Kenya underwent political turmoil immediately after the presidential elections on December 27, 2007. Since the announcement of the election results that declared a second term for the incumbent president Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, amidst charges of fraud, Kenya has been in its worst political crisis. However, the violence has apparently subsided after a power-sharing deal, was brokered between the rival political leaders, Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, of Luo ethnicity, by Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations on February 28, 2008. Though an agreement on the form of coalition government has been reached and a semblance of normalcy has returned, the issue of the Kikuyu tribe as “privileged” and “land grabbing outsiders” has resurfaced in the post-December election period.1 The ethnicity-based violence in the aftermath of the disputed polls has left behind a trail of death, destruction and displacement.
The Kenyan case reflects that the adverse impacts of a crisis situation can be felt not only within a country, but also have regional and global implications. It also reiterates the need to avoid such a predicament in the future and prevent selective, ethnicity-based violence that has rekindled a historical conflict, the origins of which can be attributed mainly to the colonial era. There is a growing consensus in the country on the necessity to work in an accommodative political framework that can address diverse and at times conflicting demands. This article, thus, attempts to analyse the repercussions of the aftermath of the post-electoral violence from a humanitarian and economic perspective in the domestic, regional as well as global context.
(a) Killings: At home the repercussions of the violence following the re-election of Kibaki were felt right from the day the electoral results were announced on December 30, 2007. While Kibaki was being sworn in as the president, 10 people were reported killed in Kisii in western Kenya. Violence erupted throughout the Rift Valley and the western part of the country as supporters of Odinga turned violent and burnt and looted factories, shops, homes and chased supporters of Kibaki (mostly members of Kikuyu tribe) away. The notoriety of the rioters reached abhorrent proportions when they burnt a church, where about 200 Kikuyus had taken shelter, killing 35 people. 2
The scenario turned from bad to worse with each passing day. Since independence nine general elections were held but the country had not witnessed violence of such magnitude. The Human Rights Watch accused the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), backed by Odinga supporters, of organising, instigating and facilitating violence against the Kikuyus. The organisation also accused the police of a “shoot to kill” policy and of using live ammunition against protesters and looters. Violence continued regardless of the power-sharing agreement between Kibaki and Odinga. Indeed, only days after the signing of the agreement, designed to bring peace, clashes over land in the country’s western region of Mount Elgon erupted, resulting in the death of at least 12 people, including six children.3 Approximately, 1,000 people were killed in the post-election bloodshed and innumerable persons were injured. Those more fortunate could escape death and flee to other parts of the country or seek refuge in the neighbouring states. More than 3,00,000 people were forced to flee from their homes.4
(b) Internal Displacement: The dislodgement of people in the aftermath of the crisis occurred in a staggered manner. Many who relocated to safer parts of Kenya became internally displaced and several others who led to Uganda became refugees. The first phase of uprooting took place from the North Rift and parts of western Kenya and Nyanza, where mainly the Kikuyus were victimised. The local militias, comprising mainly the Luos, Luhyias and the Kalenjins, forced the Kikuyus to flee. The second phase of displacement started when the Kikuyu militias retaliated by chasing the Luos, Luyahs and Kalenjins from the areas, where they were in a majority.
Many of the displaced took shelter with their relatives who resided in areas dominated by their own tribesmen. Others relied on charitable organisations. Local aid workers expressed a fear of an outbreak of epidemics in many makeshift camps. There were reports that some humanitarian organisations were threatened in many places and asked to give aid only to a particular ethnic group, while denying other displaced even the basic assistance.5
The government’s inability to provide adequate assistance and security for the displaced is a recurring theme that needs an urgent attention. A related aspect of this is the possibility of the camps becoming “incubators of more ethnic jingoism and violence”. The camps are perceived as ideal locations to recruit people for ethnic violence. This could have long- term serious consequences for Kenyan society, which is already ethnically polarised. Similarly, the rise in crime rates too could be another potential threat in the future. In the post-violence situation most of the displaced are willing to return to their homes if provided security. Return is undoubtedly premature at the moment, and consequently providing security and humanitarian assistance to those displaced remains a big challenge for the Kenyan government.
(c) Impact on Women: Like in any other case of displacement, the women uprooted by the crisis in Kenya are the worst affected. Many women suffered sexual violence in the post-election scenario. On January 23, 2008, the BBC reported that Nairobi hospital admissions for rape had doubled since the beginning of the month. In fact, the Nairobi Women’s Hospital and the Coast General Hospital in Mombasa reported a two to threefold increase in the number of women and children seeking treatment for sexual assault, since early January.6 Sexual assault and rape against children and women, often by more than one aggressor, was reported by the victims.7 Kenyan women were sexually assaulted when they were fleeing and in the camps that had to be shared with men who were not their spouses or family members. There were re- ports of young girls in the camps being forced to exchange sexual favours for food or clothing.8 Many other cases would have remained un reported due to security reasons or fears of stigmatisation.
Sexual violence against women is wide- spread in all crisis situations globally, Kenya is no exception.9 Rape is the most ghastly and widespread form of sexual aggression. Targeting of women is the most pervasive method to “humiliate” the opposite group. While some women became victims of sexual violence because they came from a particular ethnic group, others were assaulted because of their gender. Post the sexual violence, the victims of this crisis have been living with social ostracism, stigma, fear and shame. Besides, in the months ahead, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases may make the situation worse due to the unavailability of adequate health services and humanitarian assistance.
An increase in the number of violence- related orphans, destitutes, dropouts from educational institutions, lack of good health services and a consequent increase in cases of illness are some of the long-term challenges that Kenya has to face.
The country’s economy too will experience a damaging impact in the future. Kenya’s image as a haven of stability in Africa has been already shattered, and its billion-dollar tourist industry has been severely dented. Kenya, one of the most prosperous and tourist-friendly countries in Africa, was estimated to have lost more than $ 1 billion due to the bloody turmoil.10
The effects of violence stretched far beyond tourism. The closure of businesses for weeks together has impacted the economy adversely. In the early days, estimates put daily losses of tax revenues at approximately $ 29 million.11 This obviously increased thereafter as more and more sectors of the economy felt the effect of the crisis. There is an apprehension that the economic growth rate of the country earlier pegged at 6.1 per cent will come down by about 2-3 per cent. 12
The economy reached the pits with free movement of goods and services severely restricted. To cite an example, the fishing industry – the primary source of income for the Nyanza region – suffered hugely because of a transport blockade. Many areas of Kenya witnessed a sharp rise in prices of essential commodities.
The violence in Kenya has had serious economic ramifications throughout east Africa, particularly for the landlocked countries of the Great Lakes region – Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the eastern Congo, get their fuel from a refinery in Eldoret, the town in western Kenya, where more than 30 people were burned to death in a church.
Kenya is also the transit point for business in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The crisis in Kenya disrupted the transport of fuel, raw and manufactured goods to these neighbouring countries that rely on the country’s bustling Mombasa port. The neighbouring land locked countries also depend upon the Kenyan infrastructure links, especially the Mombasa port, for import and export.
Burundi alone lost around $ 3 million a month in taxes due to the high cost of importing goods through Kenya as the post-election violence choked the region’s supply routes. The neighbours also suffered a significant fuel shortage as the conflict interrupted supplies from the coast. As the most industrialised country in the region, Kenya has also been a supplier of basic household goods such as cooking oil, salt and flour to many countries in east Africa. This sector too has suffered adversely and resulted in a sharp rise in the prices of essential commodities in the neighbouring countries. The stakes are particularly high for east Africa, since its leaders are committed to transforming the five-nation East African Community (consisting of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda) into a political federation by 2015.
Kenya has long been termed as a model of stability and democracy for other African countries. But the crisis has clearly brought into focus the hollowness of the system and has raised several challenges for issues like democracy, good governance and human rights in this part of the continent. Tolerance of “sham democracies” like Kenya by the western countries, as pointed by the Human Rights Watch Report of 2008, has not only put a question mark on the oft-repeated commitment of the west, to facilitate and nurture legitimate democracy globally. 13 Related to this is the issue of good governance and its implementation in third world countries like Kenya, wherein the personal interests of the political elites overshadow people’s welfare. Kenya’s proximity to the vast oil wealth of west Asia makes it an important place for the global powers, in terms of strategic location. The crisis has also resulted in heavy economic losses incurred by Kenya’s global business partners. Its status as a key ally of the US in the “war on terror” may also have global spill over effects due to election related crisis by weakening the war against terrorism.
The above discussion clearly indicates that the cost of the Kenyan crisis is enormous. The power-sharing agreement between Kibaki and Odinga is a compromise reached between both the parties to secure peace, and to move forward with managing the state effectively. On April 13, 2008 the Kenyan cabinet was announced having ministers from both Party of National Unity (PNU) and ODM. Though with the dawn of peace the newly formed government has promised to address the issues related to the crisis – both economic and humanitarian – but commitments by the two adversaries to end the violence, dismantle militias and resettle the internally displaced are yet to be fulfilled. Developing a national mechanism for redressing the grievances of the people affected by the violence remains a major challenge. Besides, the task of placing the economy backing on track though high on priority is an unfinished task at the moment. In the long-term, the country needs to deal with the underlying grievances related to the iniquitous distribution of land, wealth and economic opportunities and the concentration of political power with a handful of the elites. Unless this simmering discontent is addressed with a renewed sense of urgency and on a durable basis, the situation could remain volatile and pose a serious challenge to the deleterious economic and humanitarian situation that the country is faced with today.
1 For a detailed account of the Kenyan crisis see Renu Modi and Seema Shekhawat, ‘The Kenyan Crisis Post-December 2007 Elections’, Working Paper 1, Centre for African Studies, University of Mumbai, 2008.
2 ‘Kenya: Diplomatic Push for Peace’, http://news. bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7167363.stm.
3 Adam Hyde, ‘Kenya: Will Peace and Democracy Survive?’ www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/ 03/06/2181553.htm.
4 ‘Kenya: Displacement Raises Risk of Drug-resistant TB’, http://www.plusnews.org/Report.aspx? ReportId=77577.
5 Evelyn Ogutu and Kithi Ngumbao, ‘Hate Lea lets Causing Fear in Central Province’, The Standard, January 8, 2008.
6 See ‘Kenyan Health Workers Grapple with Conflict- related Sexual Violence’, kenvironews.wordpress. com/2008/01/16/kenyan- health-workers-grapple- with-conflict-related-sexual-violence/; ‘Background Information on the Political Crisis in Kenya’, http:// eyesonkenya.org/blog/? tag=women’s-rights
7 ‘Kenya: Unicef Warns of Abuses against Children’, UN News Service, January 25, 2008.
8 ‘Kenya: Women and Children Suffering in Camps’, The Nation, January 27, 2008.
9 For a detailed account of impact of conflict on women see Seema Shekhawat, Conflict and Displacement in Jammu and Kashmir: The Gender Dimension, (Saksham Books Inter national: Jammu, 2006).
10 ‘Kenyan Opposition Will End Rallies, Seeks Mediation’, http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news? pid=20601087&sid=a2huqPLFLeJg&refer=home.
11 ‘Kenya Turmoil May Cost Economy $ 1 Billion, Financial Minister’, Reuters, January 8, 2008.
12 ‘Kenya Tourism, Economy Devastated by Violence’, CNN, January 11, 2008.
13 ‘World Report 2008,’ Human Rights Watch, http:// www.hrw.org/wr2k8/pdfs/wr2k8_web.pdf.
Renu Modi (email@example.com) is teaching in the Centre for African Studies, University of Mumbai.
Seema Shekhawat (seemashekhawat@gmail. com) is an independent research scholar and associated as a peace fellow with Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace, New Delhi.
Economic and Political Weekly
VOL 43 No. 18 May 03 - May 09, 2008