Chaos In Kenya: Turmoil Continues After Presidential Election


Chaos In Kenya: Turmoil Continues After Presidential Election

January 15, 2008

Hundreds have been killed and thousands have been forced to flee their homes amid post-election violence in Kenya that broke out after the announcement of the victory of the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, on December 30. The unrest has been attributed to political parties disputing the presidential results and allegations of vote-rigging by both Kibaki and his defeated opposition challenger, Raila Odinga.

News reports describe scenes of mob violence among Kikuyus and Luo, the ethnicities of Kibaki and Odinga, as well as indiscriminate acts of violence, vandalism, and looting. In the wake of the violence, over 250,000 people have been displaced countrywide.

On January 1, 35-40 people were burned alive in Eldoret, following the burning of a church in which 400 Kikuyus were seeking refuge. As of January 14, approximately 600 people had been killed across the country. On January 3, opposition supporters filled the center of Nairobi for a rally that was banned by the government. Police clashed with anti-government protestors, while gun shots rang out and teargas and water cannons were used to disperse several thousand protestors. "This is a country that has been held up as a model of stability. This picture has been shattered," said South Africa's Nobel peace laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In the meantime, Odinga has called for President Kibaki's resignation and a campaign of peaceful civil action.

Humanitarian aid agencies attempting to provide relief supplies are facing difficulties in their efforts to reach displaced communities due to roads being barricaded by vigilantes that are forcing both aid agency staff and civilians to identify their ethnic group. According to the Ugandan Minister of State for Relief and Disaster Preparedness, Musa Ecweru, approximately 5,400 Kenyans have fled across the border into Uganda. Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is leading a group of "eminent Africans" in an effort to mediate the crisis. President Kibaki has said he is prepared to speak with Odinga about a possible power sharing arrangement.

AJWS staff are making every effort to reach out to our 14 local partners operating in Kenya. Disruptions in phone services and the lack of e-mail access available to our partners in their homes (where most civilians are currently staying) has meant that AJWS has been forced to gather information from a wide range of sources. Fortunately, the staff and clients of all AJWS partners appear to be safe. To respond to immediate needs in the affected communities, our partners are providing emergency food and supplies to displaced communities, psychosocial support to families affected by the violence, and are beginning to lay the groundwork for longer-term reconciliation efforts.

AJWS strongly condemns the use of hate speech and acts of violence as means of voicing political frustration in Kenya and calls on the international community to continue to advocate for a long-term solution to the stalemate over the election outcome. AJWS will continue to carefully monitor the situation on the ground and seek ways to be of assistance to our partners and the communities which they serve.