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Molo Clashes - 1992-93

The major outbreak was in 1992 with the Molo clashes in the Rift valley region which left 5,000 people dead and another 75,000 displaced. The conflict was primarily between Kalenjin and Kikuyu communities with land ownership cited as one of the key reasons for the conflict.

Nothing raises so much fear and apprehension in Kenya as the spectre of fresh `ethnic conflicts', similar to those that rocked the country in the build-up to the 1992 multi-party general elections and after. The wave of inter-ethnic conflicts in the Rift Valley, Nyanza, Western and some parts of the Coastal provinces went down in Kenya's history as the worst since independence.

Like the Luhya and the Mijikenda (coastal Bantus), the Kalenjin are a collection of small ethnic groups (Kipsigis, Nandi, Sabaot, Tugen, Elgeyo, Marakwet and Pokot) amalgamated into one ethnic identity largely for political mobilization purposes. The Kalenjin are cultivators and sedentary stock-raisers occupying the highland West-Central districts of Rift Valley province. They make up about 11% of Kenya's population.

The Kalenjin were greatly favored for recruitment into government during the 24 year rule of President Moi, himself a Kalenjin. They remain steadfast supporters of the former ruling party, KANU. However, that party was severely divided by 2006, with former President Moi promoting one faction led by Nicholas Biwott and fellow Kalenjin William Ruto supporting another. Many Kalenjin voters remain loyal to their great benefactor, former President Moi, but his influence appears to be on a slow decline.

President Jomo Kenyatta (father of incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta) was accused of sidelining the Luos, in particular Jaramongi Odinga( father of current opposition leader Raila Odinga) in favor of Moi who who succeeded him in 1978 as the second president of Kenya. During his period in office until 2002, Moi was accused of perpetuating the politics of divide and rule. His presidency was also marked by tribal animosities.

Though regional conflict among tribes was still in existence, it was not until the advent of multi-party politics in 1992 when it really became evident. The re-introduction of multi-party politics in Kenya in the early 1990s, had a number of far reaching consequences one of which was the eruption of ethnic clashes in Western, Rift Valley, Nyanza and Coast provinces. This was partially a fulfillment of President Moi's earlier prediction that a return of his country to a multi party system would result in an outbreak of tribal violence that would destroy the nation.

Major parties were already divided along tribal lines. For example, the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD-Kenya) was associated with the Luhya tribe, the Democratic Party with the Kikuyu, the Labour Democratic party with the Luo, while the Kalenjin tribe supported KANU.

The violent hotspots in the Rift Valley like Burnt Forest, Molo, Enosupukia, are old fault-lines where a complex mix of anti-Kikuyu feeling, land hunger, poverty and government insensitivity has created a veritable tinderbox, which explodes whenever politicians give the go-ahead and provide the necessary logistical and financial support.

The ethnic conflicts in Kenya could also be attributed to the calls by high ranking KANU officials for the re-introduction of a majimbo (federal) system of government based on ethnicity. Federalism (majimboism) as a political system in which a Union of states or regions leave foreign affairs and defence to the central government but retain powers over some internal affairs is not necessarily undemocratic but the federalism system of governance that is based on ethnicity is a threat to any country's unity , stability, and development.

On Oct 29, 1991 ethnic clashes erupt at Meteitei farm in Tinderet, Nandi District, on the border of Rift Valley, Nyanza, and Western Provinces, when Kalenjin warriors attacked the Luo community. Although the incident began as a land dispute, the fighting escalated within days. The victims claimed that the attackers intended to expel non-Kalenjins and political opponents from the Rift Valley Province. After the violence broke out, leaflets signed by a group calling itself the Nandi Warriors, were distributed in the area calling on non-Kalenjins to leave the area by 12 December 1991.

In December 1991 the Kenyan parliament repealed Section 2(A) of the Constitution which prohibited opposition parties. The tribal fighting spread to large parts of the Rift Valley, Western, and Nyanza areas. The Luhya, Kikuyu, and Kisii were greatly affected,but the Kalenjin were also victimized in retaliatory attacks by the Luhya, Luo and Kikuyu.

In an official statement to Parliament in March 1992, six months after the clashes broke out, Vice President Prof. George Saitoti announced that the Government would provide food and other relief supplies amounting to shs. 10 million (US$ 125,000) to the displaced clashes victims (Weekly Review, 20th March, 1992; p.5). This amount of money was inadequate to resettle and compensate the thousands of victims who had been rendered homeless and without property.

The Government also harassed the Tribal Clashes Resettlement Volunteer Service (TCRVS) formed by a prominent environmentalist Prof. Wangari Maathai. The Government responded to the formation of TCRVS by accusing Prof. Maathai of inciting the clashes (Kenya Times. 31st January, 1993). The organization intended to initiate a resettlement programme and a reconciliation seminar for clash victims.

The violence continued unabated throughout 1993. The Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, and Nakuru Districts were the most affected. The fighting in the Burnt Forest area in Uasin Gishu predominantly hit the Kikuyu community by the Kalenjin during 1993.

As clashes escalated in the Rift Valley and other provinces of Kenya, there were talks of bringing in the UN peace keeping troops. These troops would have been the last thing anyone wanted in a highly charged environment such as Molo, Londiani and Burnt Forest. Fortunately, a domestic alternative was sought.

President Moi declared `security operations' in Molo, Burnt Forest and Londiani on 02 September 1993. The Government of Kenya, in response to the deteriorating security situation in the Rift Valley, declared Molo a security operation area on 05 October, 1993. And on 06 October 1993, the security order was extended to cover other clashes-affected areas of Burnt Forest and Londiani. The statement was very brief and decisive: "The Government today declared Molo a security operation area with immediate effect and no political parties or individuals from outside are allowed to visit or hold meetings in that area."

Throughout 1993, hundreds of Kalenjin warriors attacked and occupied farms belonged to Kikuyus, Luhyas, or Luos without being arrested or charged for their actions. On a smaller scale, Kalenjin were attacked in retaliation. In late October, Maasai and Kikuyu, in separate incidents, raided police stations for arms.

In Molo, Nandi and Mt. Elgon, large areas of forest land were set on fire as part of a defensive strategy taken by victims of the clashes, to deny their attackers hiding grounds. This development in the long run may lead to catastrophic effects on the environment of these areas.

As a result of the clashes in Molo, over 55 primary schools in Molo South catering for over 16,500 pupils did not re-open for the new term because of insecurity. The Standard Eight pupils due to sit for their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) fled their homes in 1993 because of insecurity caused by the violence. However, during and after the clashes, there had been a crisis in terms of identity and culture, especially for the offsprings of the ethnic groups that fought each other. Several families have broken down and the children of mixed families are at crossroads in terms of ethnic and cultural identity. Some have been forced to leave on the paternal ethnic sides, while the others live on the maternal side, depending on where the pressure is most.

The clashes also led to the drop in milk production, particularly in the Rift Valley, which is one of the largest milk producing zones in Kenya. Although there were no reliable statistics to illustrate the drop, the figures of milk production in Molo is indicative of this falling trends. For instance, it was reported in a local newspaper that in Molo area, the milk supply had dropped from 75,000 litres per month to only 29,000 litres per month (Daily Nation, 19th June, 1993).

The fear of renewed clashes in Molo and Burnt Forest, among other parts previously affected by the menace, was a very sensitive subject which creates panic within Government circles and the public. In April 1996, during Easter Sunday, Bishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana a'Nzeki of Nakuru Catholic Diocese, while delivering a sermon in a church, talked of the possibility of witnessing fresh clashes in Molo area. He claimed that the local people had reported to him that bands of marauding youths were cited re-grouping in the forests of Molo.

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Page last modified: 09-02-2017 19:29:43 ZULU