Skip to comments.Kenya violence: 'We waited, now we'll chop them to bits'
Posted on 02/02/2008 4:19:01 PM PST by SJackson
THE tragedy of Kenyas violence was etched on the face of James Kamau, a softly spoken 43-year-old biology teacher, as he steeled himself to search Nakuru city mortuary for his murdered brother-in-law this weekend.
We are glimpsing an enormity of evil in Kenya larger than any of us imagined, he said. Look how they have destroyed our people.
He flinched in a moment of shock as he spotted a familiar pair of brown shoes on the feet of a man burnt beyond recognition who was lying on the floor. It is Eliud, he said, turning away in sorrow and comforting his sister.
Local legend has it that the steam rising from the bottom consists of the souls of Masai warriors who were hurled into the crater after a battle over land and are now trying to reach heaven. The volcano was a top tourist attraction in the Rift Valley until 10 days ago, when the violence that began over a disputed presidential election on December 27 spread to the streets of Nakuru.
Chaos reigned in and around the town, Kenyas fourth largest, as tribal gangs fought with knives, pangas, stones and poisoned arrows. After more than 60 people had died, the police imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew. The tourists left and have not come back.
Kamau and other relatives of the dead milling before the gates of the mortuary said they believed worse bloodshed was to come. The violence had exploded after members of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) claimed the government had rigged the elections to prevent their leader, Raila Odinga, 63, replacing Mwai Kibaki, the 76-year-old president.
Immediately after the re-election of Kibaki, the violence was directed against his tribe, the Kikuyu, whose political and economic domination of Kenya since independence in 1963 has exposed them to widespread resentment. But in the past week Kikuyus have hit back at Luos, Luhyas, Kalenjin and other tribes supporting Odinga, who is himself a Luo.
The ODM said the violence was a spontaneous surge of anger at Kibakis electoral fraud, but activists on both sides fanned the flames of tribal resentment and on Wednesday, after nearly 1,000 people had been killed and 250,000 had been made homeless, the Daily Nation newspaper said the fear of civil war was not farfetched. Jendayi Frazer, the American assistant secretary of state for Africa, called the violence clear ethnic cleansing.
A glimmer of hope emerged late on Friday when Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary-general who is mediating, announced that the government and opposition had agreed a plan to end the crisis. Annan said measures would be introduced in a week to 10 days to stop the violence. But 27 more people were killed and a church burnt yesterday.
In the traumatised strife-torn Rift Valley, many Kikuyus driven from their homes said it was too late to stop the tribal hatred. It is impossible to live together. There will be more blood. It cannot stop now, said Robert Njoroge, 55, who came to the mortuary to collect the body of his nephew, who had been murdered by the Kalenjin.
The reason why the Rift Valley has become the epicentre of the conflict is rooted in history. Once the homeland of the Kalenjin and Masai, much of it was seized early last century by the British, who turned it into a colonial paradise of farms and Tudor-style mansions. Instead of being returned to those tribes on independence, the farmland was bought by Kikuyus, the tribe of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenyas first president.
Although the constitution granted Kenyans of any tribe the right to live anywhere in the country, the spread of Kikuyus across the Rift Valley triggered bitterness and grievances.
Many Kikuyus believe that the violence was planned, regardless of the election result. They have accused William Ruto, one of Odingas top aides, who is a Kalenjin and an MP in Eldoret, one of the flashpoints in the Rift Valley, of a preelection hate speech.
He has become the warlord of the Rift Valley, said a man called Simon. He poisoned the Kalenjin against the Kikuyu.
Kamau said his Kalenjin neighbour, a banker, had warned him two weeks before the election to expect trouble. He said he had heard hate speeches broadcast on the local Kalenjin radio station and had been told that Kalenjin youths were being indoctrinated against the Kikuyu while undergoing circumcision in December as a rite of passage.
There are no Kikuyus who have been left on their farms in the Rift Valley, said Kamau, who was burnt out of his Eldoret home with his wife and three children and now lives in a refugee camp.
They have destroyed all our property. They think the Rift Valley is theirs and no other tribe should be there. That is what they were told during the circumcision ceremonies.
So powerful was the rhetoric that it seemed to have infected even educated Kalenjins. After being burnt out of his home, one senior figure at Moi University in Eldoret was warned last week that his colleagues were hunting for him and he should not return if he wanted to stay alive.
The growing and seemingly uncontrollable tribal violence has led to inevitable comparisons to Rwanda, where the 1994 geno-cide claimed nearly 1m lives. But Kenya is not Rwanda. It has 42 tribes, where Rwanda had only two, one of which made up 90% of the population. The brutal ethnic cleansing that divided Bosnia is a fairer analogy.
To combat the Kalenjin attacks, the Kikuyu in the Rift Valley have resurrected a murderous criminal gang notorious for beheading its victims. The gang, called the Mungiki, was established during elections in the 1990s to counter violence by Kalenjin gangs but was later outlawed. Last year the police reportedly killed 500 Mungiki in a crackdown.
According to a priest in Nakuru, Mungiki gangs were on the prowl last week, under police protection and looking for members of other tribes. One Kikuyu youth who would call himself only John described how he was forced to join a gang which beheaded 15 Kalenjin and Luos.
They killed one man armed with a club and stones. He could not answer a question put to him in Kikuyu so they forced him to the ground and cut off his head. Next we met a big man sharpening two pangas. They cut him so fast that his mouth was still moving when they lifted up his head on the end of a panga.
His story fitted word from other Kikuyus that a strategy had been devised to wait for most Kikuyus to be in places of safety before striking back against the Kalenjin. We kept quiet for a month, said one Kikuyu who was thirsting for vengeance.
If we had acted before our people were safe, the Kalenjin would have killed them. Now we will chop them in pieces. Raila and Ruto will cry.
* Kenya's main tribes are the Kikuyu 20%, Luo 14%, Luhya 13%, Kalenjin 11% * President Kibaki is Kikuyu; Odinga is Luo * The Kalenjin in the Rift Valley resent Kikuyu land purchases there
At least Eliud, 40, could now be buried. Kamau had feared when he could not find him that his brother-in-law had been thrown - like other victims of the violence - into the 1,600ft-deep crater of the dormant Menengai volcano five miles from the city centre. There he would have been devoured by wild animals.
In Kenya, you have Somalis there, as a small tribe, but also, in the past, when there were wars over there, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, a lot of those fleeing those wars and strife went to Nairobi (probably people fleeing from Sudan and Uganda too). Now, though, it is Kenya that is the center of the turmoil.
This is a real mess and I find it hard to see how it can be fixed. The election surely was going to bring disagreement and trouble but I think few outside of the country thought it would be so extensive.
Is this going to be another Rwanda? It seems these African nations take turns in going back to tribal evil and violence.
I think that particular area has hit 10% Muslim. That’s the tipping point.
The Muslims have been working very hard there. We all seem to have forgotten the embassy bombings in Kenya, but that happened many years ago and was just an indication of what was going on. An indication Clinton ignored, of course, and one that I suspect Bush wants to ignore during his last year.
Of course, if Kenyan Muslim Luo Obama gets elected, who knows what will happen.
In Africa tribalism = racism, only there instead of talking they kill each other.
“Ethnic cleansing” is a modernism for old fashioned tribal war. Calling it ethnic cleansing somehow makes its practitioners part of the modern world and just like your neighbors in Niceville.
Double Panga Ping.
Exactly. Odinga promised to install sharia law if he was elected president, and the Muslims are furious that he lost. Unfortunately, Odinga is also Obama’s cousin, and Obama supports him.
Who do they think is burning all those churches, some of them with people still in them?
It’s partly tribal, but it’s also Muslims killing Christians, a common thing in many parts of Africa.
Kenya is next on the list for the Muslim expansion, from North to South. That’s one reason why we supported Ethiopa’s intervention against the Islamists in the Horn of Africa.
I have read the novel, “Something of Value” at least 3 times. Even with the Mau Mau strife back then, the book made Nairobi seem like a civilized place.
Islam may not be a factor at all. Throughout subSaharan Africa some tribes have since time immemorial been the dominant tribes. The colonizers, as a tool to get and maintain control, deliberately allied with one of the lesser tribes and made them politically dominant by educating them and putting them in the administration. When the Mother Country packed up and left the old arrangements began to re-emerge or the perceived unnatural arrangements have been a source of tension and strife ever since. The Hutus in Rwanda were the Colonial favorites but the Tutsis were the dominant group. The perceived natural order never changed even as the dominant tribes were relegated to a lesser position for generations and the dominated ones were given the education and the rule. Kenya has lasted the longest before these “natural” forces broke out into warfare. The Kikuyu were the British proteges but the Masai were the dominant group. So long as the order is “inverted” there is stress that manifests in tribal war and the huge massacres of the Tutsis which set off the worst of the continuing warfare in the Eastern Congo. Note that Tutsis are mostly back in charge in most of Central Africa.
Islam and muslem are no longer an issue in this land of butchery. It has devolved way beyond any semblance of religion or civility.
The only difference between today's Africa and cavemen is the advancement of the available weaponry...........
Perhaps they had other reasons for supporting certain tribes.
LOL! I wonder if any of the National Geographic crew captured their expressions during the egress.
The hate hasn't gone away because some people like Obama won't let it. They keep nursing it and feeding it and making it grow.
Who needs someone like that as president.
I remember when there was a most wanted list of Terrorist and one of those guys was some b-stard from Kenya or something like that, cold blooded, let’s not forget those bombings and attempts in England have had Somalis and some of those others were Eritrean/Ethiopian Moslem types.
Kenya has been under attack by Islam for some time, and this is indeed related. Why do you think the Muslims destroyed our embassy there? And that was years ago, so they hate us and anybody they think representative of the non-Muslim West even more now.
When the first reports came out, the connections were discussed, but now they have disappeared because the press is trying to sanitize it. Tribalism is always alive and well in Africa, but why did these two suddenly wake up and decide they hated each other? Go back and read the earlier articles and see what Obama’s cousin (the losing candidate, whose tribe is now attacking the Kikuyu) pledged to the Muslims.
I'm not surprised.
I think Islam is a factor. I understand the problems of tribalism, and the old colonial habit of favoring one tribe over another. But it remains that in most of Africa the worst actors are either the old-style animists and the Muslims.
If Africa is ever going to rise above tribalism and killing, it will be because of the rapid spread of Christianity throughout the continent.
Christianity doesn’t suddenly make people perfect, but it does lead them in the right direction. Islam, I am sorry to say, increases resentments and leads them in the wrong direction.
It is a very popular delusion that "education" is a vaccine against evil.
I met one of the translators who worked on that trial. She had been married to a Kenyan and spoke Swahili (the language that a lot of the people in the embassy area spoke). Almost all of the people killed and injured were Kenyans, which of course the Muslims knew would happen.
Islam has always despised black Africa, because Arabs regard black Africans as their legitimate prey and their natural born slaves. That’s what’s going on down there. The Arabs and Arab-influenced Islamic tribes and individuals are trying to kill or enslave the rest of Africa.
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