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Kenya: Context for ethnic conflict

November 29, 2009

Welcome to my blog!

I’m going to start this blog off by re-posting many of the links from my Facebook page. Enjoy!

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This article is from Jan 2008, but is still helpful for understanding the violence that occurred around the Kenyan election. It’s written by my supervisor at Oxford, Dave Anderson:

… The scenes of violence that have animated this sorry tale can too easily be portrayed as “tribal.” This is how those who mobilise the thugs want it to be seen, but it is not a useful explanation. Some of the violence was spontaneous, as frustrated citizens vented their anger on their opponents. But much of it was pre-planned and systematic, intended on ODM’s part to make it difficult for the state to fight fires in so many parts of the country, and on PNU’s part to provoke Odinga’s supporters into acts that would undermine their popular “clean” image.

The worst violence has occurred in areas where it is easy to mobilise violent thuggery, such as the slums of Nairobi, and in places where there is a long history of animosity between neighbouring communities, such as the resettlement schemes of Rift Valley. In many of the constituencies of the northern Rift Valley, where ODM’s William Ruto holds sway, villages and towns dominated by Kikuyu and Gusii settlers have been targeted in a pattern familiar in previous outbreaks of violence in 1992 and 1997. The thugs who make these attacks, and those who seek to defend the intended victims, are closely linked with politicians who pay for their services. In this economy of fear, there is a market for violence, and in recent days thugs have been hired by those representing prominent members of both PNU and ODM.

There is little point in pretending that everything would improve with a new government. Bribery and corruption are the meat and drink of Kenyan politics, a fact encapsulated in the often heard local political slogan “our turn to eat.” During the election campaign, the local press made much about voters who had refused bribes from candidates. But less was said of the queues of supplicants who presented themselves at the doors of even the most lowly candidate, seeking “a little something” to secure their support…

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