Saturday, March 8, 2008

More on Kenya from Paul Koech

The author, during more peaceful times in Iten, in front of one of the town’s destination restaurants. Photo courtesy of Paul Koech’s take on the sad situation in Kenya of the last few months. Paul is a captain in the Kenyan Army, and recently spent a year as part of a peacekeeping force in Darfur, only to return home and find senseless political violence occurring in his own country.

Hope this will find you and your family in a fine mode. We are coming to terms with what transpired in our country in the last two months. Although things are returning to normal, it is at a snail’s pace and suspicion and tension remain in several areas. We have high confidence with the results of the mediation team led by former UN Secretary General Koffi Anann. The team has a positive intention towards stability in our country. We hope that the government is ready for change, as they will be significantly affected.

The cause of this conflict actually is power greed, which is what most of our old guard leaders were brought up with and thus they believe that they can stay in power as long as they wish. That is, as long as they control the arm of security forces.

Those involved were surprised by what occurred after all their plans of rigging were exposed before the election actually took place. They had tried to use administrative elements to ensure victory, but then realized that many of these people were not on their side in several areas where they were not popular. They then decided to use Administration Police, whom, since President Kibaki took power in 2002, have been trained and equipped to support the government in case of any uncertain resistance by citizens to any government project. There is evidence that these police were sent to several polling centers, which were unfriendly to the government, with marked voting papers, with an intention of stashing them into the ballot boxes.

This plan failed when some of these very police passed the information to the opposition. The opposition leader went to the press and condemned the presence of police at the polling centers. Thus, this marked the end of government power in unfriendly areas, as any suspected police in civil or uniform were aggressively stopped.

With this plan aborted, they staged another scheme whereby they waited for the results from various regions and then altered the figures in favor of Mwai Kibaki. The alteration of these figures was noted and complaints were raised by returning officers, who had been in the poling station. They were then threatened and replaced and the specific forms used in placing results were changed and signed by the different officers. Also, the chairman of Electoral Commission was forced to announce the doctored results. He complied since, as it has been suggested, one of his tribesman was bound to be vice president and could eventually take over leadership after Kibaki’s term ends.

The act was not just vote rigging, but even more significantly, the stealing of Kenyan rights. The events from the time Kibaki was announced as the winner to swearing in was a clear indication that there was a scheme hatched prior to the election, for the normal ceremony protocol was not followed when the announcement of the winner took place. This immediately marked the beginning of the clashes on December 28.

It is also interesting to note that it took the Electoral Commission three days to announce the presidential election results, while the parliamentary results were announced immediately. In the party result, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM, led by Raila Odinga) had 99 members of parliament against 43 for Party of Nation Unity (PNU, led by Kibaki). Other small parties had 65. This indicates that Kibaki had the support of less than a quarter of the MPs. When ODM raised complaints of rigging in the specific areas, their pleas were ignored as the legal system appears to have favored the Kibaki and his government. If this continues, legal arguments against PNU will most likely take several years before it is deliberated or given a hearing.

The negotiating teams made considerable progress, and on February 28 the two leaders, Kibaki and Odinga, signed a power sharing agreement. The parliament was constituted on March 6 and will address needed changes to the Constitution to accommodate the signed agreement. The proposed changes designate that there shall be a president, who will be the head of state, and an executive prime minister, who will be the head of Government, with Kibaki and Raila taking the above positions, respectively. Although the general population accepts this compromise in a effort to save the country from breaking apart, in reality ODM followers are bitter about what occurred.

At one point, Paul was the second fastest 10,000m runner in history. Photo courtesy a result of this controversial election, it may take Kenya ages to heal and to return to where we were. The most affected areas are the core ODM areas, where anger ruled over justice and common sense. People destroyed properties by fire and even hanged rival supporters who were living in the area. Destruction in some areas was not tribal, but rather as a result of political rivalry.

Our country is divided into eight regions, where Central Province is almost entirely Kikuyu. This is the largest tribe in Kenya and the tribe of Mwai Kibaki. The property in this area is owned almost exclusively by the Kikuyu. Kikuyus are also found in all the other regions and own many businesses and properties. The reason behind this dates back to colonial time, when the Central Province, in general, was not occupied by the whites, but the Kikuyu were used by the colonialist to fight other tribes and worked for them. By virtue of their close relationship, Kikuyus had early access to education and hence were able to prosper.

Thus after independence, the Kikuyu had an upper hand to succeed to most of the positions in the government. The government of our first president issued land to Kikuyu, through a settlement scheme, in the areas which were perceived to be for other tribes.This did not sit well with the other tribes, and as a result of resistance to this act, many were jailed and intimidated. People have been hiding their anger for the last 40 years, only to resurface by the election dispute.

Despite all of this, I remain optimistic and I hope that we have learned some positive lessons from this conflict. It is clear that the greed and selfishness of a few can negatively effect the lives of many. I hope that this is a lesson that we do not forget.

I feel that we should be especially indebted to Kofi Annan and to President Bush and Secretary Rice for their efforts to see us through this turbulence of greed.

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2 Responses to “More on Kenya from Paul Koech”

  1. Arieef Ramskay says:

    Hi Paul,
    Really very happy to read about you. So are you coming to Beijing? Well i think by now everything is back to normal in Kenya. Am really very sad for not visiting Kenya and especially you place. Anyway Paul, if you coming to this part of the world, please drop me a mail. Well Paul, take care and keep in touch.

    Jambo Affendy!!!!

    Major Arieef Ramskay
    Malaysian Army

  2. Geoff Smith says:

    Hi Paul,

    Glad to hear you are well in the face of the turmoil that has occurred in your home. Good luck in your races. Remember, if you find yourself running somewhere in eastern North America, drop me a line and I will come out and wave a Kenyan flag.

    Capt Geoff Smith
    Canadian Army