Politicians in Kenya reach compromise.
The Harvard Independent
By Rachael Becker
06. March 2008
As post-election violence in Kenya continues to worsen, talks
between the ruling Party of National Unity (PNU) and the
opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) finally resulted in a
power-sharing deal after former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
met with both groups separately.
The parties signed the joint declaration live on Kenyan television
in hopes of ending two months of bloodshed. Since the disputed
December 27 election, 1,500 Kenyans have died and another 300,000
have been displaced.
ODM presidential candidate Raila Odinga was placed in the newly
created post of prime minister and accorded the power to help
organize and oversee the government alongside President Mwai
In an e-mail to the Independent, Assistant Professor of African
and American Studies Nahomi Ichino expressed her skepticism about
the effectiveness of the new position: “The post of prime minister
has somewhat loosely defined powers, and that leaves lots of room
for conflict with the president over jurisdiction.”
Each party blamed the other for rigging the election and inciting
the massive wave of violence that has rocked this once stable
central African country. According to official counts, the
incumbent, President Kibaki, defeated opposition leader Odinga by
a slim margin of 230,000 votes out 8.9 million votes cast.
The PNU and ODM are roughly affiliated with the Kikuyu and Luo
tribes, respectively, and the controversy has pitted the two
ethnic groups against each other, stirring up racial tensions that
have rarely been a major problem in the past.
While the PNU accused Odinga of tampering with the election in his
native province of Nyanza, the most obvious problems were observed
in Central Province, the native province of President Kibaki.
According to the European Observer Mission, the results from three
districts within the province were blatantly falsified.
In the city of Kerugoyo, there were 10,000 more votes than voters,
and in the neighboring cities of Lari and Kandora, the results
forms had been noticeably changed by the time the election
commission received them.
Amid the political turmoil, violence has been a problem across the
nation. Both organized crime and more opportunistic crime have
risen, straining the limited resources of the country’s
Three major militias, including one the government has been
fighting for over 20 years, have wreaked havoc since late December.
The extremist religious group Mungiki, banned by the Kenyan
government, has reemerged, recruiting Kikuyu teens from urban
slums in an attempt to reestablish ancient tribal traditions and
seek revenge on members of other tribes suspected of killing
Largely in response to the lack of police protection against the
Mungiki, some members of the Luo tribe have formed a group called
the Taliban (no relation to the Afghani regime) to prevent the
killing and eviction of their people by the rival gang.
A third gang, the Sabaot Land Defense Force (SLDF), gained control
of the Mount Elgon District in the western part of the country.
The SLDF is composed of members of the small Sabaot tribe, and —
unlike the other two gangs — operates only in one rural area. The
group is believed to be responsible for over 400 deaths in various
raids on villages. They have also set up their own rival
government in the district, even imposing a tax on residents.
In slums outside Nairobi, where 50 percent of the population is
unemployed, robbery has become a problem; the poorer are robbing
the poor in order to survive. People in the Rift Valley have been
battling over good farming land, with violence occurring along
racial lines as police activity has diminished.
An increased rate of sexual assault has also been observed.
According to the Nairobi Women’s Hospital, the number of women
seeking treatment for sexual assault and rape increased by over 50
percent during the month of January. The hospital believes that
the number of women actually violated since the election is much
larger, since only a small percentage of women seek medical
treatment after an attack.
Displaced women, who along with children make up 85 percent of the
total displaced population, are often without their husbands or
other male family members for protection, making them easy targets
for roving groups of men, and they are often victims of violent
Violence is expected to ease in response to the new political
agreement, but the turmoil will have far-reaching effects on the
future of Kenya’s political and economic situation.
Because of disruption in agricultural production and displacement
of workers, inflation in the country has skyrocketed. Prices for
some foodstuffs, such as potatoes, have risen as much as 70
percent. This should ease as transport routes clear, but continued
worker displacement will affect prices.
Long-term economic predictions include a loss of $3.9 billion and
500,000 jobs by 2009, according to a group of 300 Kenyan heads of
Ichino expressed some doubt as to whether a mix of government and
foreign aid could stall or even stop this process. “Foreign
partners could provide funds for the government to spend money
quickly (expansionist fiscal policy, like the stimulus package
here), but the business of foreign aid is very tricky,” she wrote.
“There is a long history of failed programs all over the continent.”
Tourism, once Kenya’s top source of foreign income, is also
expected to take a heavy hit. 20,000 Kenyans directly employed by
the tourist industry, which brought in $1 billion last year, have
already lost their jobs as a result of dramatic decline in the
tourist trade. Associated industries, such as taxi companies and
restaurants, are also suffering and are expected to incur heavy
Along with the new post of prime minister, the PNU and the ODM
will each choose a deputy minister. Ministers can only be removed
by a parliamentary vote and are autonomous from the president.
The deal was met with relief both in Kenya and abroad, but
distrust still threatens to throw the country back into chaos. The
new agreement has yielded more power to the opposition than
President Kibaki originally said he would agree to and both
parties are suspicious of the each other.
Ichino expressed her own doubt about the stability of the new
coalition, writing, “I’m somewhat skeptical … because these are
all old politicians who have a long history of having worked
together and fallen out together before.”
However, Professor Ichino also stated that this election could
serve as a warning to future politicians, both in Kenya and in
other counties. “The Kenya case showed other presidents that
electoral processes that look compromised might be riskier than
they thought,” she wrote.