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Kenya

Uncertain future

by Meike Scholz
In the end, the former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan pulled it off: after a long tug-of-war, he announced that an agreement had been reached between Kenya’s rival politicians. President Mwai Kibaki and Opposition leader Raila Odinga signed a peace pact and undertook to share power. But how that power-sharing will work remains uncertain. Kenya’s crisis is far from over.

For one thing, the International Crisis Group (ICG) warns of new violence by the militias and extremist groups that have formed along ethnic lines. They are Kikuyu or Kalenjin, Luo or Luhya, and most gangs have been banned for years. Nonetheless, they were driving forces in the recent inter-tribal violence. Known as Mungiki, Kalenjin Warriors, Taliban or Bagdad Boys, they control entire rural areas or urban slums, sometimes with support from local dignitaries, politicians or their relatives. The ICG believes they will not renounce violence, and will be ready for new assaults should political agreements fail.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international organisation, is also pessimistic about Kenya’s future. While welcoming the agreement between Kibaki and Odinga, HRW levelled serious criticism, stating that the ethnic violence that followed the controversial December 2007 elections was politically motivated and planned to the last detail. Responsibility is laid at the door of local politicians, who instructed the young people to wreak violence on others. Politicians – both in the governing party and in the Opposition – are claimed to have held inflammatory speeches. The National Commission for Human Rights in Kenya (KNCHR) confirms such findings, adding that hate messages were also broadcast by local radio stations – much as Radio Mille Collines did in Rwanda in 1994.

Since December 2007, around 1,200 people have been killed in ethnically motivated attacks in Kenya. As many as 300,000 have been displaced. What will happen to those people is still unclear. Many cannot return because their homes have been burned down. But many are also too afraid to return. It was good to see political leaders shaking hands and pledging to cooperate, a displaced man told the news agency IRIN. But nothing has changed for him. How can he go back, he asked, and live alongside those who have caused him so much suffering? (sz)