Fix Opinion

Coming Kenya Election Triggers Memories Of 2007 Violence, Worry Over What’s Next


Walton Mulroy, 17, stands left, and Fanuel McCarthy, 16, are both 11th grade students at the International School of Kenya in Nairobi. The school is closed next week because of concerns that violence could break out after the national election on Monday.

By Kai Lawson-McDowall

Junior Reporter
NAIROBI, Kenya –  “The 2007
Kenyan Elections was by all definitions a scandalous abuse of power, matched
only by the ethnic hatred, an appalling disregard for humanity and a product of
the deep corruption in an already dysfunctional government.”
– Dr. Bruce
Lawson-McDowall, PhD, British Department for International Development
Assuming you have read the first
sentence – and yes, it’s my dad who said it – I’m certain you will have
retained a general understanding of the violence and its repercussions in the
Kenyan elections next week.  But something I am also aware of is that this
is only a general understanding, a mere familiarity with such events.
Many may lack a detailed knowledge
of the true audacity and reason for this horror. There are many possibilities
and outcomes for the new elections in Kenya. Yet the March 4 vote is already
tainted and strained by Kenya’s former violence and tension six years ago.
In order for you to understand, I
think it’s important that international readers comprehend the corruption
perpetrated by the leaders and figureheads who fomented this violence.
In 2007, Mwai Kibaki won the
presidential elections. Kibaki had already been president since 2003, and in
his initial selection, was considered a major decisive force in Kenyan
As president, Kibaki was seen as a
fresh chapter after Daniel Arap Moi’s prolonged, dictator-like grasp on
political power in Kenya for 24 years.
Kibaki claimed his intentions on
Jan. 26, 2007, forming an alliance of various political parties who wanted his
Kibaki’s party become known as the
Party of National Unity.  But Kibaki faced major opposition and challenge
against his political rival, Ralia Odinga, who had formed the political party
known as the ODM, or the Orange Democratic.
Odinga had also maintained a high
level in the government as chief of Roads, Public Works and Housing from 2003
to 2005.
Despite the long, elaborate
political careers and history behind Kibaki and Odinga, most of the Kenyan
public only cared about the ethnicity, or the tribal/ religious beliefs, of the
two politicians.
Almost every Kenyan sustains, for
example, Maasai, Luo or Kikuyu tribal ties. Obviously a candidate’s
ethnicity must have some relation to why an individual would elect them, and
the reason is simple – shared beliefs and enforcement of such ideas, and
mainly, selective perks and special treatment.
That means if you are a Kikuyu, you
shall receive higher standards and perks due to your shared ethnicity and
faith, and those of a different ethnicity shall receive less benefits assuming
their tribal leader is not elected. Although corrupt, this tribal preference
was another incentive for power and a reason for the corrupt actions and events
that occurred during the violence in 2007.
Now that the ethnic vein of Kenya
was throbbing and the pre-prepared violence was organized, all that was needed
was a definite win.
Although highly complex and almost
unexplainable, it is believed that Kibaki had rigged the polling and used
indirect force in order to win the 2007 elections, taking 4.58 million votes,
beating Odinga’s 4.35 million.
Kibaki won by a suspiciously large
percentage of the vote as opposed to the general average margin of victory.
Although extremely controversial,
Kibaki was quick to swear himself in, and despite his obvious electoral fraud,
talked loosely and truthfully about the “reconciliation” and “rebirth” of
Kenya. Soon after Kibaki’s rushed and secretive swearing in, many ethnic groups
felt cheated and angered by such actions, which in turn, lead to the epic
violence of the 2007 elections.
Obviously, the elections would not
have been so horrific and notorious if not for the immense wave of violence
that followed, which left 1,300 dead and 600,000 displaced. 
Besides the serious effect on the
Kenyan population, it also struck a major vein in the already tense and hostile
relationships between the ethnic groups of Kenya. Although at first the
violence seemed an unorganized rabble, the reality was far from the initial
appearance. It turned out that the three waves of concentrated violence was
organized specifically to relieve and exploit this ethnic hatred.
The first wave included spontaneous
destruction and looting by youths, generally young men, in the slums of Nairobi
and against specific ethnic groups and people of certain beliefs, such as
Kikuyu and supporters of the Party of National Unity.
Second was the violence prior (in part) to the actual elections
organized by tribal leaders and local figureheads, aimed mainly at Kibaki and
his questionable victory.
The third wave involved retaliation by government supporters
and Kikuyu militias that targeted migrant workers around the country believed
to support the governmental opposition.
The police also instigated the
violence, due to rampant corruption in the Kenyan police, and did not attempt
to prevent violence. Some cops used brutal, over-excessive force to stop
Obviously, this violence has
repercussions, as well as a serious effect on the Kenyan economy. But the
question still remains, “How will it affect in 2013?”
The simple answer is potential. Now
that this violence has been created, and was effective and deadly enough for
the high government officials to seize power and wealth, why shouldn’t they
attempt something of similar magnitude again?
As well as this potential, there is
also an ethical vendetta to be settled. The various ethnic groups of Kenya and
their broken, violent relationship was a driving force behind the electoral
violence. The feeling still festers at the center of their deeply entrenched,
yet secretive hate. There is a desperate desire for victory, privilege and power,
all useful benefits to the already-impoverished Kenyan majority.
As tense and unknown as the
possibility of electoral violence in 2013 is, however, I’m fairly certain that
whoever is reading this article is safe behind the high concrete walls, surrounded
by security guards, topped with a small panic button in your house to call in
your entourage to escort you to safety. 
Basically, whoever has the
opportunity to read this is more or less impervious to electoral violence in
We live in our own sheltered
community, high up upon the social ladder of Kenya, sitting by itself,
untouched by the disasters of election.
Unfortunately for the rest of the
Kenyan population, they do not share the same luxuries that we do, cramped into
small huts dense in the middle of a volatile slum, relying only on their luck
and apparel to save them in the worst-case scenario.
Worst of all for these people is the
uncertainty. The two major parties, Odinga’s of Cord (Luo) or Uhuru Kenyatta of
Jubilee (Kikuyu) are for all intents and purposes, tied.
For we do not know who will win, or
if Kenya shall collapse into violence.
This electoral tension is also
elevated by the precarious politics of the 2007 violence.
As the internationally-aware
community knows, Kenya’s two major presidential candidates have been called to
the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes against humanity. That
creates the decisive question, “What if the presidential victor is actually
This one question is an unwelcomed
complication for the already-tight presidential race, and raises an imperative
question for the future of political and democratic Kenya.


However, something that we can be certain of is
that, if violence explodes uncontrollably over Kenya, we shall be at home with a
gourmet beverage, in our pajamas, lazily browsing our computers, as we watch
the horrible violence on our flat screen television at home, safe from the
brutality, prejudice and more brutality to come.