchic protest at the announcement of the presidential result. People took to the streets in Western Kenya, in the slums of Nairobi, in the towns of Rift Valley.

It was met with the second kind of violence, excessive force by the police and GSU. The government gave the police the right to use "lethal force" – in other words, live ammunition, and freedom to shoot to kill. The casualties were multiplied by the ban on peaceful free assembly, meaning any attempt at legitimate protest, including women walking to church, was met with tear gas and police brutality.

The third form of violence is organized militia activity. A report released last week by Human Rights Watch investigations indicate that opposition party officials and local
elders planned and organized ethnic-based violence in the Rift Valley.  The attacks, targetted mostly Kikuyu and Kisii people in and around the town of Eldoret.

Meanwhile, PNU leaders reactivated and deployed the Mungiki militia in Nairobi and the Rift Valley, while Chinkororo were mobilized in Nyanza.

The fourth kind of violence, escalating day by day, is communal revenge for killings and attacks that have already occurred.

I think of the words of Arundhati Roy, Indian writer, in response to the 2002 communal massacres in India.

"This is us. In India. Heaven help us make it through the night."

This is Kenya. This is us.

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About Shailja Patel

Shailja Patel is a Kenyan poet, writer and theatre artist who has performed at venues from New York's  Lincoln Center to the Zanzibar International Film Festival. Patel's first full-length show, Migritude, premiered in the San Francisco Bay Area, and toured Kenya to critical acclaim in 2007. The show was selected as the subject of the 2007 season premiere of SPARK! –  KQED TV's award-winning arts programme .Patel's work has received awards from, among others, the Ford Foundation, the National Performance Network, and Indian American Women Empowered. Most recently, she is a founding member of Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice, a coalition of Kenyan citizens and legal, governance, and human rights organizations, working towards a viable peace in the Kenya Crisis stemming from the December 2007 elections.