Sunday, December 30, 2007

Kenya Vote Sparks Riots and Tribal Violence

Kenya's contested election has unleashed massive unrest. The Los Angeles Times has the story:

President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner Sunday of Kenya's presidential election and hastily sworn in, defying widespread concern over vote irregularities and sparking riots and tribal violence.

As smoke rose over parts of Nairobi, Kenya's emerging democracy also appeared to be smoldering. Before the chaotic election count, which saw returning officers disappear and European Union observers turned away without access to tallies, analysts and diplomats had viewed Kenya as one of the most promising democracies in Africa.

But the politics of the Big Man still holds sway in many parts of Africa, with only a few cases of incumbent presidents losing power through the ballot box.

After the 76-year-old president was sworn in for another five-year term, his challenger, opposition leader Raila Odinga, said a ruling clique was trying to rob Kenya of its democracy, wiping away tears as he spoke.

Odinga, 62, said he would be sworn in as "people's president" in his own ceremony Monday and outlined plans for a parallel government. As he spoke, live television transmissions were abruptly cut.

There were reports of violence across the country. In Kibera, a Nairobi slum area and opposition stronghold, thousands of protesters armed with rocks, knives and machetes chanted, "No peace!"

Rampaging mobs burned shacks and kiosks and beat people up. Panic-stricken people fled the area, shouting that gangs of youths were stoning cars, attacking people and robbing them. Police fired tear gas and live bullets to try to disperse the protesters.
But in Kibaki's strongholds, his supporters danced and sang.

The violence ran along tribal lines, as opposition supporters from the Luo tribe attacked those from Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe. Local media reported at least 13 people died, including several protesters shot by police. At least 70 had died in earlier election-related violence.

According to the official result, Kibaki won 4,584,721 votes and Odinga had 4,352,993. Odinga was well ahead in counting Friday, but Saturday saw the voting tally steadily tilt in Kibaki's favor, triggering riots in cities across Kenya.

"Kenyans will not accept the results of a rigged election," Odinga, the leader of the Orange Democratic Movement, had declared earlier Sunday. "No force will stop Kenyans attaining what they want." He said his party's figures indicated the vote had been rigged by 300,000 votes.

As previously mentioned, I watched "The Constant Gardener" yesterday, which features a political-geographic backstory in Kenya.

See Vicky Randall for an excellent book on Third World development, with cases on African politics, Political Change and Underdevelopment: A Critical Introduction to Third World Politics.

The CIA's World Factbook entry for Kenya, is

Photo Credit: A woman carrying a Kitten in Nairobi, Los Angeles Times