IV. VIOLENCE AS A POLITICAL TOOL IN KENYA
President Moi confidently predicted in 1991 that the introduction of multiparty politics in Kenya would result in ethnic violence.65 His prediction has been alarmingly fulfilled. However, far from being the spontaneous result of a return to political pluralism, there is clear evidence that the government has been involved in provoking death, displacement, and terror among ethnic groups that are perceived to support the opposition.
The Politics of Division and Politically Motivated "Ethnic Clashes"
Political life in multiparty Kenya is largely defined along ethnic lines.66 The association between ethnic identity and political affiliation in Kenya has provided the underlying logic for politically motivated ethnic violence. Often, the perpetrators of violence have been rallied around calls to introduce majimbo, a federal system of government based on ethnicity that could require the expulsion of all other ethnic groups from land occupied before the colonial period by the Kalenjin, Moi's own ethnic group, and other pastoral groups. While majimbo itself is a loose term translated as "federalism" or "regionalism" and need not imply the purging of non-indigenous groups, it has often been used to denote ethnically pure federalism. As explained in mid-1998 by the then-chair of the Law Society of Kenya, "majimbo does not exist in constitutional theory as a system of government. Its authors have the misconception that it is actually a federal system of government which, in addition to federalism as it is known ordinarily, also means the displacement of non-indigenous communities from their region to wherever they came from."67
Organized Political Attacks
The calls for such ethnically exclusive majimboism came initially in the early1990s from Kalenjin and Maasai politicians.68 These politicians proposed that the Rift Valley, which is allocated the largest number of seats in parliament, was traditionally Kalenjin/Maasai territory and that other ethnic groups living in the area should not be permitted to express differing political views in a multi-party system.
Using the language of majimbo, beginning in 1991, as Kenya prepared for its first-ever multiparty election the following year, ruling party politicians incited their ethnic-based supporters to drive away members of those groups that were expected to vote for opposition candidates. These clashes pitted the Kalenjin against the Luo, Luhya, and Kikuyu communities. High-ranking government officials were involved in the formation, training, and arming of so-called Kalenjin warriors. These warriors, wielding traditional weapons (mostly bows and arrows) and occasionally guns, carried out coordinated attacks on Kikuyu, Luhya, and Luo communities in Rift Valley, Western, and Nyanza provinces. These incidents of violence, which continued into the post-election period, claimed an estimated 1,500 lives and displaced at least 300,000 people. A cabinet minister was among the high-ranking KANU politicians found by a 1993 government inquiry and by Human Rights Watch to have been directly involved in instigating the politically-motivated ethnic violence of the early 1990s.69 Top KANU figures were also implicated in the violence in testimony before a more recent government inquiry and asserted their innocence at that time.70
The general election that followed in December 1997 saw a return of politically motivated ethnic violence. In mid-1997, in the run-up to the election, armed raiders with backing from KANU party activists targeted potential opposition voters in weeks of pro-majimbo violent attacks in Kenya's Coast Province (see case study, below). Then, in early 1998, attacks in Rift Valley Province raised serious concerns that KANU supporters once again used violence to accomplish political objectives, this time to punish communities for their support of the opposition Democratic Party (DP). The violence was sparked just days after KANU politicians visited the area and threatened DP supporters. It also marked the first time thetargeted Kikuyu community responded in an organized fashion with retaliatory attacks against Kalenjin communities.71 Taken together, these incidents of politically-motivated ethnic violence have been estimated to have taken at least 2,000 lives and displaced over 400,000 people.72
In 1998 a presidential commission of inquiry was established to determine the causes of ethnic violence from 1991 to 1998 and to make specific recommendations, including for the prosecution of those found to be responsible. Known as the Akiwumi Commission, it took testimonies from over 200 witnesses around the country for a period of eleven months, focusing particular attention on the 1997 violence in Coast Province, discussed below.
Political debate among Kenya's fractured groups has often turned violent. This has taken the form of frequent skirmishes at political rallies, as well as targeted attacks on civic leaders or opposition politicians, particularly around election time or when political pressures are strong. In some cases, politicians have deliberately encouraged such political violence. The deputy police commissioner in 1998, Stephen Kimenchu, admitted that "powerful politicians" gave police officers orders to "clobber civilians and disperse peaceful demonstrations"; he withdrew his statement a few days later.73
Both the ruling party and opposition parties have informal civilian security groups, and KANU has unleashed bands of young supporters from the party's youth wing to violently disrupt opposition-led rallies. For example, members of KANU's youth wing stabbed a photographer and beat a reporter in 1996 while (together with police) blocking opposition members from campaigning. KANU youth also reportedly were responsible for an attack on an opposition MP in April 1999. Laterthat year, the electoral commission wrote to the KANU secretary-general to urge that the party put an end to violence by party youths in a by-election campaign.74
One prominent pro-KANU security group formed of youths is called Jeshi la Mzee (the Old Man's Army). This gang of political thugs is notorious for intimidating and violently attacking opponents. Assistant Minister Fred Gumo, who has been accused of organizing and financing the group, has rejected such claims and denied any involvement in violent attacks attributed to Jeshi la Mzee.75 In March 2002, acting in the wake of a wave of brutal killings in a Nairobi slum that left some twenty people dead, the government banned eighteen youth gangs and vigilante groups, including Jeshi la Mzee.76
Violent tactics have a long history in politics in Kenya's Coast Province as well. In 1993 Omar Masumbuko, a prominent KANU activist who had been the leader of the since disbanded Coast Youth for KANU `92, established the United Muslims of Kenya (UMKE), later renamed United Muslims of Africa (UMA). UMA was part of an organized effort by KANU intended to counter the influence of the nascent unregistered Islamic Party of Kenya (IPK). The apparent aim was to split Muslims of African descent from the allegedly Arab-dominated IPK. IPK supporters clashed with police and with UMA in 1993 and 1994, and in September 1994 KANU-backed UMA declared a fatwa against the IPK leader.77
According to a police statement attributed to a Coast politician, UMA's violent campaign against IPK was organized by KANU officials at the highest level and with the blessing of President Moi. In it, former KANU politician Emmanuel Karisa Maitha, who won a seat as an MP after defecting to the opposition in late 1997, reportedly claimed he had first-hand knowledge about the UMA violence. The statement, which on its release Maitha strongly denied having written, reads in part:
I have been involved in organising youth in the past who haveorganised operations which the State orders from time to time. These operations were always sanctioned by the DSC [District Security Committee] and PSC [Provincial Security Committee] where money is spent by the State agencies. I wish to elaborate further that sometime in the year 1991 to 1992 during the IPK resurgencies and disturbances at the Coast, I was called at [to] State House in Nairobi where I was engaged to [sic] a talk of how the IPK activities would be suppressed within Mombasa and at the Coast. Those who had been given the authority to tell me and who assured me they had the blessing of his Excellency the President was [sic] Mr. Joshua Kulei who is a personal assistant to the President and a Mr. Rashid Sajjad who is a nominated MP.78
According to his disputed statement, Maitha then arranged to recruit Omar Masumbuko to head up UMA and:
Mr. Masumbuko usually could visit the State House alone or I would be called to go to Kulei or Mr. Sajjad for payment of any operation needed by the State. The DSC and PSC teams normally could be ordered to give us any help or even get logistic support from them. Despite all of this, I recall that Masumbuko managed to silence the IPK by various operations which included petrol bombing of targeted areas, fighting, invasion of Old Town [a neighborhood in Mombasa] and hijacking of Khalid Balala and others. I wish to state further that after the silencing of the IPK, UMA was disbanded with the instructions from State House, where most of the youths and their leaders were paid or some were employed for the good jobs they had done. I was approached again in the year 1993 where I [was] asked now toreassemble the UMA youth who were now already trained so that they could be ordered to do a further State Operation. When ordered I assembled all the youth leaders and I changed the name from UMA to Coast Protective Group (CPG). I was under the paymaster of Kulei and Sajjad.79
The statement went on to name various operations carried out with the organized youth, including the disruption of opposition political rallies, and to address other topics.
Maitha repudiated the statement and its contents, saying he had never been involved with UMA or Masumbuko.80 Sajjad denied he had financed UMA, and also denied that Kulei had been linked to Maitha.81 A statement by Masumbuko, however, does not support these denials and instead confirms the information in the statement attributed to Maitha concerning high-level political involvement in the violent UMA campaign.82
65 Human Rights Watch/Africa Watch, Divide and Rule: State-Sponsored Ethnic Violence in Kenya (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1993), p. 3.
66 Kenya's population is made up of more than forty ethnic groups, the largest being (according to the 1989 census, the latest to provide a breakdown by ethnicity) the Kikuyu (21percent), Luhya (14 percent), Luo (13 percent), and Kalenjin (11 percent). Others include the Kisii (8 percent), Meru (5 percent), and Mijikenda (5 percent).
67 Republic of Kenya, "Record of Evidence Taken Before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Tribal Clashes in Kenya (Verbatim Report)" (hereafter "Akiwumi Commission Official Transcript"), July 20, 1998.
68 In addition to the Kalenjin and Maasai, KANU (and previously KADU, Kenya African Democratic Union, which merged with KANU in the early 1960s) historically has represented other minority pastoral groups including the Turkana and Samburu communities.
69 Human Rights Watch, Divide and Rule. A government-appointed parliamentary commission shared many of the same conclusions regarding government involvement in the "clashes." Republic of Kenya, Report of the Parliamentary Select Committee to Investigate Ethnic Clashes in Western and Other Parts of Kenya (Sept. 1993), known as the Kiliku Commission Report.
70 Michael Njuguna and Watoro Kamau, "Five ministers send lawyers to Akiwumi Inquiry," Daily Nation, March 16, 1999.
71 See Amnesty International, ARTICLE 19, and Human Rights Watch, "Kenya: Urgent Need for Action on Human Rights," press release, April 1998. For an account of the attacks, see Amnesty International, "Kenya: Political violence spirals," AI Index: AFR 32/019/1998, June 10, 1998.
72 These figures have been derived from data about those incidents in Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), The Right to Return: The Internally Displaced Persons and the Culture of Impunity in Kenya (Nairobi: Kenya Human Rights Commission, 2001). KHRC looked more broadly at state-sponsored or -condoned violence, in which it included additional incidents of inter-ethnic violence, and estimated that such violence had claimed over 4,000 lives and had displaced nearly 600,000 people from 1991 to 2001. Ibid.
73 Judith Achieng, "Cleaning Up the Image of the Police," IPS, December 22, 1998; United States Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1999: Kenya (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1999), hereafter U.S. Department of State, Country Reports 1999.
74 Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch World Report 1997 (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1996), p. 31; U.S. Department of State, Country Reports 1999; "Electoral body urges Kanu to end violence," Daily Nation, September 1, 1999.
75 "Rev Njoya's assailant arrested as Gumo denies involvement," Daily Nation, June 15, 1999; "Alleged financier of secret terror-group ducks journalists," Daily Nation, June 14, 1999. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports 1999.
76 "Banned groups were private armies for hire by politicians," Daily Nation, March 9, 2002.
77 Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch World Report 1994 (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1993), p. 23; Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch World Report 1995 (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1994), p. 21.
78 The August 8, 1997, statement, which Maitha charged was fabricated by police and whose use was later blocked by order of the High Court, was read aloud in its entirety at the Akiwumi hearings by the officer who recorded it and who testified as to its authenticity. Akiwumi Commission Official Transcript, October 12, 1998, pp. 4-10, 20, 31. A copy of the statement also was reproduced in full in print. See Cautionary Statement Under Inquiry of Emmanuel Karisa Maitha, August 8, 1997, in MUHURI and KHRC, Abandoned to Terror: Women and Violence at the Kenyan Coast (Nairobi: Kenya Human Rights Commission, 2001). See also, Christine Pekeshe and Amadi Mugasia, "Kisauni MP denies writing any statement on violence," East African Standard, October 13, 1998.
79 Akiwumi Commission Official Transcript, October 12, 1998, pp. 6-10. Notably, some of the same politicians mentioned in the disputed statement were also implicated in the 1997 Coast violence. See below.
80 Ibid., pp. 119-20; Akiwumi Commission Official Transcript, October 13, 1998, pp. 81, 103-5, 125.
81 J. Sekoh-Ochieng, "Likoni: Sajjad gave Sh400,000," Daily Nation, October 22, 1998; Maguta Kimemia and J. Sekoh-Ochieng, "How we bought votes, by Sajjad," Daily Nation, October 23, 1998.
82 The existence of Masumbuko's statement and the sensitive nature of its content was noted in police testimony several times at the Akiwumi Commission. See, for example, Akiwumi Commission Official Transcript, October 14, 1998, pp. 76-78; and Akiwumi Commission Official Transcript, June 9, 1999, pp. 54-55. This testimony also referred several times to the August 24, 1997, report by then-Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Edwin Nyaseda (entered into evidence as Exhibit 82), which described Maitha and Masumbuko as persons with involvement in "helping the Government in fighting political enemies" in the early 1990s. Akiwumi Commission Official Transcript, October 14, 1998, pp. 76-78.