NOTE – Let me start with a very brief mention of one aspect of Kenya's history. There have been a series of serious injustices that have been committed towards various people groups ever since Kenya gained her independence. As a result, there are some very deep-seated resentments and mistrust between various tribes. Even though it could appear that Kenya is the rare African country that has enjoyed peace and stability, in fact there has always been this tension just below the surface. Flare-ups are not at all unusual; many times they are violent. So, this latest turmoil that is being experienced is no surprise to many.
A re-cap and update:During the presidential campaigns: Women candidates were attacked and even killed
Pre-election polls: “Expected results of the presidential contest are too close to call.”
Election Day (Thursday, December 27th): Millions of Kenyan citizens exercised their right to vote (some for the first time in their lives). Hundreds of thousands stood in line for 6-8 hours. For the most part, the day progressed without violence or incidence.
Sunday, December 30th: The result of the presidential contest is announced amid much confusion. ODM (the opposition party) garnered the majority of parliament seats. They vehemently claimed the presidential outcome was rigged. Incumbent President Kibaki is hurriedly and secretly sworn in. A media blackout of live updates is ordered by the government. A week of chaos breaks out throughout the entire country.
ODM supporters repeatedly attempted to hold peaceful rallies to express their concerns. However, the sitting government declared them to be "illegal". Huge numbers of police are seen in many parts of the country.
Virtually the entire international community condemned the vote tallying fiasco and declared the election not to be “free and fair”. They have also repeatedly decried the ban the freedom of press and the restriction on the constitutional freedom of expression. The chairman and other officers of the Electoral Commission of Kenya have admitted that there were many irregularities and discrepancies in the vote tallying.
During early post-election chaos: Several hundred killed and injured, businesses destroyed and looted, thousands of homes burned causing hundreds of thousands of people to be displaced with only the clothes on their back, women and girls raped, many main highways in the nation closed, employees unable to reach their places of work, shops closed or only open for minimal hours each day, price gouging and panic buying of food, tourist industry virtually collapses. Much fear, depression, and psychological trauma sets in among Kenyan citizens. People fear leaving their homes. Hospitals were overwhelmed. Many small medical clinics closed when they ran out of supplies. Relief efforts begin to provide food, clothing, and personal effects for the displaced families.
Jendayi Frazier (US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs) and John Kufour (President of Ghana and President of the African Union) came to Kenya to help mediate peace talks, but both left without accomplishing much. Kibaki insists that Kenya can iron out her own difficulties. Frazier warned that the US may impose sanctions if a resolution isn’t found soon.
Tuesday, January 15th
Kofi Annan was scheduled to arrive (with other Eminent African Personalities) to continue in the peace brokering process; however he was taken ill before arriving.
Opening day of Parliament: ODM members of parliament refused to stand when Kibaki entered the house. The session was conducted according to standing procedures. All members were sworn in. ODM’s choices were elected for both Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House. The Speaker, especially, is a key position of power. Much healthy debate took place. The session was aired live on TV and radio; Kenyans watched it with much interest. Parliament is now on recess (likely until March), which is fairly standard practice.
Three days of “mass demonstrations” have been called (yesterday, today, and tomorrow) by ODM. They are once again declared to be “illegal” by the government.
Here’s an overview of Wednesday’s rallies:
- Mombasa – Muslim clerics attempt to hold a peaceful sit-in. Police throw tear gas at them as they quietly sing the national anthem.
- Kisumu – Mayhem breaks out and police use live bullets to disperse the crowds. Shops all close their doors. One person is killed.
- Nairobi – As crowds gathered in the afternoon, main artery roads were closed throughout the city by police. Businesses closed their doors. Thousands of people were forced to walk home as the public transportation sector shut down. ODM leaders were dispersed by tear gas. Running battles occurred in Kibera, the city's largest slum.
You may ask how I’m doing in the midst all of this. I haven’t feared for my safety at all. The area of Nairobi where I live has seen relative calm, although there have been some disruptions to normal life. Actually, I find the whole thing to be a bit intriguing. I don’t venture out very far on days when turmoil is expected. I continue to go to church and homegroup (biking or walking). I went to downtown Nairobi on Monday to have my hair cut. I've had friends over to my house numerous times.
Many of my friends have been affected by all of this. Life in Kenya is generally always difficult. The recent happenings have simply added to the situation.