Kenyan Leaders Sign Peace Agreement

Kenya’s political leaders have finally reached an agreement that Kenyans hope will signal the end of the recent instability and inter-ethnic bloodshed, which resulted from disputed elections in late December of last year. The New York Times reports that the structure of the political system in Kenya has been altered as a result of an agreement between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga:

29kenya-span-600.jpgNAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s rival leaders broke their tense standoff on Thursday, agreeing to share power in a deal that may end the violence that has engulfed this nation but could be the beginning of a long and difficult political relationship.

The country seemed to let out a collective cheer as Mwai Kibaki, the president, and Raila Odinga, the top opposition leader, sat down at a desk in front of the president’s office, with a bank of television cameras rolling, and signed an agreement that creates a powerful prime minister position for Mr. Odinga and splits cabinet posts between the government and the opposition.

The two sides, which have been bitterly at odds for the past two months, will now be fused together in a government of national unity.

But there are still many thorny issues to resolve, starting with how the new government will function with essentially two bosses who have tried unsuccessfully to work together before. The government must also deal with the delicate business of reassigning the choice positions already given to Mr. Kibaki’s allies.

When we get back from the spring break, in intro to comparative we will analyze the political systems of several democracies around the world and you’ll realize that very few democracies have institutionalized a system that contains a strong Prime Minister and strong President. The most successful example is probably France, with its semi-presidential system. Even in strongly democratic France, however, political stability is often compromised when the President and Prime Minister are members of different political parties, as will be the case in Kenya. It will be interesting to see how the Kenyan version of cohabitation will develop in the coming months and years.

Ethnic Segregation in Kenya Continues Unabated

Kenya seems to be following the template set out in previous inter-ethnic conflicts (see a previous post on the results of residential segregation in Baghdad), where the ultimate result is a more ethnically segregated society.  The “un-mixing of peoples” continues unabated in that increasingly unstable state.  The New York Times reports:


Following a flawed election, and a wave of ethnic and political violence, Kenya, once one of Africa’s most promising nations, is resegregating itself. Members of ethnic groups, like these Luos, left, waited for transportation to their ancestral homes.

Photo: Joao Silva for The New York Times

 OTHAYA, Kenya — Sarah Wangoi has spent her entire life — all 70 years of it — in the Rift Valley. But last month, she was chased off her farm by a mob that called her a foreigner. She now sleeps on the cold floor of a stranger’s house, seeking refuge in an area of Kenya where her ethnic group, the Kikuyu, is strong. It is, supposedly, her homeland.

“I am safe now,” said Ms. Wangoi, though the mob still chases her in her dreams.

Across the country, William Ojiambo sat in a field where the ground was too hard to plow. He, too, sought refuge with his ethnic group, the Luo. He used to live in an ethnically mixed town called Nakuru but was recently evicted by a gang from another ethnic group that burned everything he owned.

“We came here with nothing, like cabbages thrown in the back of a truck,” Mr. Ojiambo said.

Kenya used to be considered one of the most promising countries in Africa. Now it is in the throes of ethnically segregating itself. Ever since a deeply flawed election in December kicked off a wave of ethnic and political violence, hundreds of thousands of people have been violently driven from their homes and many are now resettling in ethnically homogenous zones.

Luos have gone back to Luo land, Kikuyus to Kikuyu land, Kambas to Kamba land and Kisiis to Kisii land. Even some of the packed slums in the capital, Nairobi, have split along ethnic lines.

Another Foreign Policy List: How to Steal an Election Without Breaking a Sweat

Foreign Policy magazine frequently publishes “lists” that are meant to illuminate, in a sometimes ironic manner, political phenomena that are receiving much discussion.  In a recent issue, the focus turns to elections.   From their introduction:

From Abuja to Islamabad, autocratic regimes have become adept at manipulating “free and fair elections” to stay in power. Here’s how they do it—and how to stop them.

Here is their list, with some real-world examples of each:

  1. Control the processKenya’s constitution invests an enormous amount of power in the executive branch. This allowed President Mwai Kibaki to create a vast system of patronage throughout the government based largely on tribal ties. The head of the Electoral Commission of Kenya, Samuel Kivuitu, has recently admitted that he was pressured by the president’s office to announce results before he could verify their authenticity.
  2. Manipulate the mediaIn the months leading up to the recent presidential election in Georgia, President Mikheil Saakashvili’s government shut down Imedi TV, an opposition-friendly television station founded by one of the president’s rivals and managed by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.
  3. Keep out the observersDuring the 2005 Egyptian parliamentary elections, judges at individual polling stations made seemingly arbitrary decisions about whether to allow outside monitoring. The result? Some stations were monitored and some were not. Monitors were beaten by police in one southern city, and eight were arrested and released elsewhere.
  4. Misreport resultsNadia Diuk, senior director for Europe and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), relays a tale from Azerbaijan’s 2000 elections: “The light went out in the room where the counting was to take place, and the flashlights of the observers just caught sight of a bundle of ballots sailing through the air to land on the counting table.” [This is my favorite! :)]
  5. Foster incompetence and chaosNigeria’s 2007 national and state elections take the chaos prize. Ballots arrived late to polling stations, if at all, or were printed with missing or incorrect information. Polling places and procedures were changed at the last minute. With security lax, reports were rampant of militants harassing voters and youth gangs breaking into polling places and making off with ballot boxes.
  6. Resort to the crude stuff A favorite tactic in Egypt is to deploy riot police in strategic polling locations to keep out voters for the opposition Muslim Brotherhood—while state employees arrive in buses and are ushered in en masse. In 2005, a bloody showdown in the streets of Alexandria between government-backed thugs wielding machetes and Brotherhood supporters seeking to cast their votes became international news, embarrassing the regime.

The Important Role of the State

A country’s roads and road system can give outsiders a quick and readily available idea of how well that country is governed. Here are some examples:

A video of part of the drive from the Kenyan city of Mombasa (pop. 700,000) to the town of Kilifi (pop. 75,000). (Try to ignore the cackling of the passengers and driver.)

Here are some photographs of the main highway between Moscow and the Siberian city of Yakutsk. The road is a vital federal highway, believe it or not! See many more photographs here.



Also take a look at these incredible and frightening photographs from the world’s most dangerous highway. Find many more of these photographs here.


Kenyan Violence Menacing for Intertribal Marriages

Kenya’s political troubles have had a immediate impact on marriages composed of partners of different tribes. Individuals in inter-tribal or inter-ethnic marriages are often twice cursed in the event of inter-ethnic violence. On the one hand, each marriage partner is increasingly distrusted by members of the other ethnic/tribal group. But what makes matter even worse is that they are also ostracized and often the victims of violence on the part of members of their own group. Their sin is that, having married someone from the rival ethnic group/tribe, they are no longer seen as trustworthy. In noticed in Croatia that this led to counter-intuitive outcomes where individuals who had married spouses of the other ethnic group often become publicly intolerant toward members of the spouse’s group. This was not the result of true ethnic hostility but in order to prove the individual’s ethnic/nationalist bona fides to his (and it was mostly males in this case) own ethnic brethren.

Here is a report from the Associated Press about a woman in Kenya whose husband had to leave home, fearing for his life.

He doesn’t call. He doesn’t write. His cell phone has been switched off for weeks. After 17 years, Naomi Kering’s husband is gone — one more intertribal marriage fallen victim to the violence that has followed Kenya‘s disastrous presidential election.

“The kids always ask me, ‘Where is he?’ And I always say he is going to come back,” Kering, a 34-year-old of the Kalenjin tribe, told The Associated Press as she stood in the rubble of her home, torched by a mob last month because her kenya_divided_love_abc5031.jpghusband is a Kikuyu. “But I hope he stays away, because I love him and I want him to be safe.”

Since the Dec. 27 vote, marriages that united different ethnic groups have felt the strain as communities shun the Kikuyu tribe of President Mwai Kibaki, whose disputed re-election unleashed a wave of bloodshed that has killed at least 685 people.

Until now, marriages like Kering’s were common enough to go largely unnoticed, representing hope for what Kenya could be as a nation. But now the fabric of Kenyan society is fraying, forcing families to confront tribal identities many had cast aside long ago.

“This election has changed the very essence of these marriages,” said the Rev. Charles Kirui, a Catholic priest whose church in the nearby town of Burnt Forest shelters hundreds of Kikuyus. “Marriages are breaking up because of a tribal conflict, which means we really have a problem in Kenya.”

There are no figures on how many families are affected, but the impact is particularly felt in the heart of opposition territory in western Kenya, where tribal tensions have been most inflamed by the election.

This country of 38 million was once seen as a stable democracy on a violent continent. But it depended on a delicate balance of intertribal power.

McClatchy–Kenyan president lost election, U.S. exit poll indicates

The McClatchy Washington Bureau is an excellent resource for news on political events around the world. Here they report on the results of an exit poll commissioned by a US-government backed foundation, which claims to show the incumbent Kenyan president was soundly defeated in the recent disputed election that has set off rioting and inter-ethnic killing sprees.

NAIROBI, Kenya — An exit poll carried out on behalf of a U.S. government-backed foundation indicated that Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki suffered a resounding defeat in last month’s disputed election, according to officials with knowledge of the document.

The poll by the Washington-based International Republican Institute — not yet publicly released — further undermines Kibaki’s claims of a narrow re-election victory. The outcome has sparked protests and ethnically driven clashes nationwide, killing hundreds.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga led Kibaki by roughly 8 percentage points in the poll, which surveyed voters as they left polling places during the election Dec. 27, according to one senior Western official who’s seen the data, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. That’s a sharp departure from the results that Kenyan election officials certified, which gave Kibaki a winning margin of 231,728 votes over Odinga, about 3 percentage points.

U.S. and European observers have criticized the official results, which came after long, unexplained delays in counting the votes, primarily from Kibaki strongholds. Jendayi Frazer, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said over the weekend that there were “serious irregularities in the vote tallying, which made it impossible to determine with certainty the final result.”

It wasn’t clear why the International Republican Institute — which has conducted opinion polls and observed elections in Kenya since 1992 — isn’t releasing its data. A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kenya confirmed that a poll was conducted but referred questions to the institute, where officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

Kenyan activists called on U.S. officials to release any data that would shed light on election fraud.