With Kenya's return to multi-party politics in 1991, violence variously christened "ethnic clashes" or "land clashes" erupted in many parts of the country. Between 1991 and 1996, over 1,500 people died and almost 300,000 displaced in the Rift Valley and the Western provinces. In the runup to the 1997 elections, fresh violence erupted at the Coast killing over 100 people and displacing over 100,000, mostly pro-opposition up-country people.
By 1998, when violence broke out in the Rift valley again, it had become a handy election tool and an instrument by the state to reassert its absolute dominance over every sector of the Kenyan society. Over the years it has become evident that these clashes are sponsored by the government using surrogate agents to avoid responsibility.