Archive for the 'Kenya' Category

Where’s the sense of proportion in all of this?

This morning I nearly fell off the sofa while watching BBC News24 when a report outlining how Rwanda is behind the genocide in the Congo was broadcast. The fleeing of people from Goma initiated this report. It even went so far as to say that we have all been told lies about what really happened in the Congo. Was this really happening? I had to rewind the V+box to replay this news again and again just to make sure that I had not misheard the report. But no, I had heard correctly. Mention was made of how the regions mineral wealth has fuelled the crisis and how Kivu has become the prize fought over by Rwandan businessmen. This was extraordinary. Truth was finally dribbling through my box! Was my hardening cynicism of the function of the media going to have to be relaxed? When had I last heard the British Broadcasting propaganda service for the corporate elites do something as revolutionary as telling the truth? But here was the BBC telling their viewers that “Tutsi rebels” paid for by Rwandan businessmen have been committing crimes against humanity and well basically, it has to stop, chaps. Does one Messrs Tony Blair know this? Having appointed himself envoy to Rwanda recently he must be made aware of these facts straight away.

Talk of humanitarian intervention was interspersed with pictures of ragged Congolese men stoning UN blue tops as they passed in their shiny white tanks and the finger of blame was pointed at them by the BBC for failing to prevent the deaths of one million people. There was video too of Kagame’s men in crisply pressed new green uniforms filmed from sinister angles decrying their innocence. No mention was made of the fact that the BBC had bought these lies and why but I was prepared to forgive this omittance at this point and the fact they got the death toll wrong, it’s closer to 5 million who have died in the DR Congo at the rate of 45,000 a month since the Rwandans invaded the country ostensibly to hunt down Hutu rebels.

A developing story so more was bound to leak through the miasma. But just as the horror of what has transpired in the Eastern region of DR Congo, and why, threatened to dominate the headlines it was killed dead in its tracks at about 10.00 am by the very important coverage of bad boy comedian Russell Brand and partner in crime tv presenter Jonathan Woss and their crime of having made a rude call in the middle of the night to a grand-father about some sexual dalliance Brand had supposedly enjoyed with his grand-daughter. And that was that.

Other bad boy friends of Brand and Ross came forward to tell us this was a conspiracy of the left media to tarnish these good people. Calls for the resignation of the lads and producers who had allowed their obscene behaviour to filter through to the public at 2.00 am in the morning was gathering steam. None of this I would have heard anyway if it had not been relayed to me through the media as I happened to be fast asleep in the early hours of Sunday morning and I don’t listen to dead-wood like Radio 2. By this morning the deluge of calls for the sacking of anybody that had come within 2 feet of Brand and Ross was in full swing. Complaints that had been received by OFCOM on Monday morning had swelled from 4000 to over 10,000 today.

The report on DR Congo, as far as I can see, has not made it to the website but you can hear what the important news stories in the UK are today.

Russell quit his job as Radio 2 presenter in a video in which he claimed to be contrite over his bad behaviour, intriguingly, a picture of Joseph Stalin could be spied behind him as he explained himself and offered up his resignation. This was no accident on Russell’s part as he’s a smart man. George Orwell, no lover of the BBC, I think would have commiserated with Brand and understood the significance of this detail.

Now watch the BBC version. What’s missing? I think my cynicism about the media is hardening… again!

In the meantime Johan Hari wrote an article for the Independent on the crimes being carried out in our names in the Congo. We are all a party to this genocide because people being killed in the Congo are dying over coltan which is used in the manufacture of the mobile phones we use. I remember explaining this to a Bigfish back in 2003 who thought I was nuts but Hari gets it.

Now wouldn’t it be great if the BBC could get just as indignant and self-righteous about people dying in the Congo in wars as it does about Brand and Ross playing pranks in the middle of the night?

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State Sanctioned Kenyan Clashes

The BBC has learnt of allegations of state-sanctioned violence in Kenya during the turmoil that followed last December’s disputed presidential poll.

Watch video here

Sources allege that meetings were hosted at the official residence of the president between the banned Mungiki militia and senior government figures.

The aim was to hire them as a defence force in the Rift Valley to protect the president’s Kikuyu community.

The government denied the allegations, calling them “preposterous”.

“No such meetings took place at State House or any government office,” the government said in a statement posted on its website.

Such “unfounded lies” are “injurious to the president, government and the people of Kenya”, the statement said.

We were ordered not to stop the vehicles to allow them to go -Rift Valley policeman

The allegations come as parliament is due to open on Thursday preparing the way for a new coalition government.

Although parliament’s focus will be on healing ethnic divisions and creating a coalition government – allegations of state involvement with a banned Kikuyu militia, known as Mungiki, will not go ignored, the BBC’s Karen Allen in Nairobi says.

She says there is of growing suspicion that some of the violence that led to 1,500 people being killed and hundreds of thousands displaced was orchestrated by both sides of the political divide.

Gangs with machetes

The BBC source, who is a member of the Kikuyu tribe and who is now in hiding after receiving death threats, alleged: “Three members of the gang met at State House… and after the elections and the violence the militias were called again and they were given a duty to defend the Kikuyu in Rift Valley and we know they were there in numbers.”

Groups of Kikuyu groups roam the streets of a neighbourhood of Naivasha as fires burn
Non-Kikuyu homes in Naivasha were ransacked and set alight

On the weekend of 25 January, the Rift Valley towns of Nakuru and then Naivasha were the focus of the some of the worst post-election violence.

Eyewitnesses spoke of non-Kikuyu homes being marked, then gangs with machetes – who they claim were Mungiki – attacked people who were from other ethnic groups.

Sources inside the Mungiki have told the BBC that it was a renegade branch of the outfit that was responsible for violence, not them.

A policeman who was on duty at the time, who has spoken to the BBC on condition of anonymity, has also pointed to clear signs of state complicity.

He alleges that in the hours before the violence in Nakuru, police officers had orders not to stop a convoy of minibus taxis, called “matatus”, packed with men when they arrived at police checkpoints.

“When we were there… I saw about 12 of them [matatus] packed with men,” he said.

“There were no females… I could see they were armed.

“We were ordered not to stop the vehicles to allow them to go.”

The current and previous minister for internal security have both been invited to respond to the allegations. So far they have declined to do so.

The allegations come at a time of growing concern that there was pre-planned violence on both sides of the political fence, in the aftermath of Kenya’s disputed election result.

The international crisis group has already raised such concerns and Human Rights Watch is expected to publish its report making similar claims shortly.

There are plans to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the coming weeks to examine claims of election violence.

The allegations are likely to be among the themes investigated by a commission created to address the issue of post-election skirmishes.

MUNGIKI SECT
Banned in 2002
Thought to be ethnic Kikuyu militants
Mungiki means multitude in Kikuyu
Inspired by the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s
Claim to have more than 1m followers
Promote female circumcision and oath-taking
Believed to be linked to high-profile politicians
Control public transport routes, demanding levies
Blamed for revenge murders in the central region

Maina Kiai warned that Mungiki were being activated by the government in January.

An earlier report by Kenyan Corruption and Warlords here.

Newsnight Video here – the Dr Alfred Mutua govt spokesman gets Paxmanned at 22.30 mins in. Mutua claims that the BBC report is fabricated and finds the allegations are shocking. He also says that people are not happy for Kenyans to have found a solution to the crisis and ends asking what the reason for the allegations are “…Is it racism?”

Dr Alfred Mutua’s response to BBC report

BBC STORY BASELESS AND MEANT TO INCITE KENYANS INTO VIOLENCE

The Government of Kenya has been shocked by a story appearing on the BBC that alledges that members of the banned group Mungiki held meetings at Statehouse, Nairobi, the Official Office of the President.

This story is preposterous, baseless and at best defamatory. No such meetings took place at Statehouse or any Government Office. It is injurious to the President, Government and the People of Kenya for BBC to run such unfounded lies. What credible sources do the BBC have and what is the motivation of the BBC in running untruths and manufacturing such allegations? Why didn’t the BBC seek comment from the Government of Kenya before airing the story? The Government of Kenya will write to demand an apology, a retraction and an inquiry into the motive of the producers of the story.

The Government of Kenya takes great exception to the story, which is coming days after signing of a peace agreement, and can only conclude that the producers of the story are trying to dent the hopes of Kenyans and incite Kenyans into violence.

Kenyans should not believe the dangerous lies on the BBC story and should nurture the peace we enjoy with the knowledge that not everyone is happy that we are a stable country and that an African solution to the Kenyan crisis has been found.

The Mungiki sect is a criminal organization that has been banned by President Mwai Kibaki’s Government. Last year, the Government embarked on a special operation to wipe out the banned group and arrested its key leaders. The Government of Kenya has never worked or engaged banned criminal organizations for any work.

Dr. Alfred N. Mutua,
EBS PUBLIC COMMUNICATIONS SECRETARY &
GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON

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.”

    What can be done?

    Photobucket

    From this angle I can not tell whether this woman is a Luo or a Kikuyu. What I do know is that she is a Kenyan.

    Kenya’s military have been deployed to Nakuru and have fired on marauding groups of youths who have been setting fire to homes. In Naivasha, sixteen people were killed in a small two-roomed house where they had taken shelter. Most them women and children. One woman running away from the scene screamed, “They set it on fire, they are killing my brother and sister.”

    The violence has continued despite Kibaki and Odinga agreeing to talk. It’s going to take more than an hand-shake to resolve the situation. The electoral crisis is no longer driving events which now center on horrifying revenge attacks directed at the Luo community in what were once quiet, cosmopolitan tourist towns. What can be done?

    Who can trust Kibaki or Odinga to heal these wounds when both blame each other for the violence? For each sees the chaos as a propaganda vehicle. Kenya needs fresh faces to form a platform on which the constitutional crisis can be addressed and the long hard work of repairing the country’s damaged institutions can begin. For too long the country has been run as the personal fiefdom of the elite. An equitable redistribution of land and resources must also be carried out; ethnic divisions would never erupt in a country in which all people felt they held a stake. Edit: On reflection, achieving such equity through redistribution is complicated and difficult. Focusing on economic growth and greater inclusion through extending employment opportunities is an urgent task. It is not going to happen. The global economy has been stitched up, Kenyan workers are similarly stitched up.

    Odinga could use the platform he has been given by the media to address these issues instead of harping on about the elections. What good are fresh elections now when people are dying? Kibaki might have shown himself to be singularly out of touch with what is happening but that should not prevent Odinga from taking the lead. Odinga might look more like a statesman if he were to spell out how these horrible wounds can be healed, instead of playing the blame-game and nursing his own hurt ego.

    Ninety people in all were killed over the weekend as the epicentre of violence shifted to Naivasha and Nakuru. In Nakuru, witnesses identified Mungiki sect members who they said were armed with guns and wore police uniforms.

    In yesterday’s incident only comparable to that visited on victims sheltering at an Eldoret Church early this month, charred remains of the 16 victims were crammed in a small, two-room house, where – according to witnesses – they had locked themselves up to escape the wrath of bloodthirsty youths.

    “When the attacks started, youths burnt the house, trapping them inside,” a resident said.

    Another four were hacked to death as they fled from the marauding gangs targeting members of one community.

    Others were killed and lynched after being fished out of public service vehicles on account of their tribe.

    Policemen watched the unfolding chaos helplessly as Nairobi was temporarily cut-off from western Kenya.

    Independent reports put the death toll in Naivasha at more than 20, but police confirmed only 10. The number could be higher as several people were reported missing.

    In Nakuru, the death toll hit 60, with the number expected to rise as rival groups continued to clash. Witnesses said some of the attackers, believed to be members of the proscribed Mungiki sect, were armed with guns and wore police uniforms.

    Fifty-five bodies are lying at the Nakuru Municipal Mortuary with five more yet to be collected from the town’s estates. The mortuary, with a capacity of 42, was stretched to the limit as bodies streamed in.

    The number of those injured continued to rise and by yesterday evening, more than 100 victims were admitted to the Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital nursing arrow, cuts and bullet wounds.

    Burning of houses continued in various estates as hundreds continued to flee their homes. Police and military officers patrolled the town and suburbs as the violence entered its third day yesterday.

    Unconfirmed reports said a military chopper patrolling the town fired gunshots at Kwa Rhonda and Ng’ambo estates to scare away marauding youths torching houses.

    However, Nakuru deputy OCPD, Mr Mathew Gwiyo, said military officers fired shots in Bahati of Nakuru North District to disperse youths armed with pangas, bows and arrows who were torching houses.

    “The military choppers are assisting police with aerial surveillance and intervened when the situation got out of hand,” he said.

    At Sewage Estate, police had a hard time controlling two armed groups from rival communities and had to fire several times in the air to disperse them.

    Armed with pangas and other weapons, they mounted death traps at illegal roadblocks on the Nairobi-Nakuru highway, where they flushed out passengers from communities other than their own and lynched them.

    During the skirmishes, a prison warder accidentally shot his colleague, part of a team sent to quell the violence. Houses were torched and property worth millions of shillings looted during the chaos that turned Naivasha town into a no-go zone.

    William Ruto addressed Eldoret residents and called for peace, “I am appealing to our people to stop fighting each other. We know those who organised to manipulate the elections and have put us in this mess.”

    In Kisumu today, young men blocked roads out of the town with burning tires and rocks.

    “Kikuyus must go!” “No Raila, no peace!” they yelled, referring to the tribe of Kibaki, and to his chief rival, opposition leader Raila Odinga. Members of Odinga’s Luo tribe are among those challenging the official election results, and in Kisumu some of them took out their rage on Kikuyus, including the bus driver who was burned to death.

    “The road is covered in blood. It’s chaos. Luos are hunting Kikuyus for revenge,” said Baraka Karama, a journalist for state broadcaster Kenya Television.

    Letter to Kivuite from Kenyan poet Shailja Patel

    Kivuitu letter

    An Open Letter to Samuel Kivuitu, Chair of the Electoral Commission of Kenya
    Mr. Kivuitu,

    We’ve never met. It’s unlikely we ever will. But, like every other Kenyan, I will remember you for the rest of my life. The nausea I feel at the mention of your name may recede. The bitterness and grief will not.

    You had a mandate, Mr. Kivuitu. To deliver a free, fair and transparent election to the people of Kenya. You and your commission had 5 years to prepare. You had a tremendous pool of resources, skills, technical support, to draw on, including the experience and advice of your peers in the field – leaders and experts in governance, human rights, electoral process and constitutional law. You had the trust of 37 million Kenyans.

    We believed it was going to happen. On December 27th, a record 65% of registered Kenyan voters rose as early as 4am to vote. Stood in lines for up to 10 hours, in the sun, without food, drink, toilet facilities. As the results came in, we cheered when minister after powerful minister lost their parliamentary seats. When the voters of Rift Valley categorically rejected the three sons of Daniel Arap Moi, the despot who looted Kenya for 24 years. The country spoke through the ballot, en masse, against the mindblowing greed, corruption, human rights abuses, callous dismissal of Kenya’s poor, that have characterised the Kibaki administration.

    But Kibaki wasn’t going to go. When it became clear that you were announcing vote tallies that differed from those counted and confirmed in the constituencies, there was a sudden power blackout at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, where the returns were being announced. Hundreds of GSU (General Service Unit) paramilitaries suddenly marched in. Ejected all media except the government mouthpiece Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.

    Fifteen minutes later, we watched, dumbfounded, as you declared Kibaki the winner. 30 minutes later, we watched in sickened disbelief and outrage, as you handed the announcement to Kibaki on the lawns of State House. Where the Chief Justice, strangely enough, had already arrived. Was waiting, fully robed, to hurriedly swear him in.

    You betrayed us. Perhaps we’ll never know when, or why, you made that decision. One rumor claims you were threatened with the execution of your entire family if you did not name Kibaki as presidential victor. When I heard it, I hoped it was true. Because at least then I could understand why you chose instead to plunge our country into civil war.

    I don’t believe that rumor any more. Not since you appeared on TV, looking tormented, sounding confused, contradicting yourself. Saying, among other things, that you did not resign because you “did not want the country to call me a coward”, but you “cannot state with certainty that Kibaki won the election”. Following that with the baffling statement “there are those around him [Kibaki] who should never have been born.” The camera operator had a sense of irony – the camera shifted several times to the scroll on your wall that read: “Help Me, Jesus.”

    As the Kenya Chapter of the International Commission of Jurists rescinds the Jurist of the Year award they bestowed on you, as the Law Society of Kenya strikes you from their Roll of Honour and disbars you, I wonder what goes through your mind these days.

    Do you think of the 300,000 Kenyans displaced from their homes, their lives? Of the thousands still trapped in police stations, churches, any refuge they can find, across the country? Without food, water, toilets, blankets? Of fields ready for harvest, razed to the ground? Of granaries filled with rotting grain, because no one can get to them? Of the Nairobi slum residents of Kibera, Mathare, Huruma, Dandora, ringed by GSU and police, denied exit, or access to medical treatment and emergency relief, for the crime of being poor in Kenya?

    I bet you haven’t made it to Jamhuri Park yet. But I’m sure you saw the news pictures of poor Americans, packed like battery chickens into their stadiums, when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Imagine that here in Nairobi, Mr. Kivuitu. 75,000 Kenyans, crammed into a giant makeshift refugee camp. Our own Hurricane Kivuitu-Kibaki, driven by fire, rather than floods. By organized militia rather than crumbling levees. But the same root cause – the deep, colossal contempt of a tiny ruling class for the rest of humanity. Over 60% of our internal refugees are children. The human collateral damage of your decision.

    And now, imagine grief, Mr. Kivuitu. Grief so fierce, so deep, it shreds the muscle fibres of your heart. Violation so terrible, it grinds down the very organs of your body, forces the remnants through your kidneys, for you to piss out in red water. Multiply that feeling by every Kenyan who has watched a loved one slashed to death in the past week. Every parent whose child lies, killed by police bullets, in the mortuaries of Nairobi, Kisumu, Eldoret. Everyone who has run sobbing from a burning home or church, hearing the screams of those left behind. Every woman, girl, gang-raped.

    Do you sleep well these days, Mr. Kivuitu? I don’t. I have nightmares. I wake with my heart pounding, slow tears trickling from the corners of my eyes, random phrases running through my head:

    Remember how we felt in 2002? It’s all gone.
    (Muthoni Wanyeki, ED of Kenya Human Rights Commission, on the night of December 30th, 2007, after Kibaki was illegally sworn in as president).

    There is a crime here that goes beyond recrimination. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolise.
    (John Steinbeck, American writer, on the betrayal of internally displaced Americans, in The Grapes of Wrath)

    Haki iwe ngao na mlinzi….kila siku tuwe na shukrani
    (“Justice be our shield and defender….every day filled with thanksgiving” Lines from Kenya’s national anthem)

    I soothe myself back to patchy sleep with my mantra in these days, as our country burns and disintegrates around us:

    Courage.
    Courage comes.
    Courage comes from cultivating.
    Courage comes from cultivating the habit.
    Courage comes from cultivating the habit of refusing.
    Courage comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one’s actions.
    (Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese Nobel Peace Prize winner).

    I wake with a sense of unbearable sadness. Please let it not be true…..

    Meanwhile, the man you named President cowers in the State House, surrounded by a cabal of rapacious power brokers, and a bevy of sycophantic unseated Ministers and MPs, who jostle for position and succession. Who fuel the fires by any means they can, to keep themselves important, powerful, necessary. The smoke continues to rise from the torched swathes of Rift Valley, the gutted city of Kisumu, the slums of Nairobi and Mombasa. The Red Cross warns of an imminent cholera epidemic in Nyanza and Western Kenya, deprived for days now of electricity and water. Containers pile up at the Port of Mombasa, as ships, unable to unload cargo, leave still loaded. Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Southern Sudan, the DRC, all dependent on Kenyan transit for fuel and vital supplies, grind to a halt.

    A repressive regime rolls out its panoply of oppression against legitimate dissent. Who knew our police force had so many sleek, muscled, excellently-trained horses, to mow down protestors? Who guessed that in a city of perennial water shortages, we had high-powered water cannons to terrorize Kenyans off the streets?

    I am among the most fortunate of the fortunate. Not only am I still whole, alive, healthy, mobile; not only do I have food, shelter, transport, the safety of those I love; I have the gift of work. I have the privilege to be in the company of the most brilliant, principled, brave, resilient Kenyans of my generation. To contribute whatever I can as we organize, analyse, strategize, mobilize, draw on everything we know and can do, to save our country. I marvel at the sheer collective volume of trained intelligence, of skill, expertise, experience, in our meetings. At the ability to rise above personal tragedy – families still hostage in war zones, friends killed, homes overflowing with displaced relatives – to focus on the larger picture and envisage a solution.

    I listen to lawyers, social scientists, economists, youth activists, humanitarians; experts on conflict, human rights, governance, disaster relief; to Kenyans across every sector and ethnicity, and I think:

    Is this what we have trained all our lives for? To confront this epic catastrophe, caused by a group of old men who have already sucked everything they possibly can out of Kenya, yet will cling until they die to their absolute power?

    You know these people too, Mr. Kivuitu. The principled, brave, resilient, brilliant Kenyans. The idealists who took seriously the words we sang as schoolchildren, about building the nation. Some of them worked closely with you, right through the election. Some called you friend. You don’t even have the excuse that Kibaki, or his henchmen, might offer – that of inhabiting a world so removed from ours that they cannot fathom the reality of ordinary Kenyans. You know of the decades of struggle, bloodshed, faith and suffering that went into creating this fragile beautiful thing we called the “democratic space in Kenya.” So you can imagine the ways in which we engage with the unimaginable. We coin new similes:

    lie low like a 16A (the electoral tally form returned by each constituency, many of which were altered or missing in the final count)

    We joke about the Kivuitu effect – which turns internationalists, pan-Africanists, fervent advocates for the dissolution of borders, into nationalists who cry at the first verse of the national anthem:

    Ee Mungu nguvu yetu
    Ilete baraka kwetu
    Haki iwe ngao na mlinzi
    Natukae na undugu
    Amani na uhuru
    Raha tupate na ustawi.

    O God of all creation
    Bless this our land and nation
    Justice be our shield and defender
    May we dwell in unity
    Peace and liberty
    Plenty be found within our borders.

    Rarely do we allow ourselves pauses, to absorb the enormity of our country shattered, in 7 days. We cry, I think, in private. At least I do. In public, we mourn through irony, persistent humor, and action. Through the exercise of patience, stamina, fortitude, generosity, that humble me to witness. Through the fierce relentless focus of our best energies towards challenges of stomach-churning magnitude.

    We tell the stories that aren’t making it into the press. The retired general in Rift Valley sheltering 200 displaced families on his farm. The Muslim Medical Professionals offering free treatment to anyone injured in political protest. We challenge, over and over again, with increasing weariness, the international media coverage that presents this as “tribal warfare”, “ethnic conflict”, for an audience that visualises Africa through Hollywood: Hotel Rwanda, The Last King of Scotland, Blood Diamond.

    I wish you’d thought of those people, when you made the choice to betray them. I wish you’d drawn on their courage, their integrity, their clarity, when your own failed you. I wish you’d had the imagination to enter into the lives, the dreams, of 37 million Kenyans.

    But, as you’ve probably guessed by now, Mr. Kivuitu, this isn’t really a letter to you at all. This is an attempt to put words to what cannot be expressed in words. To mourn what is too immense to mourn. A clumsy groping for something beyond the word ‘heartbreak’. A futile attempt to communicate what can only be lived, moment by moment. This is a howl of anguish and rage. This is a love letter to a nation. This is a long low keening for my country.

    Shailja Patel

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    Justice be our shield and defender

    “My father was shot as he stood in front of our house. The police were shooting indiscriminately, targeting anyone on sight. My father was shot in the stomach,” witness Alphonse Otieno said today by phone from Kisumu’s Kondele slum.

    Proof that Kenyan GSU are using live rounds to kill demonstrators. A Kisumu demonstrator is shot dead in cold blood in Kondole, another is kicked brutally when he is down and dying. They are being hunted down as this video shows.

    BBC clip here. Be warned: both clips are graphic and distressing.
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    Police club a woman suspected of being an ODM supporter

    GSU Shoot, Police Club

    Therein lies the problem. The Kenyan government should not be sending the GSU armed with kalashnikovs and live bullets to police the demonstrations. I do not condone police violence at all, whether by clubbing or bullets, but make the point that arming paramilitary forces leads inexorably to those arms being used against innocent civilians and with the inevitable loss of life following closely behind. Coercion of this sort does not quell violence, it nurtures it.

    Note how in Kisumu yesterday Michael Barasa, a police officer said “At the moment, [demonstrators] have lit bonfires in some parts of the city but we do not want to provoke them yet.”

    We do not want to provoke them yet. Non-violent actions turns violent when the other side uses violent means to suppress them. Using tear gas and bullets only ratchets up violence. Take the GSU out of the equation and the demonstrations would in all likelihood remain peaceful. The government must also lift the ban on rallies as there is no valid reason for assuming that “criminal elements” are taking advantage of them.

    Joseph Karoki has posted photos of victims of police brutality on his blog. Graphic image.

    Much of the worst violence has occured in Kisumu where many protestors have so far been shot dead. There are no reliable figures yet for how many have been killed to date. There are claims that 53 people have died and of those 44 have been killed by bullets. People are enraged by this; many of them did not vote for Kibaki and now he sends his guns in to shoot them dead. Frustration and anger levels are rising so it may now be too late to put the genie back in the bottle.

    The police chief Grace Kaindi said she had no regrets about giving the “shoot to kill” order. Her statement to AP press is contradictory. She claimed that she feared the police would be overwhelmed by the demonstrators and then later said that all those killed were “looters and thieves.” Belying the video footage shown at the top of this post.

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    Nairobi demonstrators in a haze of tear gas

    Human Rights Watch has criticised the apparent “shoot to kill” policy by demanding that Kenyan police follow the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, which state that law enforcement officers must apply non-violent methods when at all possible, leaving force as a last resort and only in proportion to the offence committed.

    According to HRW even people who were not part of the demonstrations were hit by stray bullets.

    Yesterday’s demonstrations in Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret remained peaceful until police started shooting tear gas and live rounds.
    Eldoret demonstrations 16.01.08

    Eldoret Demonstrations

    This is what happened in Eldoret AFTER the GSU were sent in

    The police ferried the bodies of the men they had shot to the mortuary. In the chaos, they brought some in alive, mixing them up with the dead, a priest said. Their suffering as they were left to die amid the corpses is unimaginable.

    UPDATE:

    Millions of Kenyans are very outraged by the brutal execution, captured by one of KTN’s courageous camera persons of a young protester in Kisumu whose capital offence appears to have been nothing more than making faces at and playing hide and seek with heavily armed goons in para-military gear… But does he have a name?

    Does he have a family?

    Yes, he does.

    Let me resurrect him in a sense by telling you a few things about him.

    His name was George Williams Omondi Onyango.

    He was twenty two years old.

    He was a mechanic employed by Simba Line Motors in Kisumu.

    He lived in the Migosi area of that western Kenyan town.

    He was also my brother-in-law. His older brother is married to my youngest sister.

    Like every other television viewer in Kenya, I was gnashing my teeth and cursing the illegal and criminal assault on unarmed peaceful demonstrators all over Kenya.

    I was expressing my outrage in my living room watching the news at nine pm when my cell phone rang and I saw it was my sister calling.

    She was sobbing uncontrollably, asking me if I had seen the segment on the news about the young man being shot.

    I replied that I had seen the piece at 4 pm, at 7 pm and now at 9.

    Choking and wailing, she told me between bouts of weeping who the executed young man was.

    To say I was stupefied with additional shock is probably the understatement of this week.

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    On the origins of the General Service Unit

    I have been dipping into James Dianga’s book Kenya 1982 The Attempted Coup, The Consequence of a One Party Dictatorship ever since it was brought to my attention a couple of weeks ago and was intrigued to read why the GSU was formed. Kenyatta did not trust the army because the officer class was dominated by Kambas while the rearguard was made up of Kalenjins. Kenyatta was disdainful of the army because there were hardly any Kikuyu in its ranks and he believed it was made up of illiterates. For these reasons Kenyatta could not wholly rely on it so the GSU was formed alongside the Kenya Air Force. These two units consisted of carefully selected Kikuyus from Central Province and Kiambu and their function was to act as a bulwark against the Kenyan Army.

    The GSU is a highly mobile, well trained (by Israel) and heavily-armed elitist paramilitary unit; it is a

    political force, the regime’s coercive arm against its internal enemies’. Targeted for rapid transformation into a virtually all-Kikuyu hit squad, with its base at Gatundu, close to the President’s estate, there could be little doubt about the function of the G.S.U.

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    Kenyan Lawyers Demand Kibaki Steps Down

    Chief Justice, Evan Gicheru, is accused by the Law Society of Kenya of taking part in an illegal swearing-in ceremony, which they say lacked the full credibility of the law because it was based on a faulty tallying process.

    President Kibaki was sworn in as a result of a faulty tallying exercise, contrary to Section 7 of the Constitution. The Attorney General has confirmed this finding. President Kibaki should, therefore, step down and fresh presidential elections held.”

    LSK chairman Okong’o O’Mogeni said that a re-run of the presidential elections was the only way to solve the constitutional and legal crisis facing the country. “The crisis we face is there is a very large section of Kenyans who feel they have been robbed of the right to choose their leader, the right to self-determination. Let us go to the root cause of this problem and this can only be done through the re-run,” O’Mogeni said.

    “We reject the belated suggestion for vote re-tallying,” the LSK chief said. “The integrity of the documents cannot be guaranteed,” he said.

    “In view of the reports by the Law Society of Kenya Observers, ECK admission that the results were being tampered with, he could not tell who really won the elections, the AG’s own call for a recount of ballots, independent observers, the European Union and the International Community at large that the Presidential vote tallying was flawed and tampered with, the aw Society of Kenya strongly demands that Honourable Mwai Kibaki steps down and that fresh presidential elections be held,” said O’Mogeni.

    “To allow a heavily compromised and falsified election result to stand is to spell the death of electoral practice and democracy in Kenya forever,” Mr Omogeni added.

    Mr Omogeni said: “Hon Kibaki lacks legitimacy to govern and this is the cause of the problems that we are facing in this country.

    The LSK also asked for Kivuite and the ECK to be held criminally liable for abandoning their consitutional mandate. “The LSK Council has resolved and recalled the honour bestowed upon Samuel Kivuitu in 2006 and demand the immediate return of the award,” said an LSK council member, James Aggrey Mwamu.