Villagers say fliers told Kikuyus to get out of town

  • William Ruto named as instigator behind politically motivated ethnic cleansing.
  • Witnesses say the men were given 500 Kenyan shillings (about $7) to torch a house and sometimes more to kill a man.
  • The attackers relied on neighbors of their victims to point out the homes to be torched.
  • Some homes had been marked with paint. Those belonging to Kikuyus were destroyed; those belonging to others were left standing.

Kenya killings raise specter of wider ethnic bloodbath

By Nick Wadhams

Sunday, January 13, 2008

MOLO, Kenya — David Njenga remembers how the attackers arrived on trucks just after New Year’s Day and set fire to his village’s thatch-roofed houses. The young and the fast, including Njenga, managed to hide. Watching from behind a bush, he saw four old men hacked to death with machetes.

“They were killed as I watched,” Njenga recalled from a church in Molo, where hundreds of people fled from the violence that has hit Kenya since Dec. 27’s disputed election. “They killed the old people, those who could not run away. We ran away; we left those old men, so they killed them.”

Children play at a church that has been turned into a refugee camp for at least 8,000 people in Eldoret, Kenya. Unrest began after last month’s presidential election.

Stories like Njenga’s have become common in Molo and several other towns across western Kenya since President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of a vote that international observers have said was flawed.

The tribal nature of the violence has raised fears of a Rwanda-style genocide.

“We’ve had a long history of ethnic violence in Kenya that has been politically manipulated since the 1992 and 1997 elections,” said Binaifer Nowrojee, director of the Open Society Initiative for East Africa. “Events of the last two weeks show how rapidly we can deteriorate, and that’s what’s scaring everybody. The danger is that we can become Rwanda, but we’re not there yet.”

Opposition leaders in Kenya have described the violence as a spontaneous outburst from people furious about the election.

However, interviews with dozens of people such as Njenga, as well as politicians, humanitarian workers and church officials, suggest that much of the violence, which has killed at least 500 people, was planned beforehand.

Attacks like the one witnessed by Njenga have exposed some of the deep fault lines in Kenyan society that had largely been ignored by the outside world as the country emerged from 24 years of autocracy under President Daniel arap Moi, who long exploited ethnic divisions among Kenya’s 42 tribes to retain power.

North of Molo, in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret, at least 100,000 people have fled their homes because of the recent violence.

Most of the victims in the area are members of Kibaki’s Kikuyu ethnic group. The president has been accused of favoritism, bestowing jobs and land upon Kikuyus.

The attackers are supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga and come from several other Kenyan tribes. Around Molo, they are mostly ethnic Luo and Kalenjin, who say they have been shortchanged for decades.

Villagers say fliers that told Kikuyus to get out of town were scattered near their homes.

Then, young men arrived by truck and fanned out, ready for violence.

Witnesses say the men were given 500 Kenyan shillings (about $7) to torch a house and sometimes more to kill a man.

The attackers relied on neighbors of their victims to point out the homes to be torched.

Some homes had been marked with paint. Those belonging to Kikuyus were destroyed; those belonging to others were left standing.

“They started spreading leaflets saying the Kikuyus had 24 hours to go,” said Sammy Kamau, a 29-year-old high school teacher who voted for Kibaki. “My house was burned.”

“Before the elections, we were told that people will be chased away from the region,” said Waiharo Kimani, 37, who had fled his home near the town of Keringet. “So when the president won, they took that as a reason to push us away. It was planned years before.”

One of the main instigators, witnesses say, was a man named William Ruto, a key adviser to Odinga.

They say he held rallies before the election and told his supporters to kick out Kikuyus if his party lost.

Ruto has also been cited by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights as someone who should be prosecuted for propagating hate speech.

At a news conference, Ruto said he thought that the key issue of the election was the equitable distribution of resources but denied inciting ethnic violence.

“I consider anybody who says that we did say anything to the effect that anybody should leave their homes absolute rubbish because there are no statements that we made along that line,” Ruto said.

Samuel Ciuga, 40, is the pastor of the Apostolic Faith Church in Molo. At least 250 people have been living in his church compound for weeks after fleeing election-related violence.

Ciuga saw the same thing during elections in 1992, 1997 and 2002.

Each time, the church opened its doors to those fleeing the violence.

“This church is like the home of the refugees,” Ciuga said. “Even our members, most of them are refugees.”
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3 Responses to “Villagers say fliers told Kikuyus to get out of town”

  1. 1 cliffbest January 18, 2008 at 7:29 am

    This is purely rubbish.There is no way someone can substantiate the claims as they are just out to tarnish names of people who are fighting for the democracy of this nation.I am a victim of the post election crisis but believe me i can say with boldness and without favourism that this wasn’t pre-planned.the people are acting the way they are coz of the fact that the Kibaki Government is forcing leadership on the voter who voted for one Raila .I personally voted for Kibaki but feel betrayed in the sense that he doesn’t care about the interest of the people at heart to let this mess come to an end.If i were Raila,i could talk to the people who voted for me to restrain from violence and just let the people they elected fight for their democratic right.I really don’t support this violence to the letter.People went into fighting coz they felt their democratic right was raped and that there was no way they could get directly to the president rather that killing his tribesmen to make him react.I don’t support this killings and find it too primitive and irresponsible.
    We need peace in Kenya and the sooner the better.If Mr Kibaki respects the rule of law and the will of the people,let him swallow his pride and find avenue to talk to Raila so that they come to a solution to this violence and unrest.One thing they need to know is that as long as they do not stop the violence,it will reach a point whereby things will get out of control and they wont be able to bring back the glory of our beloved kenya.Currently in the rural areas,the youth have taken the law into their own hands and there is totally no rule of law.
    Please Kibaki and Raila sit down and bring this mess that you put the nation into an end asap.God bless Kenya.

  2. 2 athenaeum January 18, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Neither Kibaki nor Odinga have offered people direction during this crisis and so I have little hope in either of them resolving the underlying problems which were brought to the fore by the rigged election. The issues have since moved on. You say that the information in the above post is “pure rubbish.” Unfortunately, people are still being driven from their homes in the Rift Valley area despite the fact that there is extra security. 250,000 people were displaced in the space of a few days and that is not possible without prior planning. These reports begin to provide the details of how that happened. It is no use hiding our heads in the sand. These events have actually strengthened Kibaki and weakened Odinga. Odinga should loudly condemn the violence and ethnic cleansing instead of trying to explain it as “spontaneous violence.” However, he cannot because he needs Ruto.

  3. 3 Maina Peter January 23, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    What I can tell Kibaki and Raila is for them to come together the lone two with nobody else and talk like old men,compromise on how to share seatsand even in diplomatic appointments and save this Nation from collapsing.Why would one want to lead a nation that has already been paralysed.
    The fact of the matter is that the Kalenjins are not killing and burning of kikuyus because they are ODM die hard,NO they are taking these opportunity to evict the kikuyus.What I would want them to know is that what they are planting today they will have to harvest one time.(A MUST)Let them know there is no way we will leave our legally owned properties.
    So it’s Kibaki and Raila who can finish these killings.If today they talk,come uot with a workable solution and announce to the public,civillians will have no reason to demonstrate, burn houses and even killings.Iam personally praying to God to tie the minds of the two leaders and make one to save the remaining lives.

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