News 2008


Militia Have Their Own Agendas

The East African (Nairobi)


11 February 2008

L Muthoni Wanyeki

We are now into the second of the two weeks given for progress on the first three items of the mediation process. The prognosis is mixed.

The first item called for immediate action on violence, including demobilising the organised militia and ensuring the police and the General Service Unit act within the boundaries of the law. This has not happened. Not only because the hardliners of both sides perceive stepping down militia activity as not being in their interest. But also because the militia have now developed interests of their own.

In Rift Valley and the western part of the country, the focus of the organised militia seems to have shifted to economic sabotage. The roadblocks remain, from which safe passage fees can be extracted.

Around Mount Elgon, recognising that educational facilities cannot function without the staff who were evicted because of their ethnicity and perceived political alignment, those staff are being invited back - but again, for the payment of protection fees.

Similarly, the organised militia moving out into the Rift Valley from Nairobi and Central, having completed their first task - revenge attacks and evictions - have also now started demanding protection fees from those who remain. It is the Mungiki phenomenon all over again - except this time, ouside the confines of the low-income areas of Nairobi and other outlying metropolises.

Concerns also persist with respect to ensuring the police and GSU operate within the boundaries of the law. The continued show of force around Nairobi's middle- and upper-income areas disguises the fact that many internally displaced camps remain without sufficient protection - both in the Rift Valley as well as around Nairobi and in Central Province.

The second item on the agenda addressed the humanitarian crisis and the restoration of fundamental liberties, covering items such as the opening of educational facilities, provision of assistance to IDPs and their return, and the lifting of the ban on live broadcasting, following the adoption of a code of conduct on the same developed with the Media Council of Kenya.

MANY SCHOOLS ARE OPEN. MANY ARE not. The IDPs are getting assistance - thanks to the valiant efforts of the Kenya Red Cross and the donations of thousands of Kenyans.

But the return of IDPs is another question altogether - how are they to begin to do so if the militia are still running the show? And when citizens' own perceptions around safety and security and where it can be found have been so fundamentally, if not permanently altered?

The heart breaks at the scale of what has been done to us.

Which brings me to the third item: The resolution of the political crisis. Kofi Annan's announcement on Friday that agreement on a "political solution" had been reached is encouraging.

Intransigence must end on both sides. At this point, it is not about who won. It is about recognising that, regardless of who won, the country is essentially neatly divided into half. This is an untenable situation.

A transitional arrangement is needed, leading to a re-run within two years at most. That arrangement should focus on constitutional reforms regarding the powers of the presidency, electoral reforms after an independent investigation into the counting and tallying of the presidential vote to enable both halves of the country to put the 2007 presidential election to rest, reforms in the security sector, the beginning of transitional justice and, most important, the resettlement and re-enfranchisement of our IDPs.

At this point, the call is for all Kenyans. Anyone with any influence at all over the two protagonists must do everything they can to ensure that common sense and ethics are brought to bear in this second week of the mediation process.

L. Muthoni Wanyeki is executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission