Friday, January 18, 2008

Kenya Bulletin: More Killed in Third Day of Opposition Protests; Business, Schools Paralyzed; Boycott Looms

Day three riots leave six dead

Kenya Daily Nation
Publication Date: 1/18/2008

Six people have been killed in the third day of opposition protests as former UN chief Kofi Annan announced he will arrive on Tuesday for renewed mediation efforts.

At the same time, President Kibaki named a team of ten to spearhead dialogue out of the political crisis following the December 27 contested presidential election.

Today was the last day of three-day protests called by the Orange Democratic Movement in search of justice over alleged vote rigging that saw President Kibaki handed a second term.

The third day of protests were felt most in parts of Nairobi, Narok and Mombasa.

Four people died after being shot with arrows in Narok, while police shot dead two in Nairobi and one in the coastal town of Mombasa.

In Narok, one of the dead men was unlucky when he ran into a group with crude weapons.

“The man bumped into a group of armed residents who shot him with a poison arrow," Narok area police boss Patrick Wambani told Reuters.

The riots in Mombasa started soon after the Friday Muslim prayers ended at 1pm resulting in one shot dead and three seriously injured from bullet wounds.

In Nairobi, two were shot dead in the sprawling Kibera slums. Police confronted a mob that was removing parts of the railway line and shot a 15-year-old girl in the back and a man in the head.

The city’s central business district was mostly peaceful but tense. There were with brief moments of running battles as riot police dispersed some Muslim faithful who attempted to demonstrate towards Uhuru Park after coming from Friday prayers at Jamia Mosque.

On the mediation front, President Kibaki appointed a team led by Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka to help in the dialogue.

A dispatch from the Presidential Press Service said a top-level political committee had been formed to spearhead “national political dialogue, national reconciliation and to promote international understanding and good relations on the political problems facing the country following the recently concluded elections”.

Other members of the committee are Security Minister George Saitoti, Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula, Finance Minister Amos Kimunya, Local Government Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Transport Minister Chirau Mwakwere, Justice Minister

Martha Karua, Attorney General Amos Wako and Mbooni MP Mutula Kilonzo.

The statement said the tenth member will be co-opted by the committee as appropriate.

The President also named two joint secretaries for the committee. They are Mr Ludiko Chweya, a senior political science lecturer at the University of Nairobi, and Mr Geoffrey Gichira Kibaara, the director of legal affairs at the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

Kenya protesters to mount boycott

Security forces have been patrolling Nairobi's Kibera township

Kenya's opposition says it will change tactics to protest against the outcome of last month's presidential election, following three days of mass rallies.

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) says it will now boycott companies run by allies of President Mwai Kibaki.

Some 600 people have died in violence since the poll. In the latest unrest, police killed a protester in Mombasa, while another was wounded in Nairobi.

Kenya's National Commission on Human Rights has also cast doubt on the vote.

At a news conference in Nairobi, the state-sponsored body listed a catalogue of irregularities in the tallying and announcement of results, including turnouts of more than 100% in some constituencies.

At least 360,000 votes could not be verified, the commission said. About 230,000 separated the two candidates.

The official results have outraged supporters of ODM candidate Raila Odinga, who has demanded a re-run.
27 December: Presidential and parliamentary elections
30 December: President Kibaki declared winner, triggering widespread unrest
10 January: First international mediation effort fails
16-18 January: three days of mass opposition rallies
ODM spokesman Salim Lone told the BBC that from next week, the opposition would switch to other forms of action, such as boycotts of companies run by what he called the government hardliners.

He mentioned specifically the Brookside Dairies, Equity Bank, and City Hopper bus services as possible targets for action.

The ODM has been holding a third and final consecutive day of nationwide protests on Friday.

In Mombasa, police clashed with a group of Muslims who tried to march through the coastal city after Friday prayers in protest at the election results.

The city's police commander, Wilfred Mbiti told the AFP news agency that his officers used live bullets to quickly disperse the crowd, killing one protestor and injuring at least five others.

Meanwhile in Nairobi, police confronted opposition demonstrators in the Kibera slum for a third consecutive day after more than 600 youths tore up a section of railway track running through the centre of the area.

One of the protesters is reported to have been shot in the leg after the police fired tear gas, blank rounds and some live rounds over the heads of the crowd.


Fresh incidents of ethnic violence were also reported overnight.

Police said one man had died from machete wounds in the Nairobi slum of Mathare.

A police commander in the town of Narok told AFP that Maasai youths had killed a member of President Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe with a poisoned arrow.

At least 11 people died as police clashed with protesters on Wednesday and Thursday.

Mr Odinga said police were turning the country into "killing fields of the innocent, executing at will in an unprecedented bloodlust".

Officials denied the charge, saying the police response had been restrained.

"The Kenyan police are acting within the laws of this country," police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said.

Rally ban

Moses Kuria, a senior official from Mr Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU), told the BBC there had been no serious irregularities in the vote.

"We should follow due process, and we should respect institutions that have taken 40 years to nurture," he said.

Public demonstrations were banned by police immediately after Mr Kibaki's swearing-in on 30 December.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is due in Kenya soon to start a mediation process between Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga.

Two members of his team - former Tanzania President Benjamin Mkapa and Graca Machel, wife of ex-South African President Nelson Mandela - have already arrived in the country.

The European Parliament unanimously backed a resolution on Thursday calling for the EU to suspend aid to the Kenyan government.

Meanwhile, the UN has launched a $34m (£17.3m) appeal for Kenya to help those affected by the recent unrest, in which a quarter of a million people have left their homes.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/01/18 13:53:50 GMT

Business paralysed and schools closed as more youths protest

Story by NATION Team
Publication Date: 1/18/2008

Business in Mwatate and Voi towns was Thursday paralysed the whole afternoon as police clashed with several hundred demonstrators who had responded to the ODM call for mass action.

The Orange Democratic Movement had called for three days of mass action countrywide to protest at what they claim to be the rigging of the December 27 elections in favour of President Kibaki. The protests began on Wednesday.

In Voi, police officers led by deputy OCPD John Leshimpiro, confronted area Member of Parliament Dan Mwazo who was leading about 50 people to Moi Stadium for the rally.

As Mr Mwazo argued with Mr Leshampiro, some businesspeople closed their premises and joined the march, causing the crowd to grow to about 300.

Mr Leshimpiro on realising things were getting out of hand, ordered his officers to disperse the crowd with tear gas.

Vented their anger

In Mwatate, police fired eleven times in the air and hurled five tear gas canisters at demonstrators who were heading to Kamukunji grounds.

The group of about 200, and whose number was growing by the minute, was led by Mwatate MP Calist Mwatela.

The angry youths rushed back to the town and vented their anger on a miraa (khat) stall, razing it to the ground.

They were dispersed before they could torch more stalls as police reinforcements were called in from Wundanyi.

Speaking ahead of the rally, Mr Mwatela said area DC Kang’ethe Thuku tried to persuade him to call off the march.

“I told the DC that I do not take instructions from him and that as Kenyans we have a right to assemble and discuss issues affecting us,” he said.

Mr Mwatela said he had followed the law and informed the police of the rally. By the time of going to press, youths had blocked roads in the town and were burning old tyres.

In Mombasa, most schools remained closed while several others recorded poor pupil turnout due to fears of clashes between police and protesters.

Primary schools including Star of the Sea, Ganjoni, and Mvita were open but only a few pupils showed up.

“The school is open, the teachers are around but most pupils did not come,” said Evans Mwachia, the headmaster of Mvita primary, adding that normal learning could not continue.

Other schools are reported to have advised parents to keep children at home until next week when the mass action is expected to have come to and end.

Remained peaceful

Mombasa Town and its environs remained peaceful most of Thursday morning with no demonstrations reported.

There was heavy police presence particularly in Bangladesh where a group of people had threatened to march to the town centre. But they were confined to the slum and gave up their mission.

Public service vehicles operated as usual while most businesses in the town and the suburbs remained open.

It had been feared that confrontations that marked the start of the three-day demonstrations on Wednesday in different parts of Mombasa were going to continue.

The secretary-general of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya Sheikh Mohammed Dor, had said Mombasa residents would hold peaceful demonstrations every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to press for justice over the allegedly flawed presidential elections.

Separately, a women’s group in Buxton estate in Mombasa Thursday prepared a sumptuous pilau lunch for local youths to thank them for not participating in the post-election violence.

Buxton Beautiful Women group feted more than 100 youths to encourage them to shun violence and be role models.

Edna Mbura, the group’s organising secretary, said they appreciated the stand taken by the youth and wanted to encourage them to be peaceful and to refuse to be used by politicians to cause chaos.

Reports by Amina Kibirige, Patrick Mayoyo, Jonathan Manyindo and Pascal Mwandambo

Tale of killer bullets in Kisumu

Publication Date: 1/18/2008

Theatre of the absurd by police was captured by TV cameramen as a trigger-happy officer snuffed out the life of hapless Olago Junior who had joined others for a peaceful protest in Kisumu.

Olago, who was killed on Wednesday, was not armed, not even with a stone. But he was never to return home alive.

Although the right to peaceful assembly is one of the cornerstones of democracy and is enshrined in Chapter Five of Kenya’s Constitution, the police bullet stood in the way for Olago Junior.

A police officer brandishing an AK-47 rifle charged at him and his friends as they danced and made faces, shooting him dead and injuring his friend on the shoulder.

Kisumu, a stronghold of ODM leader Raila Odinga, who accuses President Kibaki of stealing the December 27 poll, has suffered the worst police brutality. More than 70 people have been killed in the town, most of them shot dead by police. Six have been killed in the latest round of protests.

Rights groups have blamed this on what they call a shoot-to-kill policy by the police and use of live ammunition against protestors.

One of the casualties succumbed to bullet wounds at Bandani Estate.

The woman whose name was given as Judith Namukuru was reportedly killed by a bullet that teared through her tin-walled shanty. Her eight-year- old daughter who was also in the House was unhurt.

Other demonstrators were shot in Otonglo area on Kisumu-Busia road, which became the main battleground for the better part of the day.

Protestors lit bonfires on the road as they engaged police in running battles.

Commonwealth and other observers have described the elections as failing to meet international standards. The killing of Olago was brought right into the living rooms of Kenyans and the world by TV cameras. After the killing, the police officer then turned to his wounded friend and kicked him even as he writhed in pain besides Olago’s lifeless body.

Manyatta area, which served as Olago’s home, was sealed off by police Thursday.

Once again, the killing has brought into sharp focus what human rights agencies have described a shoot-to-kill order being implemented by police in Kisumu and elsewhere against unarmed Kenyans.

People who knew Olago said he did menial jobs in the lakeside town to survive.

Journalists who tried to venture into the crowded Manyatta estate were threatened with dire consequences.

Beyond the horrifying pictures of perceived brutality are families counting losses of their loved ones who were also felled by bullets. By Thursday, the toll had hit six.

Both felled

The perception that death could be met only in the streets is also becoming a myth as residents recount tales of women and children being hit by bullets at home.

Ms Rosa Akinyi was hit by misfortune for the second time since the controversial polls. She lost her husband in circumstances that were strikingly similar to those that led to her brother’s death earlier. Both were felled by bullets in Manyatta estate during the post-election protests.

While her brother was shot dead in the first round of skirmishes that rocked Kisumu immediately after the announcement of election results, her husband died on Wednesday as the three-day mass action called by ODM kicked off.

Rosa fought back tears as she recounted her last moments with George Odunga, the father of her nine-year-old son.

After taking lunch with his family, which turned out to be their last meal together, she says Mr Odunga left home. He returned about three hours later and ventured out to visit a relative who lived nearby.

Not long after he left, gunshot fire rent the air. She would later learn that one of victims was her husband.

According to Mr Odunga’s friend, Esau Ochir, who was with him when he was shot, they had been chatting with some friends when a contingent of police officers arrived in a van.

They alighted and split in two groups of three officers each.

“They began shooting at whoever they saw in sight and so we took off,” he explained.

As they fled, he added, the officers shot at them, and as fate would have it, one of the bullets caught Mr Odunga, killing him instantly. His body was taken to the Nyanza Provincial General Hospital mortuary, where his brother-in-law’s body has been lying for the past two weeks.

Mr Ochir says as they were taking Mr Odunga’s body to the mortuary on a hand cart, they encountered a seriously wounded victim.

They lifted him onto the cart and dropped him off at the hospital’s casualty department before proceeding to the mortuary.

As the Odunga family mourns, only a few metres away in the same estate friends and relatives of 10-year-old Salim Ahmed are also in mourning.

The Standard Four pupil at Obinju primary school in Kisumu was also felled by a policeman’s bullet on Wednesday.

His mother, Mrs Halima Ali, says Salim was shot as he played with a friend a short distance away from the house.

Mrs Ali said she was at home when she was alerted that her son had been shot. On rushing to the scene, she found the boy lying in a pool of blood.

His body was carried back to their house, where it stayed overnight. It was transferred to the Nyanza Provincial General Hospital mortuary Thursday for post-mortem before burial later in the day.

Bitterness was evident in the mother’s face, as she narrated events leading to the death of her son.

“Police who were pursuing protesters started shooting indiscriminately without establishing who the protesters were,” she said amid sobs.

Mrs Ali claims police also lobbed tear gas canisters into their house.

“We voted for peace but it seems like that was our worst mistake, with police killing innocent people who know little about politics,” Mrs Ali said.

Salim’s friend who was with him at the time of the shooting escaped with no injuries. He was, however, still in shock and was yet to come to terms with the death of his friend.

The boy could barely speak to journalists who visited their house. Manyatta Estate seemed to be the worst hit in Kisumu.

Apart from the two deaths, many walls bear bullets marks, a testimony of the trigger-happy nature of the police.

Police should re-think mob control strategy

Publication Date: 1/18/2008

It is now quite clear that in certain instances the police are employing excessive force in handling the protests called by ODM over the disputed presidential election results.

Police denials ring hollow in the face of an incident broadcast on television showing two young unarmed men gunned down.

Police shootings in the circumstances recorded are totally unacceptable. There must be a clear distinction between use of reasonable force as a method of enforcing law and order, and what can only be cold-blooded murder.

The shootings in Kisumu, in particular, and anywhere else where live ammunition has been used, call for an inquiry of no less importance than any investigation that will be necessary to establish the killings and evictions in the Rift Valley and elsewhere in the country.

Meanwhile, it is time the police and other relevant organs stepped back and re-thought the strategy of using force to block opposition rallies.

It is apparent, for instance, that since the ODM programme of nationwide protests resumed on Wednesday, areas where the police exercised restraint, peaceful demonstrations passed without too many violent incidents.

Shouldn’t the authorities start considering whether the blanket ban on rallies and use of force to disperse all gatherings are themselves contributing to the perennial violence?

One cannot argue with the fact that the police are mandated to ensure security and maintain law and order, and that it is sometimes necessary to employ force.

But the laws are also clear on the instances when lethal force may be used. Indiscriminate use of tear gas, batons and, more seriously, gunfire, is clearly not allowed and goes against all the safeguards built into the laws and regulations.

Perhaps now is the time to take a serious look at the emerging patterns and impose strict curbs on the mode and level of force that the police may use against demonstrators.

We could go further than that, even, and propose that the authorities lift the curb on opposition rallies. The police could allow the protests and be on standby only to ensure that the peace is maintained, intervening, again only with reasonable force, only where there is a direct and serious threat to security, law and order.


Pan-African News Wire said...

Observers criticise post poll standards

Kenya Daily Nation
Publication Date: 1/18/2008

The December 27 General Election failed to meet international standards on human rights and civil liberties, an international observer mission has said.

In its final verdict, the Commonwealth Observer Mission maintains that the election had major flaws which occurred mainly in the post-polling period.

“It is therefore our view that the election process following the closing of the polls fell short of acceptable international standards,” says the group.

The Kenya General Election report says the events that have unfolded since the polling day had eroded the confidence of the Kenyan people. The manner in which the results were announced had raised suspicion and caused widespread mistrust, it states.

Major disincentive

While releasing the document in Britain, Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon, said the Electoral Commission of Kenya had not succeeded in establishing the integrity of the tallying process “thereby bringing the validity of the election results into question”.

“This was despite the many positive aspects of the pre-election and polling day procedures, when Kenyans came out in large numbers to vote,” he said.

While the observer mission welcomed ECK’s statement that those aggrieved lodge petitions through the courts, the team questioned the judicial process as an alternative, saying it took too long to solve election disputes.

“We noted that in the run-up to this election, cases that had been lodged some years earlier were still making their way through the courts,” the team adds.

It continues: “Such delays act as a major disincentive to using the judicial process to finalise issues arising from a disputed election.”

Independence of ECK

To prevent the problem in future, the observer mission calls for the independence of the ECK and insulation of the institution from political interference.

“It is recommended that the process for appointing ECK commissioners be subjected to screening and confirmation by Parliament,” the report says.

It also proposes that consideration be given to reducing the time scale allowed for submitting an election petition and requiring them to be heard and determined in court within a set period.

The delay in declaring the outcome resulted in Kenyans experiencing significant concerns about the validity of the results.

The report states that some returning officers failed to tabulate the results from polling stations in the constituency and transmit them immediately to ECK headquarters.

“This should have ensured a speedy and verifiable set of results at the conclusion of tabulation.”

However, the observer mission adds, that the procedure was not followed leading the ECK chairman to announce that he was unable to trace returning officers in 21 constituencies.

The document accuses the national broadcaster, KBC, of biased coverage in the run-up to the General Election.

Credibility of polls

The report comes a few days after the East African Community observer team questioned the credibility of the polls.

The European Union and domestic observers had earlier passed the same verdict, arguing that there were major discrepancies in the tallying of the presidential vote.

The observers accuse both PNU and ODM of holding different Press conferences prior to the announcement of the election results, each saying it had won the General Election.

“This action appears to have led to significant uncertainty and consequent unrest on the streets in many parts of the country, with property damage, looting and loss of life,” the document says.

The mission also calls for the implementation of the Political Parties Act 2007, assented to by the President in October, 2007, to enhance democracy.

As a matter of priority, the mission urges the review of processes for transmission and announcement of results.

It also proposes procedures which ought to be incorporated during polling, for instance the introduction of transparent ballot boxes which are clearly marked and have distinguishing colours, requirement for polling staff to issue all three ballot papers at once to a voter, strengthening the capacity to manage polling stations, ensuring the stations have adequate lighting, among others.

Pan-African News Wire said...

Europeans votes to aid freeze

Publication Date: 1/18/2008

The European Union should freeze aid to Kenya until the crisis over President Kibaki’s disputed re-election is resolved, its Parliament said Thursday.

The European Parliament “asks for the freezing of all further budgetary support to the Government of Kenya until a political resolution to the present crisis has been found,” the MPs said in a resolution.

Although EU aid to Kenya is limited compared with what it gives poorer African countries, the EU is one of Nairobi’s top donors, having given 290 million euros (Sh29 billion) between 2002 and 2007. A further 383 million euros (Sh38.3 billion) of EU aid to Kenya is planned for 2008-2013.

Sectors to suffer

A freeze of the money from the EU bloc could affect the road sector and the education sector mainly on the free primary education where it is most required.

It could also affect the health sector, especially the funding of HIV and Aids programmes.

The EU is reviewing its relations with Kenya and studying which actions to take if current African mediation efforts fail.

EU Aid and Development commissioner Louis Michel said on Wednesday budgetary aid could be suspended if the crisis remained unresolved.

Lawmakers criticised the EU executive for disbursing 40.6 million euros (Sh40.6 billion) of budgetary aid on December 28, a day after the election. Michel said the aid had been disbursed before doubts over the results had emerged.

Meanwhile, ODM Thursday supported calls by development partners to impose sanctions on the Kibaki Government until the political crisis is resolved.

At the same time, the party leader, Mr Raila Odinga, said the ongoing mass action across the country would go on until Mr Kibaki agrees to sit down with ODM to resolve the dispute.

Brutal force

The ODM leader blamed the rise in the number of deaths during the unrest to the use of brutal force and live bullets on ODM supporters.

Before reading a statement, Mr Odinga allowed his aides to show journalists television footage and still photographs of what he described as high-handedness by policemen against ODM supporters.

Said Mr Odinga: “The Government and the police have turned this country into killing fields of the innocent, executing at will in unprecedented blood thirst that began long before elections took place”.

“The extra-judicial killings of 500young men whose bodies were found in Ngong area, and the killings in Mt Elgon, Kuresoi and Molo are part of the blood lust, as demonstrated by the fact that these killings have never been halted.”

The ODM leader reminded President Kibaki, Internal Security minister Saitoti and police boss Hussein Ali, together with all individual police officers who were involved in the shootings, that they would personally be held to account at home and internationally for crimes against humanity.

On the proposed mediation efforts headed by three African eminent persons, Mr Odinga said they were still open to dialogue with the PNU side headed by Mr Kibaki over the disputed results of the December 27 presidential elections.

Addressing an international media conference at Pentagon House in Nairobi, Mr Odinga, who was flanked by Mr Musalia Mudavadi, Mr William Ruto and Mr Joseph Nyaga, announced that they were ready to hand over their proposals to the mediation team led by former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan so that he and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and former South African First Lady Graca Machel could get down to work.

But the ODM leader regretted that the PNU side was not supportive of the mediation efforts going by recent statements by the minister for Roads and Public Works, Mr John Michuki, and Prof George Saitoti that Annan had not been invited.

Their Cabinet colleague, Foreign affairs minister Moses Wetangula, has since said Mr Annan and his team were welcome to the country to assist in their mediation efforts.

500 killed

Earlier, Mr Odinga had been informed that over 500 people have been killed in demos and clashes between the ODM supporters and the police across the country. He claimed that half of them were victims of police shootings.

According to ODM, 44 people were shot dead by police in Kisumu while 143 had gun shot wounds. Seven people were killed in Mathare and three in Kibera Thursday and six in Migori.

In Vihiga, 33 of the 36 patients admitted to the district hospital had gunshot wounds. The Kasarani MP, Ms Elizabeth Ongoro, said the seven people shot dead by the police Thursday in her constituency included her driver, Mr Felix Okong’o, who was felled by police from Muthaiga Police Station as he was leaving his house to go to work.

Pan-African News Wire said...

Tea factories in Nandi shut as workers flee

Publication Date: 1/18/2008

Fourteen multinational tea factories in Nandi district were closed on Thursday as protests by the Orange Democratic Movement over the disputed presidential election entered their second day.

It was the second time in as many weeks that the factories were closed after violence erupted following the announcement by the Electoral Commission of Kenya that President Kibaki had won.

Those protests led to the killing of more than 150 people in the North Rift region.

On Thursday, tea that was ready for picking went to waste as factories prepared to incur losses amounting to millions of shillings, after tens of tea pickers fled the area, fearing for their safety. The Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union national treasurer, Joshua Oyuga said the closures would affect both investors and workers.

Workers from some communities are afraid for their lives after what they regarded as threats from locals. The closures followed a peaceful ODM meeting on Wednesday at Kapsabet town in the area, during which the community vowed to remain firmly behind the party.

Speakers at the meeting declared that there will be no more selling of land to “outsiders” and asked those who had settled in Nandi district to respect the indigenous people, and support them in fighting for their rights.

Led by local leaders Ismael Choge, Joseph Too, Ezekiel Ruto, David Ngetich, Paul Cheruiyot, the speakers called for action against ECK chairman, Samuel Kivuitu saying he was to blame for the violence that has rocked the country.

The meeting resolved to suspend farming and public transport activities from Western Kenya to Eldoret, Nairobi, Nakuru and Kericho and Kisumu until the post-election crisis was resolved.

Pan-African News Wire said...


The tribe is innocent: Can you say the same of yourself?

Kenya Daily Nation
Publication Date: 1/18/2008

Looking at images of the violence that threatens to rip our country apart is an unnerving experience. I have to pinch myself to confirm that this is really happening at a time when we should have outgrown political chaos.

You watch the helplessness of a people who have lost everything they hold dear. You hear the halting speech of a woman who has lost three of her children. She is shattered, and you can tell it from her vacant eyes. Her faith in her country has gone to the dogs.

You watch a policeman gun down an unarmed protester who is lying on the ground injured. You watch him cock his gun and turn to others who are running as fast as their legs can go. What happens when the people who are supposed to keep the peace and protect the law turn criminals right in front of our eyes?

MY FRIEND PHILOMENA IKONYA, A journalist and budding politician, puts it succinctly when she says: “This is not my Kenya.” She is right, but only to some extent.

Someone did indeed steal her country, but this is the Kenya we keep under wraps. Every now and then, we allow ourselves to see it. If it doesn’t affect us directly, we march on without missing a beat. We choose to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil as long as it does not take up residence in our house.

We are shattered today only because of the tortured images being beamed into our living rooms. There are many ways to brutalise a nation, and political manipulation tops the list. We have been subjected to this ever since Kenya became a modern state. Some people may even want to blame it on the colonial divide-and-rule policy that allocated special status to some groups and dismissed others as being of no consequence.

But there is a generation or two of Kenyans who did not live the colonial experience. What’s their excuse? At some point, we will have to grow up and own up to our mistakes. We chose to go the business-as-usual way with tribal politics because it suited our prejudices. This way we could justify working tooth and nail to exclude others, who were lesser beings beneath our contempt.

We have lived a lie all these 45 years. This is our Kenya. We have gone through elections every five years or so, and we have convinced ourselves that this is enough evidence that we are a democratic nation.

Even when such elections have been clearly polluted and aimed at manipulating us, we have refused to see them for what they are. The tribe is innocent. It is what we have made of it that is the problem with Kenya.

We can choose to continue this way. And we can expect to see this great country of ours degenerate into anarchy. A problem postponed doesn’t vanish into thin air. It will return to haunt you as surely as day turns into night.

We can also be bold enough to lay down arms and name the problem for what it is. This country will know true peace only when we separate State House and “development”... and understand that a shared tribal bond is no protection from death and destruction.

As we seek a lasting solution to the sword that hangs over Kenya, we must confront the realities of our times. Emotions are roiling around tribes. The Kikuyu have been targeted in different parts of the country — innocent traders and businesspeople attacked as they went about their lawful business. They were made to pay for the sins of others, mainly political leaders at the centre of our national crisis.

There are two sets of Kikuyu peoples in the mind of the average Kenyan: the friendly and street savvy mama mboga who brings stuff to your doorstep or the taxi driver who’ll be there on time when you need him — until the election comes round again. And there are Martha Karua, John Michuki et al. Their hard line approach to virtually everything under the sun does their community and President Mwai Kibaki no favours.

The Luo will have to broaden their world view and begin to think the unthinkable — that there can be leadership beyond the Odinga family. With all due respect to that family, which has produced at least two brilliant politicians, democracy demands that each and every one of us be judged on their own merit.

It is also true that this particular community has had its share of trauma in independent Kenya, which has led to a retreat into the belief that their strength lies in a common front.

They have gone some way in contemporary history to work with other communities, and voted almost to a man for Mr Kibaki in 2002. It is an investment that has paid off, if you take into account this year’s voting patterns.

AND THEN THERE IS THE CONNECTION between the Luhya and the vice-presidency. They have resisted efforts to get them to huddle into a tribal cocoon by voting for various parties. Some may see this as a weakness; I say being independent-minded is a virtue.

I met a Kamba man recently who was in a celebratory mood because Kalonzo Musyoka had wrestled the vice-presidency from Western Province. He was already seeing their man in State House in 2012, upon which their part of Eastern Province will turn into a land of milk and honey. We have come full circle in this debate. Will someone please give us back the country we worked so hard to put together just five years ago — a country where the tribal fault lines were all but disappearing?