Guest Author - Jeanne Egbosiuba Ukwendu
The elections on December 27, 2007 threw Kenya, one of Africa's most stable countries, into chaos. Rumors of vote rigging by the incumbent president Mwai Kibaki have rocked the current elections and have led to rioting, almost five hundred Kenyans dead, 70,000 people displaced, and a church burning. Why has this particular election sparked such violence fifteen years after the first multi-party democratic presidential elections were held in 1992? Here is some background on the political scene of Kenya.
During the British colonization of Kenya, the British oppressed the Kikuyu tribe - Kenya's largest tribe. The Kikuyu people were evicted from their land when the British colonized Kenya. In 1921, the Kikuyu people formed Kenya's first political protest movement, Young Kikuyu Association, which later became Kenya African Union (KAU) and then the Kenyan African National Union (KANU). In 1947, Jomo Kenyatta began president of the Kenyan African Union.
Jomo Kenyatta was the first president of Kenya elected in 1964. Jomo Kenyatta is from the Kikuyu tribe. Jomo Kenyatta was president until his death in 1978.
Daniel Arap Moi, from the Kalenjin tribe, was Jomo Kenyatta's vice-president and assumed the presidency after Kenyatta's death. In 1982, Kenya became a one party country and the Kenyan Air Force launched a failed coup. The coup was put down by loyalists in the army. In 1991, the one-party law was repealed and in 1992 Kenya held her first multi-party elections. Although there were reports and accusations of vote rigging, Daniel Arap Moi waas reelected to another term as president. Daniel Arap Moi continued to be president through 2002 when he was constitutionally barred from running for president.
In 2002, Mwai Kibaki, from the Kikuyu tribe, became Kenya's third president. In 2007, Raila Odinga (from the Luo tribe) ran against Mwai Kibaki for the presidency. Raila Odinga appeared to be winning as the voting results were being announced throughout the day. The votes sometimes takes days to count and are announced as each area formalizes its results. Raila Odinga's lead of over a million votes disappeared overnight with Mwai Kibaki winning the election by a small margin of votes. Charges of vote rigging flew and violence ensued.
It is widely known that each president's tribe has been favored while that president is in office. Although Mwai Kibaki brought free public education for grades 1 through 12 (no more school fees) and the economy had gone from posting a loss to gaining over 5% a year during his presidency, a change is what the Kenyan people are looking for. In fact, the Moi and Kibaki governments were very corrupt. People do not want to admit it, tribalism does still exist in Kenya.
Currently, the African Union is ecouraging talks between Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga to come to a political solution. Both sides have agreed to put an end to the violence. This situation is unfortunate and has pushed Kenya back some 15 years in its democratic political process.