Kenya Government Denounces 'Genocide': The Washington Post gives a reasonably balanced account of what I think are the two predominant narratives about the causes of violence the post-election crisis in Kenya:
- Wrenching incidents, pointed to as evidence of systematic ethnic cleansing, justifying draconian police reprisals in the name of preserving "the rule of law"
- Arbitrary, extralegal police repression, on government orders and in direct support of the incumbent president, as an instigating factor in the violence.
First, the Post cites an official government statement:
"It is becoming clear that these well-organised acts of genocide and ethnic-cleansing were well-planned, financed and rehearsed by Orange Democratic Movement leaders prior to the general elections," the statement read by Lands Minister Kivutha Kibwana on behalf of his colleagues said.
The post cites a counterclaim to the same effect, but does not quote the challenger's statement, which it characterizes as making that counterclaim.
Consider the source of the government claim, however: Election observers have cast very serious doubts on the integrity of the vote-count, on the hasty announcement of the results — which the president of the Elections Commission has now repudiated — on the hasty swearing-in of the incumbent, and on the immediate press blackout that ensued.
The Kenyan Human Rights Commission's second periodic report on the campaign — titled "Still Behaving Badly" — cites numerous illegalities committed by the campaign for the incumbent, emphasizing cases such as the following:
In our first report, the KNCHR called for action against the Minister for Roads, HonSimeon Nyachae for his role in the Kisii violence against ODM leaders on 21/9/07. No known action has been taken. On 25/11/07, a government vehicle (White Mitsubishi Pajero, GK A545H) (See vehicle in Annex 1) assigned to the Assistant Minister for Water, Raphael Wanjala, was impounded in Naivasha carrying assorted crude weapons. The weapons included 100 pangas, whips, bows and arrows and 70 Somali swords. Also found in the car were President Mwai Kibaki s campaign posters and those of Mr Wanjala. No known action has been taken against Hon Wanjala regarding this incident.
- "Still Behaving Badly" (KNHRC, December 2007)
Read the back catalog of reports from the human rights sources cited by the Post here.
Looking at the FIDH back catalogue, the FIDH has consistently characterized this sort of violence as "politically instigated" — implying intentionality on the part of political actors.
You know: Sort of a Pat Buchanan "wedge" strategy, only with more violent death.
As the FIDH report points out, this violence aimed at creating animosity between communities to split their political inclinations, to frighten whole communities and induce them to vote for the ruling party as a guarantee for their security, or to drive out communities with divergent political views from specific electoral areas. Such recurrent violence every five years at the time of every general elections was facilitated by the fact that the perpetrators and instigators still benefit from impunity. This on-going impunity is indeed worrisome for the near future considering the forthcoming 2007 general elections. There are already many indicators of violence in Subukia, Gucha, Laikoni and Mount Elgon which seems to have been fuelled for political reasons and which led to the forced displacement of hundreds of persons since January 2007.
Two very different narratives:
- Tribal rivalries — "which predate European colonization," as the pundit corp is heard repeating early and often today — are the root causes of political violence
- Political instigators manipulate tribal rivalries to produce political violence
There may be other cogent analyses of the situation as well. If so, let's hear them. But at the moment, (1) is dominating the punditry agenda, while (2) needs to be more carefully considered and reality-checked.