Posts Tagged 'ethnic cleansing'

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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