Kenyan National Elections or Tribal Warfare: A Video Summary

22 Aug

  I have selected several videos that I believe help summarize my concerns for the national election in Kenya that will take place on March 4, 2013. I have selected videos that will show Ministers of Parliament campaigning in 2007 and 2011 and the ethnic violence that occurred during and after the election of 2007. You be the judge.

What is it around national election time in Kenya that brings out the absolute worst in its male electorate? While I was in Kenya in the summer of 2007 I attended a few rallies and saw many more of them televised on Kenyan television. I observed a host of different Ministers of Parliament (MP) campaigning  for re-election in their districts, college educated individuals who normally wear suits and ties in the Parliamentary Chamber, morph into a bunch of narrow-minded, prejudicial, and many times violent tribal leaders. They all choreographed these rallies  the same way, applying the same two rules- agitate your district voters into a frenzy and keep your electorate bound to their tribal heritage.

 In every rally I observed in the summer of 2007 the event unfolded something like this-

Begin your speech using the local dialect of the people in this district and some Kiswahili which is spoken by most people in Kenya with little to no English language even though English is the language you would normally use in the House of Parliament in Nairobi during official sessions.

Make sure to arrive in a caravan of black luxury sedans and/or four-wheel drive vehicles, the make is not important but they have to be the latest models.

Hand out new baseball caps to everyone in the crowd with the name and the color of your party district on them- no suits this time. Make sure you wear a hat that helps you to stand out in the crowd and wear a traditional African shirt or polo shirt.  

Talk about the democratic principles upon which the country of Kenya was founded and how you and your party intend to make Kenya great. Then bestow as many accolades upon your tribe as possible and recall for the audience specific accomplishments that has made your tribe great.

Use choral endings that require the people to shout out or restates certain words and phrases as a group. Get  a real boisterous chorus going! 

Emphasize your name and your family’s history within the tribe especially if your father or relatives have served as a tribal leaders or Ministers of Parliament in the past.

Tell a little about your voting record in Parliament and the bills or laws you have helped pass- but be sure to connect these to the specific problems and needs of your constituency.

Work old grudges and/or points of contention into your rhetoric especially where your tribe has had crimes and/ or injustices committed against it. Go back into the past and recount them tribal grievances against other tribes even if they occurred hundreds of years ago. Make sure to blame the tribe or tribes that were responsible for the deeds. Concentrate on describing situations where tribal lands were confiscated or outright stolen by other tribes or government authorities.

Get people hopping mad and then do nothing as the “hate songs” begin and are spread by certain members of your audience then sung by the entire audience.Three popular live musicians – John De’ Mathew, Muigai wa Njoroge, and Kamande wa Kioi have been accused of propagating hate speech. The Mugithi singers, who are popular live musicians in Nairobi, allegedly sing songs in the Kikuyu language that border on ‘hate speech’ against Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is a member of the Luo  tribe and one of the top contenders for the president of Kenya in the 2013 elections

Provide a traditional East African recordings played by tribal instruments and see to it that if you use live musicians, they play local tribal music.

Join in the dancing once the music changes into pre- warfare rituals once performed by the tribe before it went to war or initiated a raid on another tribe.

Then leave in a hurry while the people are still in an agitated state but refuse to take responsibility when innocent bystanders from other tribes are killed after the rally or their houses are burned to the ground.

And if you do this well – you too could run a successful Kenya Election Rally.

The last national election was held in December, 2007. In this election the two major contenders were President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga. The standing President is a member of the Kikuyu tribe and Odinga represents the Luo tribe that lives around Lake Victoria. Although Odinga received the most ballots cast in the election, President Kibaki contested the results which he called “forged”. He refused to step down. This caused the entire country to ignite; especially the Rift Valley and once peaceful villages became hot beds for murder and arson carried out by groups of armed men, young and old from other tribes. Members of the Kikuyu tribe were especially targeted because of the President’s decision and houses in many villages near Mt. Kenya, the Kikuyu’s historic homeland were burned to the ground. As of July 2012 there are still Kikuyu living in refugee camps along the Rift Valley because they lost their homes as a result of the riots and demonstrations against the Kikuyus and Kibaki regime right after the election.

In Nairobi Kikuyu young men organized themselves into a paramilitary organization called Mungiki , “our thing”, which for the first time that I can remember were armed with automatic weapons  and started shooting back at the Kenyan police. This street war began in the slum of Mathare but quickly moved to the other major slums of Nairobi – Kibera, Kangemi, and Kyoli, then into the residential sections of Nairobi.

It took months for the tribal warfare to subside and even then small groups would resort to violence when members of other tribes spoke out in favor of different politicians.

After the election, the Luo tribe organized a rally in Uhuru Park in Nairobi only to be turned away by the President who ordered his city police and military forces into the area to stop this event. Members of the Lou community carrying white flags and tree branches said they came in peace to demonstrate their grievances over the election but Kibaki was not buying their explanations and the demonstrators were turned away by armed government forces.

The next national elections will be held in Kenya on March 4, December 2013. President Kibaki cannot run again so a new President must be elected to rule all Kenyans. The Prime Ministers have already hit the campaign trail and although many officials and religious leaders have warned them to stop the tribal rhetoric –it remains to be seen. Watch some of this video and you’ll see some of the same conduct and tribal rhetoric. It’s time Kenyans began to think and vote as citizens of Kenya and not by tribal districts and party affiliations. I will be very curious to see what takes place in the elections of 2013. I saw some of the initial political rallies on local Kenyan television this summer when I was living in Kampala, Uganda in June 2012.  Although the local Ministers of Parliament swore that they would change their methods – it didn’t look like much had changed to me. If the political climate doe not change within the 40 tribal election districts what took place in the 2007 elections will occur again. This last video is very disturbing – unfortunately it is what actually happened on the streets of Nairobi during January 2008 and could very well occur again unless Kenyans change their election tactics in 2013.

Kat Nickerson     Kingston,     RI        USA


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