Kenya’s Tin Man

Vigilante Journalist

Photo: The Vigilante Journalist


Observing Mwai Kibaki in Addis Ababa during the African Union Heads of State summit meeting I was reminded of the Wizard of Oz’s Tin Man. Every time Kibaki moves I hear the horrible sound of metal grinding on rusting metal, when he speaks he sounds corrosive.

If you recall, the Tin Man explains to Dorothy that a wicked witch placed a curse on his axe. With every swing of the enchanted axe he managed to chop off a piece of his body. A tinsmith refashioned each part with artificial limbs of tin until at last his entire body had been replaced by tin but alas the tinsmith forgot to provide him with a heart. It is a fitting metaphor for Kibaki’s legacy which will always be associated with the images of youths taking machetes to one another, throughout which he has shown himself to be bereft of a heart and incapable of feeling the pain or connecting with the trauma that Kenyans are undergoing. But like the Straw Man he might also need a brain.

Kibaki in need of a heart and a brain

Kibaki needs fixing

Attending the AU summit gave Kibaki an opportunity to stand before African leaders creaking as “the duly elected leader of Kenya” and to stubbornly claim that his re-election represents the “will of the majority” of Kenyans, a position rejected by ODM and the reason for Kofi Annan’s mediation efforts. How can he continue to insist on saying this when Electoral Commission of Kenya’s chairman, Samuel Kivuite, declared that he is not sure who won the election?

He was quick to take a swipe at Raila Odinga, head of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement accusing him of genocide and blaming him for the violence that is sweeping through the country, saying “the ongoing crisis erupted after the opposition … went ahead to instigate a campaign of civil unrest and violence. There is overwhelming evidence to indicate that the violence was premeditated, and systematically directed at particular communities (ethnic groups).”

Somebody ought to remind him that ODM did not start the fire. Kibaki lit a match and set fire to the ballot box on December 30th while subsequently extinguishing the hopes of many disenfranchised Kenyans. Is it clearer now what Kibaki’s game is?

He has simply allowed the violence and bloodshed to reach fever pitch and blamed the ODM for it. Odinga is hostage to this strategy. As long as Kibaki refuses to meet Odinga and talk seriously about where the country goes from here and while he also continues to exhibit his characteristic lack of humility he will continue to fan the flames of the fires searing Kenya. Odinga can do little to put those flames out now. Kibaki is increasingly portrayed as the lesser of two evils in the eyes of the International Community.

Kibaki has kept very quiet throughout The Terror nor has he dared to leave State House while people have been slaughtered and burnt. At the same time he has denied Raila the use of Kenya’s airwaves. He has also sent the Administrative Police into the slums of Nairobi and Kisumu where hundreds of Luos have been killed indiscriminately leading to further outrage. Now the Mungiki gang are said to be terrorising the Luos of Kibera. Some are saying that politicians are funding them.

In Addis Kibaki also said, “Arrangements are also under way to resettle the displaced victims even as we search for a lasting solution to the current political crisis.” Those arrangements include government directives to close down IDP camps such as the A.S.K. show ground and Jamhuri Park where some 75,000 people, mainly women and children are sheltering.

“I am not leaving this place if I don’t have a secure place to relocate to,” Catherine Simba, an IDP from the western Kenyan town of Kakamega, told IRIN on 22 January at Jamhuri Park, the temporary home for at least 3,000 people displaced by post-election violence in parts of the country.

Simba was reacting to a government directive to have the camp closed. District Commissioner Evans Ogwankwa visited the camp on 21 January and said the government’s position was that the IDPs must leave.

“I’m not happy staying here, but I would also not want to go back to my looted and destroyed home near Kakamega town; I want to be relocated to a secure area,” she said.

“How can you take us back to the lion’s mouth, it will swallow us!” Simba exclaimed.

Kibaki also informed the AU summit that “the security situation in the country is under control.”

This statement following hot on the heels of the killing of two Orange Democratic legislators which have been described as political assassinations by the opposition. Three police stations have since been targeted by Kenyans and policemen have been lynched in response to the killing of the MPs. Kenyans continue to be attacked and killed. Vigilante gangs threaten to take the law into their hands and lynch robbers because the police are not doing anything to stop crime.

I found this slideshow extremely harrowing. It’s posted on Paris Match and depicts a lynching that took place on 16th January, in Mathare, Nairobi. Photographer, Enrico Dangnino and his colleague saved a Kamba man from being killed by a crowd of Luos. Nod to Vigilante Journalist a.k.a Anne Holmes.

Kenya’s slum residents are disillusioned with the police who have shot and killed people indiscriminately and refuse to patrol the slums at night when gangs are out in force. One gang member said

“The head officer said, ‘Let them fight each other. We will come in the morning to pick up the bodies’.

He said he called police to report the murder of a Luo friend in the Mathare slum by a group of Kikuyus. “When they didn’t come, we had to go out to protect ourselves.”

The country is lawless and gangs of young emboldened by the breakdown of law and order set up road blocks to demand money and kill people for belonging to the wrong tribe.

My sister, Rozi, called me yesterday trembling with fear. She lives in Western Kenya, on the Eldoret/Kakamega border. They had taken a patient to Moi Referral Hospital Eldoret. On their way back, the ambulance was stopped by youths bearing all forms of crude weapons. They demanded to know which tribes everyone in the ambulance belonged to. The driver was of the local tribe, so he was told to step aside. As the others showed their National Identity cards, my sister realized that all around them were corpses of human beings freshly chopped to death. Her turn came and she said she was Luhya. They told her to speak in Luhya, but my Sister doesn’t know Luhya. “I really can’t speak it because my mother is a Taita!” she pleaded. She had to desperately show a photocopy of my mother’s National Identity card which she had in her purse, a photocopy my mother had given to her the previous week to use as a referee for the bank account she was switching to. That photocopy saved my sister. The only language my sister can speak, apart from English and the National Swahili, is Gikuyu. The tribe the youths were targeting.

In the meantime the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs has said women and children are being raped in displacement camps, where sexual violence was being used to threaten and intimidate, as reported here.

Many law-abiding citizens are turning to gangs for protection because of the breakdown in law and order.

800 people are dead, 300,000 have been displaced by violence and the security situation is under control! It might look that way on the short journey from State House to Embakasi that Kibaki made under security escort to catch his flight to Addis.

Kofi Annan said that he had suggested to Kibaki on Tuesday that the military might need to be deployed to restore order. While British Foreign Office Minister Mark Malloch Brown agreed that deploying Kenya’s army might be a solution, saying police “at this stage seem to be seen as no longer neutral and behind some of the killings.”

Kumekucha calls the military option “a poisoned chalice.” pointing out emphatically that Kenya’s military barracks are bristling with ethnic competition. He says:

In addition to disenfranchising Kenyan voters forever, it will trash all our democratic credentials and history. And worst or it will be a perpetuation of the present day slavery to HELL-FOR-LEATHER rulership and absolutely no leadership. Two wrongs never made a right.

Kenya is crying for politico-economic justice which the military CANNOT deliver. It is therefore not only suicidal but also reckless and STUPID to entrust such an audacious quest to gun wielders while still smarting from fractures and amputations from machetes. We cannot afford to engage is such an expensive and FATAL gamble.

Kenyan anti-corruption campaigner Richard Leakey said

“I think Kibaki is getting very poor advice. He’s showing no personal leadership in this crisis; I’m not quite sure who around him is making the decisions.

“I think that’s a large part of the problem — the country feels at sea without a captain. But ODM has made some pretty outrageous statements too. Everybody is playing bad guy on this and nobody is trying to play good guy.”

In Addis the 53 member nations of the AU appeared toothless and at first tried to steer clear of addressing the violence that erupted following Kibaki’s private inauguration on the lawns of State House.

“There are divisions between one group who see themselves in Kibaki’s situation and another that has told him in no uncertain terms that this is not acceptable,” said one Western diplomat, adding that South Africa was in the latter group.

In Nairobi the mediation team set up by Kofi Annan had made breakthroughs and come up with a Four Point Plan to resolve the political crisis. Back in Addis Kibaki was describing Annan’s efforts as a “facilitation” mission rather than mediation!

Mr Annan said: “We believe within seven to 15 days, we should be able to tackle the first three agenda items. The first is to take immediate action to stop the violence.

“The second is immediate measures to address the humanitarian crisis, the third is how to overcome the current political crisis.” The fourth point concerned long-term issues such as unemployment, poverty and land reforms.

A document signed by both sides said an agreement might require “adjustments” to the constitution — suggesting a power-sharing arrangement that would give opposition leader Raila Odinga a new position of prime minister.

Finally, Kibaki tells Odinga to allow Kenya’s High Court to arbitrate. Nobody takes this option seriously. Kibaki appointed new judges only a month before the elections were held, further proof if any were needed that the theft was planned in advance. Kenyan Jurist elucidates the problems with the court option clearly:

As I have stated previously, this insistence on challenging the results in court is just a ruse and it ignores the fact that we are dealing with an issue not of legality but legitimacy and justice. How can anyone expect the court to be fair when in Kivuitu states, “I arrived at State House to take the certificate and I found the Chief Justice there, ready to swear-in Kibaki.” What can Kenyans expect from the court?

Hon Martha Karua also repeats the legal redress meme. If the government was bold enough to interfere with the tallying of votes. Just consider what the following;

  • Do we know where the Returning Officers of the disputed polling areas are. Is their security guaranteed? Will they be able to testify without intimidation and inteference? Remember the case sad case of DAVID MUNYAKEI. Is any of these people willing to risk their lives for the greater good of Kenyans.
  • Has the official ECK tally of votes been published in the Kenya Gazette or other media? Will it be interfered with? The longer this takes the greater the risk.
  • Have all the election materials been secured. Remember, in law, the petitioner has the burden of proving that the election was rigged. If the election materials have not been secured or tampered with then this would render the case moot.
  • Now that the Commonwealth Observers, European Union Observers, the Electoral Commissioners and many other have cast doubt on the election result, can Kenyans accept a court verdict that say the Election was proper?
  • Would politicians please spare us the legal mumbo jumbo and go right to resolving the political dispute at hand.

    By now it must be obvious that Kibaki is resistant to any kind of negotiations and neither is he going to step down. It is time for the international community to censure him more forcefully. What can be done? Robert Calderisi writing in the Globe and Mail says that the military coup d’etat option that is gaining currency among some commentators might be too draconian. He suggests the international community can respond by

    “[seizing] the assets of senior officials who, until now, have salted away their loot in Western banks with total impunity.

    “The world can continue to provide direct support to community groups, human rights activists, democratic reformers, and those promoting a free press.

    “And, in a number of cases, the answer may be to make foreign assistance more openly political..

    “Making aid more political does not mean using it as a convenient instrument of foreign policy. But if the goal is to fight poverty, the way a government treats its citizens — including its journalists, entrepreneurs and small farmers — should be central to the level of aid it receives.”

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    2 Responses to “Kenya’s Tin Man”


    1. 1 Vigilante Journalist February 2, 2008 at 1:58 pm

      Hello,

      The post you made about Paris Match slideshow is incorrect. This lynching took place on January 16 and was a Kamba whom the Luos were attacking.

      Peace,

      VG

    2. 2 athenaeum February 2, 2008 at 4:41 pm

      Thanks VG for pointing out the error. I have corrected this. Peace.


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