11 February 2013

Flash back to January 2008 (#2): My review of the early days after Kenya's 2007 election

Just three weeks from today, Kenya will hold a presidential election. I thought you might enjoy a brief overview of what transpired following the previous election:

Wednesday, December 26, 2007
There is much euphoria and anticipation about the elections. Opinion polls indicate the presidential race is too close to call. The highest turnout in Kenya’s history is predicted.

Thursday, December 27, Election Day!
Voting went fairly well throughout the country, with only isolated flare-ups and violence. Thousands stood in line for up to eight hours in order to exercise their right to vote. Everyone is eager to hear the outcome. International observers declare it to be a “free and fair” election, as far as the voting process went.

Friday, December 28
While downtown, I noticed the entire area was practically deserted. Large supermarkets were closed and the big outdoor markets are deserted! Everyone is home watching the news to see who will be the new president. People are restless waiting for the results.

Saturday, December 29
Certain parts of Nairobi were “no-go zones” due to the unruly crowds. Things are not looking good. People are impatient to know the election results; rigging is strongly suspected. The Electoral Commission didn't seem to be completely transparent in the tallying process. One polling station reported 99% turnout and another, 115%! Many of the large supermarkets and almost all small kiosks closed early or did not open at all.

Sunday, December 30th
Some churches cancelled services due to the widespread unrest, but my church went ahead with theirs. Although the congregation was smaller than normal, we had a great service and spent over 15 minutes in intense prayer for the nation of Kenya.

Helicopters patrolling the city can be heard overhead. Just before 6:00pm, the Electoral Commission forced the media to leave the premises of their headquarters. The incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, was declared the winner. Shortly thereafter, Kibaki was secretly sworn into office. Raila continued to claim that the counting was full of fraud. Widespread violence and destruction erupted, virtually shutting down the entire nation. Police in riot gear were dispersed everywhere. TV and radio were forbidden to give any live updates, essentially creating a news blackout. Again, virtually all businesses were closed throughout the day. There is very little movement around the country, with hundreds of thousands of families hunkering down in their homes, afraid to venture out. Fear is the order of the day. Text message I received I received from a friend: “Tonight will be very bad.”

NOTE: Kenya is composed of 42 tribes. This election, like every other one in its history, basically followed tribal lines. The violence is being perpetrated – for the most part – by the youth of a few tribes who were for the opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, pitted against the largest tribe of the nation, who were predominantly for the incumbent.

Monday, December 31
None of the three grocery stores near my house are open. I managed to get two small loaves of bread and a milk packet at a small kiosk and some fruit and eggs at a small produce store. Phone credit was not available anywhere. There's much fear throughout the country. Public transportation is almost at a standstill, both in cities and rural areas. Urban and rural market areas are like ghost towns – completely deserted! Throughout the day, I got information from BBC (from London). Local stations concentrated on music (due to the gag order) and appealed for peace. Late in the day, numerous reports of killings, looting of businesses, and torching of buildings and homes were reported.

Text messages I received throughout the day:

“It’s getting to be like hell. Deb, please cry out to God to intervene.”

“I can still hear gunfire. Feels like a bad dream.”

“We’ve received reports of houses and churches being burned down. Please pray.”

“Just got a call from Dad that people are starting to fight near home. He said not to come home tonight. We’re holed up at a friend’s house. Please pray.”

“It’s bad everywhere.”

"My neighbor's houses have been burned to the ground!"

“I’m almost out of credit. Mom can’t travel to her Mom’s funeral. My sister is spending nights at a police station for safety. My bro can’t come for his kids. My travel plans have been suspended.”

Tuesday, January 1, 2008
I got to Nakumatt (a large grocery store near my house) just as it was opening. Over 100 people poured in at the same time. Many shelves were already empty. There was virtually no produce or fresh milk. Items like flour, sugar, rice, bread, and long-life milk disappeared quickly. I was also able to get a newspaper. The stories and photos were very sad and very depressing.

There is much sadness across Kenya. By evening the number of people killed is reported to be 200! 30-40 people (mostly women and children) died in a torched church in Eldoret, where they had gone to seek shelter. Local public transportation is increasing somewhat, but no vehicles are allowed to reach downtown Nairobi, which is the main hub of all routes. Mayhem is still rampant all around the country! Price gouging goes on in the few small shops and kiosks that are open. Fuel is scarce throughout the entire nation. President Kibaki gave his annual New Year’s speech, repeating his claim that Kenya has just conducted “free and fair elections”. The international community called for an audit of the vote counting.

Wednesday, January 2
Life in my neck of the woods, seems to have returned to a relative sense of normalcy. The newspaper is full of horror stories! It's all so sad. John, the carpenter on the compound where I live, said to me - "Our country - now, what can we do? It's so bad. The only thing is just to pray!"

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Original posts from which I took the above excerpts:

Boxing Day and Election Day

Subsequent Days

2 comments:

Naomi Hattaway said...

Hoping this is NOT the case in a few weeks!

deb said...

Me, too!