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Kenyan Election Violence 2007

In Kenya, the Rift Valley region was the epicenter of ethnic clashes following the 2007 disputed presidential poll in which at least 1,500 people, and possibly 2,000, were killed. Kenya has a population of approximately 37 million. It is a republic dominated by a strong president who is both chief of state and head of government. There is a unicameral National Assembly. In December 2007 the government held local, parliamentary, and presidential elections. Observers judged the parliamentary and local elections to be generally free and fair. In the presidential election, the incumbent, President Mwai Kibaki, was proclaimed the winner by a narrow margin under controversial circumstances. Raila Odinga, the main opposition candidate, disputed the results and violence erupted in sections of Nairobi and opposition strongholds in Nyanza, Rift Valley, and Coast provinces; approximately 1,500 persons were killed and more than 500,000 displaced between December 2007 and February 2008.

Until potentially destabilizing, widespread violence erupted following the disputed December 2007 presidential elections, Kenya had, since independence, maintained considerable stability despite changes in its political system, localized violence surrounding elections, and crises in neighboring countries. This had been particularly true since the re-emergence of multiparty democracy and the accompanying increase in freedom (including freedom of speech, the press, and assembly).

Many factors contributed to interethnic conflicts: the proliferation of guns, the commercialization of traditional cattle rustling, the growth of a modern warrior/bandit culture (distinct from traditional culture), unresponsive local political leadership, diminished economic prospects for groups affected by a severe regional drought, political rivalries, and the inability of security forces to adequately quell violence. Conflict between land owners and squatters was particularly severe in Rift Valley and Coast provinces, while competition for water and pasturage was especially serious in the northern districts of Eastern Province and in North Eastern Province.

Through the provincial administrations, the government held public meetings in regions plagued by ethnic violence to promote dialogue and peaceful resolution of conflicts. The government dispatched police and a paramilitary force to patrol affected areas to prevent a recurrence of violence. In June 2006 ethnic violence erupted in the region of Western Province bordering Uganda and continued for six months. Competition over land exacerbated by rivalries among political leaders representing contending ethnic communities were the cause. Other conflicts in 2006 took place between the Maasai and Kuria in southern Rift Valley Province and between rival Kikuyu and Luo criminal gangs in a major slum in Nairobi. Both conflicts were quickly suppressed by security forces.

In private business and in the public sector, members of nearly all ethnic groups commonly discriminated in favor of other members of the same group. Some neighborhoods, particularly in slum areas of the capital, tended to be segregated ethnically, although interethnic marriage had become fairly common in urban areas.

In 2006 members of coastal ethnic groups attempted to seize land they claimed had been given away unfairly decades earlier to persons from outside the province, allegedly in an attempt to change the region's demography for political purposes. The government acknowledged that some illegal land deals had taken place, but insisted that persons seek redress through the courts and not simply squat on disputed land. During 2007 the government distributed land titles in Coast Province to landless persons who had long challenged the legality of their dispossession.

In December 2007 local, parliamentary, and presidential elections were held. Observers judged the parliamentary and local elections to be generally free and fair. In the presidential election, the incumbent, President Mwai Kibaki, was proclaimed the winner by a narrow margin under controversial circumstances.

The main opposition candidate contested the result and violence erupted in sections of Nairobi and opposition strongholds in Nyanza, Rift Valley, and Coast provinces. Observers concluded that, while the voting and counting process generally met democratic standards in most areas of the country, there were serious irregularities in both opposition and progovernment strongholds and in the tallying of results by the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) in Nairobi. These irregularities undermined the credibility of the presidential election result. While civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces, and security forces generally exercised restraint in dealing with protestors and rioters, there were instances in which the security forces, particularly the police, acted independently.

The government in many areas respected the human rights of its citizens or attempted to institute reforms to address deficiencies; however, serious problems remained. The following human rights problems were reported: unlawful killings, torture, and use of excessive force by police; vigilante justice; police impunity; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; arbitrary interference with the home; prolonged pretrial detention; executive influence on the judiciary; disrespect for freedom of speech and of the press; internally displaced persons, refugees, and stateless persons. The government took limited steps to prosecute abusers.

Leading up to the 2007 general elections, some political leaders made blatant appeals to traditional ethnic animosities for political purposes, resulting in intimidation of members of targeted ethnic groups and communal clashes. After the announcement of the disputed presidential election results in December, interethnic violence occurred in many areas of the country. In many cases, ethnic Kikuyu living outside their Central Province homeland were targeted with violence. Tens of thousands fled their homes in Rift Valley Province and, to a much lesser extent, elsewhere in the country. There were also reports that Kikuyu gangs forcibly circumcised Luo males in Nairobi.

There was increased interethnic violence after the December 30 announcement of the presidential election results. Mobs and groups of traditional warriors in opposition strongholds violently targeted ethnic Kikuyu and others suspected of supporting the incumbent president. In Nairobi Kikuyu gangs targeted Luo or Luhya in retaliation. An unknown number of persons were killed and tens of thousands displaced in the December violence. On 30 December 2007, following the announcement of presidential election results, the government banned all live radio and television broadcasts. Some NGOs reported that police were issued shoot-to-kill orders as part of suppressing postelection violence in December, but the government denied this.

On December 31, in the wake of demonstrations protesting the announced results of the presidential election, police in Kisumu opened fire on crowds, killing 43 protesters, according to media reports. The media also reported that on December 31, police killed at least 40 persons in Nairobi while dispersing similar demonstrations. It remained unclear whether all of these killings constituted excessive use of force, or whether police in some cases were responding appropriately in life-threatening situations. On December 31, the government banned rallies by opposition parties to protest the results of the presidential election.

In December 2007 tens of thousands of people fled their homes in Rift Valley Province as a result of postelection interethnic violence. The government provided shelter, food, and transport to IDPs, and coordinated support services with NGOs, particularly the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), and church charities. Postelection violence in December created tens of thousands of additional IDPs, mainly in Rift Valley Province.

The violence ended in February when, as the result of an international mediation process, the two sides agreed to form a coalition government. Under the terms of the agreement, incumbent President Kibaki retained his office, and Odinga was appointed to a newly created prime ministerial position. The parties also agreed to undertake a series of constitutional, electoral, and land reforms to address underlying causes of the crisis.

The government appointed a commission to study the integrity of the election results; it concluded that serious irregularities occurred in voting and counting in both opposition and progovernment strongholds and in the tallying of results by the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK). These irregularities seriously undermined the integrity of the election results. A mixed Kenyan-international commission appointed during 2008 to evaluate the elections found that the election results were "irretrievably polluted." The commission also reported that the election results, and especially the presidential election results, lacked integrity.

In January and February 2008 approximately 500,000 people fled their homes in Rift Valley Province, Central Province, Nairobi, and other sections of the country as a result of postelection interethnic violence. The government provided shelter, food, and transport to approximately 350,000 IDPs, and coordinated support services with NGOs, particularly the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), and faith-based charities. The government and the KRCS established schools in most camps to allow children to continue their education, although the postelection violence disrupted many children's ability to sit for exams. There were reports that ethnic-based militias recruited youth in IDP camps. The East African newspaper reported in March 2008 that the Mungiki gang and other ethnic-based militias were actively recruiting youth living in IDP camps.

In May 2008 the government announced "Operation Rudi Nyumbani" (Operation Return Home) to return IDPs in camps to their homes. However, the majority of IDPs chose to relocate to transit sites near to their homes. By year's end the government had closed all IDP camps, while KRCS reported a further 99,198 IDPs resided in transit sites. By mid-September the government had registered 130,000 IDP households as eligible to receive cash assistance of 10,000 shillings (approximately $130) to assist them in returning home; 86,000 people received payment prior to departing the camps. Some IDP associations complained that the government distributed assistance in a nontransparent manner or did not deliver it at all. In May 2008 the Representative of the UN Secretary General for the Human Rights of IDPs visited the country and concluded that the returns of some IDPs were not voluntary and based on informed choices.

The Kofi Annan-led political settlement set out a reform agenda to address underlying causes of the post-election violence. The focus is on constitutional, electoral, land, and institutional reform as well as increased accountability for corruption and political violence. The new constitution was approved in a referendum on August 4, 2010. By 2013 Kenyas coalition government felt it had carried out enough reforms to avoid a return of violence. But many Kenyans believed the reforms had fallen short.

The International Criminal Court summoned six Kenyans (five high-ranking government officials and one radio executive) to The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in the 2007-2008 post-election violence. They appeared at The Hague in April 2011 to be informed of the charges. Confirmation of Charges hearings were held in September 2011, and in January 2012 the pre-trial chamber of the Court confirmed charges against four of the individuals for allegedly committing crimes against humanity: Uhuru Kenyatta, Frances Muthaura, William Ruto, and Joshua Sang. Opening of the trial was scheduled on 10 April 2013. Pre-Trial Chamber II declined to confirm the charges against Henry Kiprono Kosgey and Mohammed Hussein Ali.



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