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Kenya's political crisis


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At a loss when it comes to anything further than a 10-mile radius of campus? If you’re stuck in the Uni bubble and need to brush up on your political awareness, get started with our one-stop guide to what’s happening in Kenya.

Kenya’s political situation

  • There are three political parties you should be aware of: the Party of National Unity (PNU), Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and Kenyan African National Union (KANU).
  • Kenya  has been governed by a coalition or ‘Government of National Unity’ since 2007, with President Mwai Kibaki from the PNU as head of state and ODM’s Raila Odinga as Prime Minister.
Political tensions arise

  • Violence erupted following Kibaki’s election to presidency in December 2007, following accusations of rigged votes. Spontaneous outbursts were followed by orchestrated attacks across the country, with reactionary attacks from extremists and security forces.
  • From 2007-8 over 1500 were killed, almost a third at the hands of the police, and 600,000 were forced to flee their homes after buildings were torched. Reasons for attacks became ethnic as well as political, as different groups sided with either Kibaki or Odinga.
  • This pressured Kenya into forming a coalition government where the ODM holds a secondary position of power to the PNU. After initial tensions, Odinga claimed that when Kibaki “is not under the influence of the extremists on his side, I've found him to be a real gentleman."
Following up ethnopolitical attacks

  • Meanwhile, in line with the Rome Statute of 2002, the International Criminal Court (ICC) began investigations into the attacks of 2007 when Kenya failed to determine accountability themselves. This was met with hostility in 2008 by the Kenyan presidential offices in areas worst affected, who refused to cooperate with interviews.
  • One Kenyan activist described the ICC as “the first institution [Kenyan politicians] have come across that they cannot bribe, kill, or intimidate.”
  • In 2011, the ICC confirmed charges for crimes against humanity during the reactionary attacks against six key political figures in Kenya. The first case involves William Ruto of the KANU party, Henry Kosgey of the ODM party and Joshua Sang of Kass FM Radio, Nairobi. The second trial examines deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, retired civil servant Francis Muthaura and military commander Mohammed Hussein Ali.
Presidential elections complicate matters

  • With Kibaki’s mandate ending in January 2013, Kenya is in need of a replacement head of state. The next election has not yet been announced, but among those planning to run for presidency is the accused Kenyatta.
  • Following conferences on 11th and 12th June to discuss the two cases, the ICC aims for the Kenyatta trial to go ahead in March 2013. This is highly likely to stifle Kenyatta’s presidential ambitions.
  • As a result, the ICC trials have become political on another level. Prime Minister Odinga, forerunner in the upcoming elections, urges the trial to go ahead in March as planned. On the other hand Kibaki, backing Uhuru as the son of Kenya’s independence leader Jomo Kenyatta, is calling for the trial to be postponed. He has gone so far as to propose Kenya’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute, thus rendering the influence of the ICC void.
  • Justice minister Eugene Wamalwa, minister for Justice of the PNU, has described the upcoming trials as “the elephant in the room” when it comes to discussions about electoral campaigns.
  • The plot thickens in the light of KANU minister George Saitoti’s death last month. Saitoti, openly opposed to Somali militant group al-Shabaab, was also planning to run in the 2013 Kenyan elections. He was killed along with his deputy and bodyguards in a helicopter crash on 10th June, a death which remains as yet unexplained.
The Somalia Dilemma

  • Since Saitoti’s calls for Kenya to intervene in Somali al-Qaeda groups last year, Nairobi has been inundated with grenade assaults. Police blame the attacks on supporters of the al-Shabaab group. Following a May firebombing in a Nairobi shopping centre killing one and injuring dozens, the group has threatened larger-scale attacks in the coming months.
  • Extremist Somali groups have also been involved in launching assaults on Somali refugee camps in Kenya, most recently kidnapping workers which Kenyan and Somali forces were working to free yesterday.
  • These tensions have extended to citizens of Kenya, which holds the largest population of Somalis outside their home country. Whereas non-Somalis are free to enter their workplace as normal, native Somalis and immigrants are frequently scanned with metal detectors under suspicion of al-Qaeda affiliations and weapon-based violence.

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