Pambazuka News 340: The Violence in Kenya Must Stop Now
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
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CONTENTS: 1. Editors’ corner, 2. Features, 3. Comment & analysis, 4. Pan-African Postcard, 5. Books & 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.”
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://geraldbaraza.blogspot.com/2008/01/ladies-and-gentlemen-gotab- 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 email@example.com or comment online at www.pambazuka.org
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 conflict prevention.
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 reconstruction.
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 other areas.
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 government.
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 require attention.
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 crisis.
- 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 hindrance.
- Cessation of violence against civilians by the police, militia and others.
- 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 perpetrators.
- 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 constitutional reform.
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 transformation.
- 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 in Kenya.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at www.pambazuka.org
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 Africa.
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 restored.
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 email@example.com or comment online at www.pambazuka.org
Is Kenya heading toward a Civil War?
Ali A. 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 protest.
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 fully ended.
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 surprise.
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 explosion.
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 THE STANDARD Nairobi, Kenya
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
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. Mvume Dandala.
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 contained herein.
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 either by
- 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 violence.
- 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 inflaming them.
- It should use history to heal and build people instead of dividing them.
- It must demystify myths about ethnic practices instead of perpetuating them
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 email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
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 Chairperson either.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at www.pambazuka.org
Review of 'From slave trade to 'free' trade'
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 email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice
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