The aftermath of the Kenyan elections has divided the country
The aftermath of the Kenyan elections has divided the country and left more than 300 people dead and scores of persons injured and their property destroyed. The hotly contested presidential elections were mostly between the incumbent president Mwai Kibaki and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) candidate Raila Odinga.
Just before the announcement of the results by the electoral commission of Kenya (ECK) the ODM claimed the government had rigged the elections and altered some of the figures from the constituencies in favour of president Kibaki. As a result Kibaki 'won' the elections with 4.5million votes against Raila's 4.3million. The votes were immediately disputed by the opposition and sporadic riots begun throughout the country (except in Central and Eastern Kenya where the president h as a large support).
Subsequently Kenya has witnessed a level of violence never seen before. It is totally unacceptable. There are serious doubts on the manner in which the ECK handled the whole tallying process. The election went on very well with a large turnout, the counting process at the voting stations was smooth but the final tallying of the results in Nairobi were tampered with and the opposition, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) claimed they had all the evidence and copies of the original documents indicating the number of votes from constituencies before they were tallied...it's a broad daylight robbery, they claimed. The opposition candidate Raila had a clear lead and large majority of votes from 6 out of 8 provinces just as the opinion polls had shown before elections.
The current violence has taken different dimensions: election grievances, robbery and stealing, as well as something close to ethnic cleansing of the Kikuyus especially in the Rift Valley. People are settling old grievances: there have always been tensions in the settlement areas in the Rift Valley between Kikuyus and the Kalenjins (the indigenous occupants of the region). The Kikuyus were brought into these areas after independence following their displacements by colonialists who took their land and put up coffee and tea plantations. Because the issue has never been solved in the last forty years, and given that it was made worse by the then President Moi (himself
from Rift Valley) in 1992 and 1997 elections by inciting the Kalenjins to kick out Kikuyus who were unlikely to vote for him, the situation has always remained volatile.
We pray for an amicable solution, there is a lot of pressure on the government and opposition, internally and internationally. The president has issued a statement calling for a national reconciliation and asked the opposition to go to court to protest the election results rather than let their supporters continue to cause havoc. The ODM are willing to dialogue as long as an international mediator comes in. The current proposal for a mediator is on President Kufuor of Ghana who is also the chairman of African Union. The government has been hesitant to accept an international mediator.
The opposition organized a million person rally on January 3rd which failed to take off because of the heavy police presence. Demonstrators rioted and some destroyed properties. ODM says the rallies will continue.
The Catholic Church just issued a statement on Jan 3rd calling for peace and Reconciliation an audit of the election results and mediation between Kibaki and Raila. Jesuit Hakimani Centre is in solidarity with the Bishops' Letter and is working on the following:
- Advocating in collaboration with Church and civil institutions for an immediate end to the violence and destruction of life and property.
- Working out a mechanism for immediate material and spiritual assistance of the victims of violence.
- Supporting initiatives for mediation and reconciliation between the major parties.
- Working with others in searching for a long term solution to this crisis at two levels:
- Encouraging Reconciliation and a vision for national unity;
- Lobbying for governing structures that ensure transparency in the electoral process.
Now Kenya is faced with a quarter-million IDPs, more than 600 killed, and a very uncertain future that has already cast a shadow in neighbouring countries - fuel and other commodities are scarce and over 6000 refugees have fled to Uganda.
Our Country Director, Anne Wangari, has made assessment visits in Limuru, on the outskirts of Nairobi, and in Eldoret and Kitale dioceses in the west of the country, where there are estimated to be 45,000 and 43,000 IDPs respectively. In Kitale some 17,000 IDPs have found temporary shelter in a school, but as the school year begins, they will have to be relocated.
Elizabeth is a single mother of four children. She is a small-scale farmer and harvest maize and tomatoes on her small piece of land. During the post-election violence her house was torched and the harvest destroyed. She was not able to save any of her belongings and she now lives with her children amongst other displaced Kenyans. She is worried about the future of her children; her oldest son was supposed to join Form 4 this year. She does not know how she can start her life again now that everything has been destroyed but she hopes to return to her land once security is provided.
Joseph, 35 years old:
Joseph lives in the area of Eldoret. His house and all his belongings were destroyed when a gang of over 200 people attacked him and his neighbours. He has no clothes, utensils or money. Now Joseph stays with his wife and children at the grounds of the Cathedral in Eldoret. There are many people staying at the Cathedral and he is worried the congestion will bring other health related problems.
Mary, 17 years old:
Mary is a Form 3 student in a local secondary school in Eldoret. Also her house and that of neighbours were destroyed by a big group of angry people. Before the elections some young men had already threatened them but they had not taken this seriously. The attackers would first loot the houses before setting them on fire. The attackers also came back a second time and started killing people. Mary is worried about her future and how her parents will start their lives again.
Entreculturas is present in Kenya
From Entreculturas we wish for a peaceful ending of this conflict in a country in which in addition to supporting the Jesuit Hakimani Centre, we support the education work of the Jesuit Refugee Service.
A concrete example of our field activity is the Project to support primary and secondary education for the Sudanese refugees at the Kakuma camp in Kenya. This camp situated in the north eastern tip of the country has currently more than 91.000 refugees, pout which 72% are of school age (under 25). This means that almost 67.000 boys and girls have had the chance of going to school.
The project supports a scholarship programme to offer the young refugees at Kakuma the chance of a primary and secondary education. They are a total of 184 beneficiaries out of which 15 need special education, 59 are girls in primary school and 45 girls and 65 boys in secondary. This is part of a larger scholarship programme for refugees in Kenya. Its objective goes beyond the mere education of these people; the JRS tries, at the same time, to give them hope and a human formation that may allow them to re integrate as citizens the moment they are able to return to their countries of origin. Thus, indirectly, the bases for development both in Kenya and in the rest of the region are being set.