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by Beryl Aidi
Beryl Aidi
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on Sunday, 17 February 2013

Inter-communal Conflict by district PICTURE Courtesy UNOCHAInter-communal Conflict by district PICTURE Courtesy UNOCHAWhy the senseless inter-ethnic conflicts in Kenya?

By Beryl Aidi

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) on February 11, 2013 released a report that indicates among other things that illegal gangs and militia groups have regrouped and are reactivating ahead of the March 4 2013 General Elections. The report goes on to say that communities are arming themselves and in some cases people are moving their families from perceived danger zones to safer areas.[1] This should shock the authorities  charged with maintaining law and order to swing into action and find these groups and stop them. But even chilling is the fact that the information about communities re-arming is not exactly new.

In 2010, concerned by media reports that communities were re-arming, KHRC embarked on a research to ascertain those claims and produced the report  in 2011 titled "Recurrent Ethnic Violence and Claims of Communities Arming Ahead of the 2012 General Elections.“[2] (At the time the report was produced the elections were expected to take place in August 2012 as per the provision of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010).[3] This report details what appeared to be an arms race despite the events of 2008 being fresh in the minds of most Kenyans. What is baffling is that over the time, inter-ethnic conflict seems to be popping up everywhere. Equally puzzling is that nobody has been arrested and prosecuted in all these conflicts that often leave a trail of destruction and death. The question is, of what benefit are these conflicts to anyone? More importantly, who is fanning these clashes? Despite police reforms and reforms in various government bodies, why isn't there no real action to deter the perpetrators of these conflicts?

As we come draw near to the March 4 2013 General Elections, there are a lot of efforts being made to foster peace among Kenyans. These efforts are premised on attitude and behavior change. Attitude and behavior change produce the best result in dealing with social problems. However, it is a process that takes time. One needs to understand the root cause of a particular behaviour and attitude and what maintains it in order to come up with long lasting solutions to change that behavior and attitude, But has someone taken time to tackle the root cause of the attitudes and behaviours that lead to inter-ethnic conflicts? Clashes do not just occur in a vacuum. Furthermore, are the causes of these conflicts homogenous or are the causes unique to different areas?

In 2008 post -election violence, the clashes were not just inter-ethnic but also class struggles. In Kisumu for example, people living in an affluent neighbourhood  bordering an informal settlement were under siege by the rioting and looting youth who threatened to attack them. If we as a society and the duty-bearers can become intentional to take time to understand what causes the inter- and sometimes intra-ethnic clashes, then we can begin to find lasting solutions. The Commission of Inquiry on Post-election Violence (CIPEV) Report,  popularly known as the Waki Report[4], after the chair of the commission Judge Philip Waki, of 2008, documents causes and patterns of the post-election violence ( PEV) as: i) having an ethnic dimension;  ii) initially being a spontaneous reaction to a perceived rigged election; iii) eventually developing into an a planned conflict sponsored by politicians and business leaders ; iv)politicians role by omission and commission such as failure to prepare their supporters on the electoral processes; v) and acts of omission and commission by  administrative authorities and security forces in their handling of the PEV.

While all these issues places responsibility for the PEV to a great extent the duty-bearers,  there is a role that the public played. Why is the Kenyan public so ready to take up arms against each other? Why are they easily gullible and easily swayed by politicians to fight each other? What does the Kenyan public, the ordinary mwananchi (citizen) gain by attacking and killing a fellow citizen at the behest of a politician who does not even care to know them by name? Or what manner of hatred  and intolerance exists among Kenyans for each other that every little misunderstanding is sorted out by an armed conflict? Have Kenyans lost what it means to resolve differences in a diplomatic way? Or have Kenyans lost completely the any respect for the sanctity of life?

The middle class say that those who partake in the clashes are the poor people, jobless people or people whose livelihoods depend directly on land and its derivative resources. However, the social media is awash with people trading salvos with each other, mainly between pro- CORD[5] supporters and pro- Jubilee[6]. It is just as absurd as it is disturbing that these verbal tirades are taking on an ethnic pattern. Most of the people with access to the internet and thus spend time on social media are the middle class. These negative, if not venomous, dialogues are just as dangerous as physical clashes because they eventually lead to hatred that can easily be translated into action.

So what should we do? The government has been called upon by the civil society and other concerned bodies and persons to take steps to ensure there are systems in place to stem any election-related violence. And it has a responsibility to Kenyans to act to effectively stop the clashes and ensure they do not occur. However, from the UN Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA[7])’s inter-ethnic conflict map of January 2012-January 2013, one can see that inter-ethnic conflicts are not just election-related. Some are battle for resources. So is it that Kenyans cannot share resources anymore or is it that resolving differences amicably  is such a difficult and tedious "unbeneficial" option?

Why must we Kenyans fight with each other?

The author is the Media and Communication Programme Officer, Kenya Human Rights Commission.

[1] Countdown to The March 2013 General Elections: Interim Elections Monitoring Report, KHRC, 2013 http://www.khrc.or.ke/resources/publications/doc_download/52-countdown-to-the-march-2013-general-elections-interim-election-report.html

[2] Recurrent Ethnic Violence and Claims of Communities Arming Ahead of the 2012 General Elections, KHRC 2011 http://www.khrc.or.ke/resources/publications/doc_download/53-recurrent-ethnic-violence-and-claims-of-communities-arming-ahead-of-the-2012-general-elections.html

[3] Article 101(1): “A general election of members of Parliament shall be held on the second Tuesday in August in every fifth year”.

[4] Commission Of Inquiry Into The Post Election Violence (CIPEV) Final Report http://www.communication.go.ke/media.asp?id=739

[5] Coalition for Reforms and Democracy led by Raila Odinga

[6] Jubilee Coalition led by Uhuru Kenyatta

[7] Kenya: 2012 Inter-communal conflict by district (Jan 2012 - Jan 2013) www.unocha.org


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on Friday, 14 September 2012

By Edwin Kimtai ( Programme Associate, KHRC)

Ever wondered what happens when politicians succeed at deciding who has the right to elect them? The outcome is that democracy is in peril.

Consider this, in 1948, with World War II and the struggle against fascism fresh in their minds, drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirmed the right to "universal and equal suffrage" as a basic human right.

Yet the aspiration to universal and equal suffrage in the USA, which helped define the civil rights struggle in the 1950s and '60s, now appears to be losing its luster. Instead of continuing to serve as an ideal, policies involving the right to vote have been diminished by politicization of the franchise. Instead of promoting a universal right to vote, many elected officials now seek ways to narrow the franchise, finding ways to limit it, to mold it.

Some lawmakers are making it more difficult to vote, primarily through voter identification laws. Thirty Two States considered legislation this year that would create or tighten picture identification requirements for voting. They are also limiting voting hours. Ohio recently reduced the hours for early voting on nights and weekends -- steps that disproportionately restrict low-income and minority American citizens' ability to vote.

Some go so far as to push for disenfranchisement.  Almost six million people in the U.S,  overwhelmingly minorities and disproportionately low-income -- have lost the right to vote due to felony convictions. Several states impose a lifetime ban from voting booths on felons, regardless of the individual case, requiring either an act of clemency or legislation for reinstatement. Two states, Florida and Iowa, have recently rolled back efforts to make it easier to reinstate voting rights.

And some have shaped the vote by gerrymandering. Through redistricting, they've shaped districts to serve their own electoral success and the interests of their party. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has warned about the dangers of politically motivated gerrymandering, stating that, "The drawing of electoral boundaries and the method of allocating votes should not distort the distribution of voters or discriminate against any group and should not exclude or restrict unreasonably the right of citizens to choose their representatives freely."

Distressingly, some officials even celebrate these steps.  One Pennsylvania legislator pointed to restrictive voter registration laws as the reason why his preferred presidential candidate would win the state. An Ohio elections official defended the state's reduction in voting hours by writing this, "We shouldn't contort the voting process to accommodate the urban -- read African-American -- voter-turnout machine."

Surprisingly, supporters of these measures argue they're driven by the need to protect the integrity of the vote. Yet they do so without concern for their impact on the universality of the vote. They don't accompany voter identification requirements with programs to facilitate broad access to free picture ID. They don't match restricted voting hours with broader mail-in voter opportunities. They don't link efforts to remove non-citizens from voter rolls to comprehensive efforts to register recently naturalized citizens.

The ideal of the universal suffrage should drive policies on voting in the United States. A commitment to universality can neutralize gerrymandering through creation of independent redistricting commissions like those found in Washington or California.

A commitment to universality does not contradict voter integrity efforts. Yet policies developed to promote voter confidence or vote integrity policies must fit as part and parcel with the overarching commitment captured in the Universal Declaration. Without this commitment, voter integrity policies risk undermining, rather than fostering, democracy.

This should not be a partisan concern. When politicians succeed at molding the electorate, at deciding who has the right to elect them, then democracy is in grave peril.

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Ten Requirements for Candidates for Vying in Elections

by Tom Kagwe
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on Friday, 17 February 2012

Ballot paperBallot paperWhereas some Kenyans have expressed their aspirations to seek elective offices, such as to be the president, governor, senator, or members of the national or county assemblies, there seems to be very little debate about what is needed to vet those who are seeking these offices. The Chapter on Leadership and Integrity, read together with the Chapter on Representation of the People, gives fair but firm principles, which we could rely on to vet all candidates. This should be done from national to county levels. We propose that before anyone appears on the ballot paper, they present the following 10 certificates or letters of clearance to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

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