News 2008


Around Kenya: After the violence

BBC - 12. February 2008

After six weeks, Kenya's violent ethnic and political clashes are easing, following disputed elections.

Here is a snap-shot of the situation in what have been some of the worst trouble spots:


Relative calm is returning to the opposition strongholds of Rift Valley and Western provinces, particularly to Eldoret town, after weeks of bloody clashes.

Government statics show that of the 1,000 people killed in the violence, almost half were killed in Rift Valley and Western provinces.

The worst incident came when armed youths set ablaze a church on the outskirts of Eldoret, killing at least 50 people, mostly women and children, who had sought shelter there.

An estimated 150,000 people, mostly members of President Mwai Kibaki's Kikukyu community, have left the two provinces to move to their ancestral homelands in Central province and Nairobi.

While some 20,000 people, mostly Luos like opposition leader Raila Odinga, have moved in the opposite direction.

Business in most towns, such as Nakuru and Eldoret have reopened. Banks, shops, hotels and petty traders are operating without fear.

All the roadblock, where gangs had dragged Kikuyus from minibuses and hacked them to death with machetes, have been removed and armed police are keeping watch.

But life in camps for the victims of the violence is harsh owing to the rains that are now pounding the region.

Many people, especially the elderly and children, run the risk of contracting diseases. There is also an urgent need for supplies of food and medical services.

Public transport has resumed and minibus taxis are doing well again, as they no longer need a police escort.

But a heavy police presence remains in Eldoret and adjacent towns.

Trucks full of the paramilitary General Service Unit (GSU) are now a common feature on the streets.

Residents no longer shy away from this squad that used to be known for ruthlessness and brutality.

Eldoret police boss Bernard Muinde Kioko told the BBC that the security officers will remain in town as long as former UN chief Koffi Annan's mediation talks are still in progress.

"We are not taking anything for granted, including the calm that Eldoret is enjoying - things can change very first and we must be prepared at all times," he said.


Kisumu, which featured prominently during the post-election violence with people looting and burning shops, is now calm.

Some businessmen have even started reconstructing their business premises and painting them, hoping that life will soon be "back to normal" in the capital of Nyanza province.

But the economy of the city on the shores of Lake Victoria has been badly hit.

Fishing, which is the region's main economic venture, has collapsed since most of the buyers and factory operators fled following the ethnic clashes that followed the 27 December 2007 elections.

Taxi driver Oiro says: "While in the past I made up to 5,000 shillings ($71, 35) per day, I am today lucky when I make Sh1,000. I hope that Kofi Annan pushes [President] Kibaki and Raila [Odinga] to make peace so that we can continue with our lives."

Maseno University, which is about 50km from the city and should have more than 10,000 students, cannot open because the management cannot guarantee the security of students and workers.

Some of the halls of residence were destroyed and are still being repaired.


Tension remains high in Nairobi's Kibera and Mathare slums, which experienced serious post-election violence.

The violent scenes that forced thousands of people to flee have gone and some families have started returning to their homes but they are exercising extreme caution.

Some parts of the slums have been divided along ethnic lines, with many people choosing to live in areas dominated by people from their own community.

In both areas, some landlords have had their houses taken over by strangers who refuse to move out, contributing to on-going tension.

In Kibera, where many shops and houses were set on fire during the violence, police and government officials held a meeting with the residents at the weekend in an attempt to resolve the simmering housing disputes.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said most slum areas have remained calm since the mediation talks led by Mr Annan began.

At the weekend, police chief Hussein Ali lifted the ban on holding public rallies across the country, citing a return to normalcy.

Residents are now pinning their hopes on Mr Annan's ability to mediate a political solution.


The tourism sector, based on along the Indian Ocean coast, which last year contributed 15% of Kenya's national income, has been devastated by the post-election crisis.

Most holiday-makers have cancelled their trips to see the world famous safari resorts and beach hotels, with a few lucky hotels recording 30-40% bed occupancy.

The Coast province alone has more than 120 world class hotels, 20 of which have been closed down, with about 20,000 workers sent home.

Rufus Mwachiru, chairman of the Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO), says about 20,000 of their members have also been rendered jobless.

Kenya Tourism Board managing director Ong'ong'a Achieng' says that the industry, which last year earned the country a record 65 billion shillings ($1bn), is now expected to lose about 5.5 billion shillings ($84m) per month during the first quarter of this year.

He warns that the situation will get worse and the economy will be severely hurt if a solution to the current political impasse is not found soon.

Mombasa's port has suffered an unprecedented cargo pile-up.

This was caused by the unavailability of trucks, as transporters were not willing to travel up-country due to fighting in Nairobi, Rift Valley and the Western region.

By mid-January, the port which has a capacity of 14,300 20-foot containers was overwhelmed by 18,472 containers.

At that time eight ships were floating at sea as there was no space to dock.

Some ships got tired of waiting and changed course to Dar es Salaam in neighbouring Tanzania.

The railway is operational once again, after sections of line were ripped up by protestors.

Some of the cargo back-log is now being moved but at a snail's pace.

The crisis at the Mombasa port has also badly hit Uganda, Rwanda, eastern DR Congo and South Sudan.