Socialist Worker

Opposition grows in Kenya election crisis

by Ken Olende
Issue No. 2085

Three days of renewed protests in Kenya, east Africa, have seen more than 30 people killed by the police.

Demonstrators are still challenging the legitimacy of president Mwai Kibaki, who claims he was re-elected in the 27 December 2007 election. However, more evidence has emerged of the scale of the election fraud.

Kenyans For Peace With Truth And Justice has compared the number of votes cast in the simultaneous parliamentary election with those in the disputed presidential election. Vastly more votes are recorded in the presidential election.

The opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) was boosted by the parliamentary votes. It won 99 seats in the 210 seat parliament, to 43 for Kibaki’s PNU party. ODM was able to gain the positions of speaker and deputy speaker against resistance from PNU.

However, ODM’s response outside parliament to government attacks has been inconsistent and confusing. Last week it called off protests and demanded a boycott of companies owned by members of the government. Now the protests are back on.

Groundswell

Zahid, a socialist in Nairobi, said, “There is no groundswell of opposition on the street, as the atmosphere is so intimidating. The police have a shoot to kill policy.

“A lot of peace groups have been set up, offering relief for displaced people.”

The crisis is accompanied by ethnic tension. In some areas Kikuyus, members of the ethnic group to which Kibaki belongs, have faced pogroms. Many people believe that impoverished Kikuyu share the spoils of the rich elite.

In the recent fighting more people have been killed by the police than in ethnic violence.

In fact, the 600 deaths since the election are not exceptional. Only last year a government crackdown on the Kikuyu Mungiki gang in Nairobi’s slums led to 500 deaths.

Ironically, the gang is now acting as an ally of the government.

Otieno, a trade unionist in Nairobi, said, “Mungiki have been fighting against protesters. They are being given uniforms and armed. I have been pushed out of the mixed area of Ruaraka in the east of the city where I was living.”

Historian Daniel Branch has recently argued in the London Review of Books that, “The centres of anti-Kikuyu activity experienced similar periods of violence during earlier election campaigns.

“During the so-called ‘tribal clashes’ of 1992 and 1997, hundreds were killed and thousands forced from their homes as politicians exploited tensions within individual communities over access to resources.”

Colonialism

Kenya still suffers from the legacy of colonialism and interference from bodies such as the International Monetary Fund.

For instance, a structural adjustment programme in the 1990s devastated the textile industry, cutting employment from 200,000 to 35,000.

Zahid said, “The Western media call on people to ‘calm down’. It’s nonsense. Basically, the country is ungovernable.”

The continuing protests can halt the government, but the poor will not get a share of Kenya’s wealth unless they can manage to organise independently.

For background and recent coverage on Kenya go to » Behind the turmoil in Kenya, » Kenya's rulers are allies of the West and » The brutal legacy of Britain’s colonial rule in Kenya


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Article information

International
Tue 22 Jan 2008, 19:02 GMT
Issue No. 2085
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