Organized Violence in the Rift Valley

Even before Mwai Kibaki was officially declared the winner of Kenya’s presidential vote, parts of Kenya’s Rift Valley erupted into widespread inter-ethnic violence. The delays in the counting of votes and rampant rumors about the imminent rigging of the election sparked attacks primarily directed at members of Kibaki’s Kikuyu ethnic group. That violence in turn spawned a series of ethnic-based reprisal attacks in other parts of the country, with Kikuyu militias attacking other ethnic communities seen as broadly supportive of the opposition. Up to 500,000 people have been displaced in this violence and over 1,000 killed.105

Human Rights Watch did not interview any victims of sexual violence, in part because victims may have been reluctant to report cases of sexual violence. Indeed, during January, according to medical staff in the hospitals of Nyanza, Eldoret, and clinics in the slums in Nairobi, reported rape cases were far lower than average.106  During February however, the true scale of sexual violence in the context of the ongoing instability began to emerge, with Nairobi women’s hospital reporting 324 cases examined in its mobile clinics across the country up to February 24.107 

Post-Election Violence around Eldoret

The inter-ethnic violence that swept across many communities in the aftermath of the December polls began in the Rift Valley. The epicenter of the first wave of Rift Valley violence was in and around the town of Eldoret, a highland town 125 kilometers east of Kenya’s border with Uganda.

As discussed above, tensions over land ownership and other issues have long been a source of mistrust and violence between the majority Kalenjin population around Eldoret and the area’s Kikuyu minority. Those tensions were exacerbated by the sharp ethnic lines drawn between opposing camps during the 2007 electoral campaign. Locally, support for the ODM was overwhelming among the Kalenjin while support for Kibaki’s PNU was equally prevalent among the Kikuyu population.

Political Manipulation of Ethnic Tensions During the Campaign

Around Eldoret many Kalenjin politicians stoked ethnic tensions to mobilize political support among their ethnic kinsmen, a tactic familiar to Kenyan politics. To cite just one of many typical examples, a Kalenjin councillor reportedly told a rally in the town of Soi that, if elected, the ODM would “remove the roots” of local Kikuyu communities “so there would be only one tribe there.”108 One locally-prominent Kalenjin politician acknowledged to Human Rights Watch that, “Some ODM politicians would say, ‘we have a snake we have to get rid of.’ It was a clear metaphor for the Kikuyu. They did not see the repercussions of this.”109

Largely as a result of this ethnic rhetoric, many Kalenjin supporters believed that once elected, the ODM would find a way to redistribute most or all land owned by Kikuyu to them.110 Human Rights Watch interviewed several Kalenjin involved in anti-Kikuyu violence who said they were merely doing by force what they had been denied a chance to do through the ballot box.111

KASS FM, Eldoret’s popular Kalenjin-language radio station, was on several occasions used as another platform for inflammatory ethnic rhetoric.112 There is no clear evidence that the station actively sought to disseminate hate speech but it did not prevent guests from using the airwaves to do so. As one local Kalenjin politician explained, “What was on the radio depended on who was in the studio at any given moment.”113 Language was usually highly idiomatic but its meaning was clear to the audience. One report says that KASS broadcast an appeal for “people of the milk” [the Kalenjin] to “cut grass” [clear the land, i.e. of Kikuyu], and called for the Kalenjin to “reclaim our land.”114

Direct Incitement and Organization

Divisive campaigning did not by itself cause existing ethnic tensions to boil over into violence. But in the days prior to the election, local elders and ODM organizers in many communities around Eldoret called meetings where they declared that electoral victory for Kibaki would be the signal for “war” against local Kikuyu. They told community members a PNU victory should be seen as conclusive proof of electoral fraud and that all Kikuyu were complicit in it.115

Human Rights Watch interviewed Kalenjin residents of several rural communities who attended such meetings. The term “war” was widely used in urging a violent reaction to disappointment at the polls. One man from a rural community near Turbo told Human Rights Watch that a few days before the election he attended a community meeting chaired by a local ODM campaigner where:

He [and local elders] said that if there is any sign that Kibaki is winning, then the war should break…They said the first step is to burn the Kikuyu homes in the village, then we will go to Turbo town, [and] after finishing Turbo then we organize to go to Eldoret...They were coaching the young people how to go on the war[sic].116

Human Rights Watch gathered similar testimonies from other communities around Turbo.117  On two occasions witnesses described police interventions that prevented militias from reaching Turbo town and Eldoret town, but in those communities, and in Turbo town itself, almost all Kikuyu homes and business were ultimately destroyed. One local Kalenjin resident said this had all gone “according to plan.”118

One man from a village called Kiplombe told Human Rights Watch that he was forced to pay 1,000 Kenyan shillings (US$15) and a bag of maize to elders in his community to help cover the costs of anti-Kikuyu violence. “I am old,” he said. “They know I will not go to violence so I should sponsor the youths. Their aim was to clear the area. They say they do not want to see other people, other tribes, in these areas.”119 In other communities similar levies were raised, in some cases to try and purchase firearms and ammunition.120

Many of the people who relayed the details of these meetings to Human Rights Watch said that they did not want to attend them but were coerced into doing so. In several communities people who did not attend the meetings were threatened with the destruction of their own homes.121 And at the meetings, an atmosphere of intimidation made it very difficult to speak out in opposition to the planned violence. “It is hard to disagree with 300 youths who are advocating violence,” said one elderly Kalenjin man from a village outside Turbo.122 At least one prominent Kalenjin activist was forced to flee Eldoret after receiving threats because he consistently denounced the violence.123

In many cases the chief architects of post-election violence were prominent and well-known individuals. According to many Kalenjin community leaders in Eldoret North, for instance, the organization of violence in communities there was openly spearheaded by a venerable Kalenjin politician, an elected ODM councillor124 named Jackson Kibor.125 Kibor advocated the right of Kalenjin to kill Kikuyu in a BBC interview.126  He was arrested by the Kenyan police in February 2008, charged with incitement, but released on bond.127  In many communities, however, prominent local leaders who were openly involved in organizing and inciting violence have yet to be held to account in any way.

Human Rights Watch found no evidence directly implicating ODM’s national leadership in these events. However, all the Kikuyu victims Human Rights Watch spoke to blamed William Ruto, a member of Parliament, for the attacks because of his strong anti-Kikuyu rhetoric prior to the election,128 and in mid to late January nearly all the Kalenjin elders and youth that we spoke to said, “if Ruto says stop, it will stop.”129 William Ruto, who represents Eldoret North constituency, is a member of the Pentagon, ODM’s governing body. He denied any involvement in the violence, and explained the allegations against him by saying that, “In Western Kenya, all people of status and substance would be ODM by default, the majority of opinion leaders are ODM. Whether it is an ODM agenda or a village agenda those same people would be leading it.”130

The Scale and Impact of Post-Election Violence

In many areas violence erupted immediately on the heels of the Kenyan government’s announcement that Kibaki had won the presidential polls. Elsewhere, it began one or more days later, but within the space of a week dozens of communities, including Eldoret town, had seen most of their Kikuyu population driven away. Hundreds lay dead, many left rotting in the fields of scattered hillside farms, and thousands of homes had been put to the torch.131

Human Rights Watch interviewed Kikuyu and Kisii victims of this violence from more than 20 different communities. Some had warnings of the impending violence. One Kikuyu merchant from a community near Turbo told Human Rights Watch that on December 30, “My children came home and told me that [they] were told by other [Kalenjin] children that they had to go away from there. They reported this to me. They were not upset–they just wondered why their friends were telling them that.” He reported this to the police in Turbo, who assured him there was nothing to worry about. Hours later a mob burned his home and business to the ground.132

The violence that followed Kibaki’s claim of victory followed the same pattern in many areas. Kikuyu residents of several rural communities made up of widely scattered homesteads told Human Rights Watch that on the night of December 30 they saw neighbors’ homes ablaze in the distance. Most immediately fled to larger towns or into nearby forests and returned the next day to find their own homes destroyed and looted.133

In several communities witnesses told Human Rights Watch that attackers came in three or four separate groups, each playing different roles. In many cases, children were among the attackers. A Kisii victim, one of over 10,000 chased from the town of Gata near Kitale by Marakwet (Kalenjin) attackers described how hundreds of men swept through the town in different units.134 A Kalenjin man from a community near Turbo told Human Rights Watch: “We divided into groups, managed by the elders, in groups of not less than 15, and each group went to particular homesteads. They looted maize and belongings. The young people went, the old remained…the majority [of young people] went along.”135

A Kalenjin man recounted to Human Rights Watch his participation in a mob that murdered several Kikuyu people in Eldoret town the evening after the election result was announced. The mob had emerged from a community meeting in the Kapsoya area of Eldoret where speakers urged those present to drive all Kikuyu out of Eldoret town. As the group set off down a road:

If we met a Kikuyu, we just beat him. I saw five people die that day personally. They attacked using all forms [of weapons]—arrows, pangas [machetes] and even beating with any crude tool. It was mob justice. The first killing…they approached him politely and asked him to produce his ID card. The one who got the card announced the name very loudly—it was a Kikuyu name. And the mob just attacked him. Those who produced IDs with Kalenjin or Luo names, they let them go.136

The man was remorseful about the killings. “It was an act of brutality,” he said.137

One of the most horrifying and well-publicized scenes of post-election bloodshed occurred in rural Kiambaa, a settlement scheme (land made available by the government to encourage settlement in the Rift Valley to relieve pressure on other areas) south of Eldoret. On January 1, a mob set fire to a church where terrified Kikuyu residents were seeking refuge, soaking mattresses the victims had brought with them with petrol and stacking them against the building. At least 30 people were burned alive, including a handicapped woman who died in her wheelchair.

Human Rights Watch interviewed several victims of the church attack at Kiambaa. One man’s five-year-old nephew was killed when a flaming mattress fell on top of him: “I saw my nephew on fire. He said, ‘uncle, uncle!’ but then he fell on his face because the petrol-soaked mattress was on his back and the fire took him.”138 Many of the survivors said many of the attackers were people they knew well. “They are our neighbors,” one man said, adding that he recognized “a young boy who sells milk, and the son of the man who owns the farm that borders mine.”139

In several communities anti-Kikuyu violence was expanded to also include known Kalenjin supporters of Kibaki’s Party of National Unity. In several communities such as Turbo, Kurinet, and Soy, Kalenjin PNU supporters were forced to flee in fear for their lives alongside local Kikuyu.140 In other communities mobs threatened to torch the homes of local Kalenjin PNU supporters unless they agreed to provide a goat or cow as compensation for failing to support the ODM.141

Attempts at Self-Defense and Reprisal Attacks

In most of the communities surveyed by Human Rights Watch around Eldoret, Kikuyu residents fled without a fight from the mobs arrayed against them. But in some areas residents attempted to make a stand and defend their homes. These attempts were mostly unsuccessful. In most cases, groups of Kalenjin attackers were large and organized and easily overwhelmed the small number of Kikuyu farmers who sought to resist them. One Kikuyu farmer from a community called Kilao told Human Rights Watch,

We were about ten, we threw stones at them but they had bows and arrows, pangas. We realized we could not beat them. They shot one old man called Mwangi with an arrow. When he fell they cut him and opened his stomach. I was running away and I watched him being cut.142

A Kalenjin pastor from a community outside of Turbo told Human Rights Watch that in the area around his home he knew of 20 Kikuyu men who were killed trying to defend their homes, along with ten of the Kalenjin attackers, during three days of fighting.143

In at least one case, groups of Kikuyu men carried out brutal reprisal attacks during the initial bout of post-election chaos. On the evening of December 31 in Langas, an Eldoret neighborhood populated primarily by Kikuyu, Kikuyu mobs killed and beheaded several ethnic Luo residents and left their severed heads lying on the road.144

Kikuyu Reprisals and Mungiki

As displaced people fled south from Eldoret towards the towns of Molo, Nakuru, and Naivasha in the Southern Rift Valley and into Central Province, the traditional territory of the Kikuyu, they brought with them brutal stories of burning, looting, rape and murder. Their stories helped to stoke tensions among Kikuyu residents in these other towns. Local leaders and Kikuyu elite there and in Nairobi reacted by organizing to contribute money for ‘self-defence’ forces.145

From January 23 to 30 Kikuyu militias in the Rift Valley towns of Molo, Naivasha and Nakuru led pogroms targeting local communities of Luo, Luhya, Kalenjin, and other minority groups seen as being associated with the ODM and, by extension, with violence against Kikuyu elsewhere in the country.146 During that week, hundreds more died, thousands were displaced and the army was called in to disperse violent gangs in Naivasha and Nakuru.147 Several serious atrocities were committed such as the burning of 19 people, including at least two babies, locked in a house in the Kabati area of Naivasha.148

There have been many reports that the feared criminal gang, Mungiki, is behind the reprisal attacks and even allegations that it has infiltrated the Kenya police.149 The Mungiki are a brutal criminal gang that promotes a violent brand of Kikuyu chauvinism. They emerged in the late eighties as a principally cultural and spiritual movement promoting Kikuyu heritage and culture, but increasingly became involved in organized crime in the slums of Nairobi in the 1990s. By 2002 they were a well-established group with large numbers of followers and alleged ties to leading politicians. Since then the government has cracked down on them.150 In 2007 the group was driven underground and badly weakened through a violent government campaign aimed at its suppression. The Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights alleges that Kenya’s police summarily executed at least five hundred suspected Mungiki members in the process.151

There are many rumors that individuals close to the Kibaki government have been involved in re-activating the Mungiki. But some leaders of the gang told Human Rights Watch that they remain opposed to the government and would not work with the Kibaki administration.152 The police apparently also believe that, “Mungiki high command are not involved,” in recent attacks, but that the violence has, “all the hallmarks of Mungiki operations”.153 The leadership claims that former Mungiki leader Ndura Wariunge is recruiting “defectors” to a “fake Mungiki” and mobilizing youth to order for politicians and businessmen in the Rift Valley.154 

The distinction between the various Mungiki factions will be an important one for a court to determine when identifying those behind the recent violence, but as far as the victims are concerned, it makes little difference who wielded the machete or threw the match. Victims commonly refer to any group of marauding Kikuyu youth as ‘Mungiki’. In fact the over-use and mis-use of the label serves the attackers well since the very name instils terror.

Whether or not the young men involved were genuine members of Mungiki or not, the Kikuyu militias who struck in late January were organized, paid, and directed by local leaders, businessmen, and, in some cases, PNU councillors and mobilizers. The extent to which the local organizers were in touch with senior PNU politicians or members of the government is unclear. But circumstantial evidence suggests that senior members of the government may have been aware of what was going on. Mungiki leaders told Human Rights Watch that they had described the activities of their renegade colleague, Wariunge, in detail to the police and the government.  We were unable to corroborate this claim. Other reports cited by the BBC describe contacts between the renegade Mungiki leader and State House, and police complicity in the ferrying of Mungiki fighters to Naivasha and Nakuru. Several newspaper articles also describe the involvement of unnamed government ministers in raising funds for self-defense units.155

Revenge in Naivasha

Revenge attacks for the killing and chasing of Kikuyus from Western, Nyanza, and Northern Rift Valley provinces began in Nakuru and Molo on January 24 and reached Naivasha on January 27.156  In Naivasha, Kikuyu militias met little resistance, but in Nakuru the attacks sparked a succession of Kalenjin counter-attacks. In Molo, clashes have been ongoing for many months even before the elections.157

Non-Kikuyu residents in different parts of Naivasha town were targeted in the attacks. According to some of the young men that took part, several who were self-proclaimed Mungiki members and several who were not, there had been a meeting earlier in the week, on Wednesday, January 23, in a local hotel:158

This was not done by ordinary citizens, it was arranged by people with money, they bought the jobless like me. We need something to eat each day. The big people at the [bus] stage, the ones who run the matatu [minibus] business, they called us [the jobless who hang around there] to a meeting around 2 p.m. They said there was a plan to push out the Luos because they were planning to attack us. They said we should be ready on Saturday. I recognised the leaders, they are the owners of businesses in town, they did not hide their faces. We were paid 200 shillings for going to the meeting, and we were told we would get the rest after the job, it was like a business.159

According to the youth, there was then another meeting on Saturday, January 26in the afternoon. The organizers present at the meeting were well known local businessmen who had campaigned for a PNU candidate and former MP during the election. The youth who attended the meeting recalled: “We were told that only Luo houses should be burnt and that the mission starts in the morning. Every person was given 100 or 200 shillings.”160

Luo victims in Kedong IDP camp claimed that Kikuyu friends of theirs had told them of similar plans.161 One man described seeing three trucks with armed men arriving on the night of Saturday, January 26 in the Merera/Karacta area in the company of a local businessman: “My Kikuyu friends told me what was planned,” he said. “It was not a secret.” 162

Violence started across the town on Sunday morning, January 27. One of the young men who participated in the attacks said, “On Sunday morning the mob went up to Kabati [an area of Naivasha town]. They split into groups. Some of them I recognised, some of them not. They blocked all the roads, even cars were not getting in or out.” He claimed he joined in to avoid discrimination, but nevertheless witnessed the burning and killing of Luo residents:

I went along just to pretend that I was with them. I saw a man cut, and a house burned, the one with all the people in. It was around twelve in the afternoon. The house was surrounded by a mob. You can’t tell who lit the fire, there were too many people surrounding the place and watching. But I saw boys go in and take the kids out of the house before the place was set on fire with the man left in there. But they did not know that in the back room were hiding more people.163

In fact 19 people were hiding in the back room including women and children and two infants under two years old. They all burned to death.

Other young boys living in Kabati also claimed that when the mob came they were forced to join in. A witness told Human Rights Watch, “On that day when the Kikuyu boys came, it was war. They forced us to go with them, I did not know them.”164 Another resident, a Kisii boy in secondary school whose home was burned by mistake, added, “Their plan was to destroy, they were looking for Luo houses, only Luo. They just asked people who was living in each house, they had some local boys who knew which houses to burn.”165

Some Kikuyu residents of Kabati estate tried to claim that the Luo set their own houses on fire because they were afraid of the Mungiki.166 But a woman who had been chased by Kalenjin fighters away from her home in Kitale, in Northern Rift Valley, and had come to stay with relatives in Kabati said, “I’d rather be in Kitale being attacked by Kalenjin than have to witness again what they did to the Luos here; rather Kitale.”167 Another female resident said she had received several threats to keep quiet because of what she had seen and because she knew some of those responsible:

I know them, these jobless boys. I saw two or three people being cut and killed. One old man, Luo, was beaten, but he refused to die like that so they took turns chopping. Then the one who finished him off licked the blood from the blade, then they moved to the next plot.168

In the center of town, a Kikuyu resident who was sheltering Luo children in her home described watching local businessmen and PNU mobilizers, the same individuals mentioned by the youth at the meeting, directing militias on the street in blocking roads, telling them “good job” and arguing with policemen on Sunday afternoon.169 Later, she said, a Kikuyu mob led by one well-dressed man whom she did not recognize came to her building with a list of three Luo names. They wanted to know which apartments belonged to the Luos.170

Out of town, in the settlements where Luo migrant workers from the large commercial flower farms reside, the pattern was distressingly familiar with mobs burning houses, killing men, and, in one case, throwing an old man into a burning house.171

Young men interviewed by Human Rights Watch claimed that they were offered 7,000 shillings ($100) for taking part and 10-15,000 ($200) for each Luo man beheaded.172 Luo victims and local human rights activists also mention similar figures.173

The official total killed as a result of the clashes in Naivasha was 41. Twenty-three were burned, including 13 children, seven were shot dead by police and the rest killed with machetes. There were four victims of forced male circumcision treated at the hospital, all of whom survived.174

Official Response

The police, with a woefully inadequate 60 officers in Naivasha,175 were not able to control the violence. Indeed, by their own admission they were only able to rescue those threatened with attack.176 The Officer Commanding Police District (OCPD), Naivasha, told Human Rights Watch, “We went to rescue people, that was our priority, so we didn’t chase the perpetrators.”177

For reasons which are unclear, the police did not request assistance from the army or the prison service (which had 1,000 armed prison guards stationed in the town and available to help).178  Instead, the prison commander took the decision to deploy his men himself, as he explained to Human Rights Watch, “My people came on Sunday, but the public started protesting, saying they didn’t want us there. So we withdrew, and that’s when all the mayhem started.”179 Worse than that, the police actually fought their prison service colleagues. According to prison guards, there was a “misunderstanding” with the police resulting in one of their colleagues being shot in the leg by police.180

Tit for Tat in Nakuru

Before the revenge attacks by Kikuyu militia, the town of Nakuru had escaped the violence that had engulfed much of the Rift Valley. Although the surrounding countryside was deeply affected, especially by the long-running conflicts in Kuresoi and around Molo, Nakuru town had been quiet. That changed on January 24.

Mungiki leaders told how local businessmen and politicians met at a local hotel on January 24 to organize themselves.181 A businessman who was present confirmed to a local journalist that the meeting, one of several, did take place.182 Many rumors exist in Nakuru town about who was at the meetings and who was actually behind the co-ordinated attacks of January 24-26. The testimony provided to Human Rights Watch does not substantiate allegations against specific individuals, but from the pattern of attacks it was clearly an organized operation and sympathetic Kikuyus warned their non-Kikuyu friends and neighbors to leave ahead of time. For example, a journalist was told by someone present at the organizing meetings: “get as far away as you can.”183 Non-Kikuyu residents of ‘Free Area’, a suburb of Nakuru, described being warned by Kikuyu friends, “there’s going to be an operation.”184 

On January 25, large numbers of armed Kikuyu men carrying pangas, knives, and petrol bombs attacked non-Kikuyu homes in several different areas of Nakuru town.185 

In the ‘Free Area’ suburb, many Kalenjin and Luos sought safety in the compound of a local leader. Here, at least, the police, in the face of large crowds, appear to have done what they could to fulfil their responsibility to protect members of the public. One man described seeing police chasing groups of armed men coming out of a neighboring house belonging to a former MP. “They came out from [his place] and they all had new pangas, shining in the sun.”186 That same morning a woman who attempted to leave the compound where police were protecting non-Kikuyu, was hacked to death by the mob in front of those sheltering there. “We watched through the fence,” explained one witness.187

The Kikuyu militias were also forcibly circumcising Luo men. One Luhya witness was spared because he was already circumcised but he was forced to accompany the group:

Our group was about 50 people—spread along the road. The Kikuyus then started checking everybody, and circumcising Luos right there. I saw two of these. They grabbed one man, about 30 years old, and told him to remove his pants. He just kept saying, ‘What?! What?’ Then they forcibly removed his pants. One was holding his penis, and another one was cutting his foreskin with a piece of a broken Fanta bottle. Others were cheering, chanting ‘Ohe, ohe’ and saying, ‘Kill him.’ They were saying all Luos should go back to Nyanza… The other man was 50 or 60 years old. They saw him on the road, and started yelling, ‘Luo, Luo.’ They seized him, and first removed all his clothes. Then several people lifted him up, and one men grabbed his penis, and another one circumcised him with his panga. They then dropped the old man on the ground and started hacking him, and then cut his head off. Nobody dared to help him.188

Kalenjin Reprisals

Most of the displaced Luos interviewed by Human Rights Watch were temporarily living in the Furaha Stadium, waiting to leave to their “ancestral areas” of Nyanza and Western province.189 However, the Kalenjin communities within and around Nakuru town struck back on subsequent days. They attacked and burnt Githima estate, a majority Kikuyu area.190 They also attacked the Mwareke area on the southern side of the town.

According to one Kikuyu youth who was called to help defend against the Kalenjin in Mwareke, the Kalenjin men and boys were also organized and paid to fight, echoing earlier reports191:

We cornered one of them. He confessed and said, ‘Actually I was just pushed and paid to fight.’ He was asking for forgiveness, although in fact we just killed him anyway. He said he was a Standard Eight pupil, this year he was supposed to go to Form One [first year of secondary school].192

The Nakuru Provincial hospital confirmed that the victims of the clashes were from all ethnic groups. A medical official at the hospital told Human Rights Watch, “The majority were men, no children. Kikuyus, Kalenjin, Luos, and Luhyas. At the beginning, mostly Kikuyus, then others. Those from Nakuru town were mostly Luos; those from the district – Kalenjins and Kikuyus.”193 

The hospital morgue reported 56 deaths, while the municipal morgue recorded 105 separate deaths since the beginning of the revenge attacks on January 25, an official total of 161 for Nakuru district alone.194 In addition, hundreds of houses belonging to people on all sides were burned and thousands of people were displaced.

Police Response

Several witnesses describe the police protecting the house of the local leader in ‘Free Area’ and firing in the air to disperse mobs in various areas in Nakuru town and Phodamali in Nakuru district.195 From the witness descriptions it appears that the police were hopelessly outnumbered. Numerous people describe the compound being surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands of armed Kikuyu men, shaking the fence and threatening those inside while GSU police struggled to scare them away.196

The senior police officer for Nakuru, the Officer Commanding Police District, was transferred immediately after the clashes. His successor, who began work on February 3, claimed no knowledge of arrests prior to that date, nor when meeting Human Rights Watch did he know if any investigations were underway in connection with the organization of the attacks. Between February 3 and 18 he had made approximately 30 arrests in connection with the attacks, but all of those suspects were released on bail.197 The police spokesman in Nairobi claims that vigorous investigations into the organization of the attacks in Nakuru are underway. 198 However, this is not the view from the ground.

An Endless Cycle of Violence in Molo

Molo town and district have been the site of ethnic clashes for many years, dating back to the last wave of state-sponsored violence in the early 1990s.199 Violence flared again in 2003, 2005, and 2006. In the run up to the election of December 2007 politicians incited militias to attack supporters of rivals and populations unlikely to vote for them.200 In nearly all of these incidents, the Kikuyu population were the victims of violence and not the perpetrators. Immediately following the announcement of the presidential election result, attacks against Kikuyus and their property began again.201 But now Kikuyu are also beginning to perpetrate revenge attacks.

In previous bouts of violence in Molo, including prior to the 2007 election, MPs and former MPs have been implicated.202 Human Rights Watch heard testimony describing the organization or facilitation of violence since the December 2007 election by both opposition ODM and ruling party PNU representatives.

A former councillor in Sirikwa, where an ODM MP has a house, described how, beginning on December 31 armed Kalenjin fighters gathered in the MP’s property and launched attacks on neighboring Kikuyu houses from there.203  A Kikuyu neighbor of the MP described a similar scene: “[The MP] was away but a local Kalenjin leader who I know had boys there under orders, he told me to get out of my house and they looted everything….Three days later more fighters came from Bomet, they were all staying at [his] place.”204 Many houses were burnt and most Kikuyu residents fled to Molo town.205 Killings and arson took place in many other villages in Kuresoi and Molo districts.206

Later in January, Kikuyu leaders organized a counterattack at a farm, the home of a Kalenjin businessmen alleged to be involved in funding Kalenjin militia. One of the Kikuyu youth who went along to the meeting and took part in the subsequent attack explained what happened:

On January 22, we were called to a meeting by one of our elected [PNU] councillors at a school–word went around to all the youth. We were told they have work for us, just go and follow orders, everyone should bring their weapon. They said there would be food and, if we did a good job, money. At that time war was all around the town, there was no secret about the meeting. We went to get our weapons and then immediately went to [the] farm, we thought we would be able to keep whatever there was at the farm to loot, sheep, cattle etc. Someone had tipped off the Kalenjin, we met warriors waiting for us. We did nothing, they killed those who were unable to run away, mostly the older ones. Thirteen were killed. Then the Kalenjin started burning houses on the edge of town. I went home to sleep. I said I’ll never try it again!207

Other youth who took part together with local human rights activists confirmed the numbers of dead and the account of the incident, including naming those who had organized it.208 The episode seems not to have deterred other groups of Kikuyu from attacking Kalenjin communities and burning Kalenjin businesses in neighboring towns. In Mau Summit, 15 kilometers from Molo, Kalenjin men showed Human Rights Watch where Kikuyu militias had burned Kalenjin businesses and homes and explained that, “they burned ours so we burned theirs.” They proceeded to show us the many more Kikuyu properties that had been razed to the ground.209 As of March 1, further attacks were continuing.210

Chased from Central Province

Following the rigged election, there was tension in Central Province, a traditional Kikuyu area, among people from different ethnic groups, but few incidents of violence. As displaced people returned from the Rift Valley and news spread of the killings in Eldoret and elsewhere, the temperature rose and animosity against non-Kikuyu populations associated with the opposition grew. By mid to late January those feelings were beginning to boil over.

Verbal warnings and leaflets started circulating giving non-Kikuyu residents in Thika, Juja, Nyeri, and other towns in Central Province a deadline for leaving. Some said a week, others, like this eerily poetic leaflet seen by Human Rights Watch, said, “No more clashes but war. Luo, Luya and Nandi we give you 24 hrs you pack and go – failure to that we need 200 heads b4 peace hold once more.”211

Those on the receiving end of such threats said that they reported the matter to the police. Nevertheless, they did not feel safe and on January 31 many people from those communities moved to police stations for protection.212  Those who did not leave or move to the police stations received a visit from masked men who threatened to behead them if they did not move. According to one man who fled, the masked men said: “Are you Luos? So what are you still doing here?! Get out or tonight we’ll come for your heads.”213

Police Response

The police did in fact arrest some of the perpetrators and brought them to Thika police station where displaced persons were gathered on Friday, February 1. According to witnesses at the police station, an angry Kikuyu mob surrounded the police station on the following morning and the local MP, George Thuo, persuaded the police to release the arrested persons “for the sake of peace.”214

The Potential Long-Term Impact of Violence: Ethnic Engineering

The events of the first months of 2008 have dramatically altered the ethnic makeup of many parts of Kenya. Scores of communities across the Rift Valley, including most of Eldoret itself, are no longer home to any Kikuyu residents. The rural areas outside of Naivasha, Nakuru, and Molo are similarly emptying of Kikuyu while Kalenjin and Luo are leaving the urban areas. In Central Province, few non-Kikuyu remain. The slums of Mathare, Kibera and others in Nairobi have been carved into enclaves where vigilantes from one ethnic group or another patrol ‘their’ areas.

Many have moved to different parts of the country where their ethnic group is in the majority, sometimes referred to as ‘ancestral’ areas. But displaced persons’ camps all over the country are still full of people who have nowhere to go. Some displaced residents would like to return home. As one farmer forced to seek shelter at the displaced persons camp in Eldoret put it, “My house has been burnt three times: in 1992, 1997 and now. I return each time because I have nowhere else to go.”215 But others are stuck between a rock and a hard place, with nowhere to move to and yet unwilling to risk return to their property.

All the displaced Luo from Central Province interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that they would not go back there. And a large majority of the displaced Kikuyu interviewed said that they would not consider returning home because they could not feel safe either.

Human Rights Watch interviewed many Kalenjin residents of affected communities who either participated in or supported the violence against local Kikuyu. Most were emphatic in declaring that they would never allow their former neighbors to return.216 Young men in several different communities said that they had not originally sought to kill Kikuyu residents but would do so if they tried to reclaim their land.217 As one Kalenjin elder near Burnt Forest put it, “if they come back, it will be war again.” Then he drew his index finger across his throat. 218 Kikuyu elders in Naivasha meanwhile explained that the Luos chased from there should never return.219

As displaced people move to communities where their ethnic group is in the majority, there is a real risk that ethnic jingoism will increase and tensions rise as victims share their stories. For a country with 42 ethnic groups, such a situation is a social, economic, and moral disaster. Essential health and education services are already under strain as staff from the ‘wrong’ ethnic group seek transfers or simply desert their posts.220

In order to forestall further deleterious effect of this social re-engineering, a national plan should be agreed by the parties to the coalition government and civil society for the safe return or re-location of displaced populations. Both the ODM and PNU mediation teams have discussed the formation of joint teams to assist re-settlement of displaced populations,221 but rushing to provide transport for destitute people to go to ancestral areas that they may not even recognize, risks encouraging the ethnic fragmentation of the country.

Options for safe and voluntary return and local reconciliation must be a part of such discussions. The government’s approach to resolving the many questions around the rights of IDPs should be informed by the United Nations Guiding Principles on internally displaced persons. Article 12 of the Pact for Security, Stability, and Development in the Great Lakes Region, which Kenya has ratified, commits states to implementation of national legislation for the protection of internally displaced persons.222

Given the history of displacement in Kenya, both due to previous political violence and the arbitrary seizure of land, there must be a comprehensive solution guaranteeing the rights of all internally displaced persons.

105 United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “Kenya, Humanitarian Update,” Vol. 7, February 23-27, 2008.

106 Human Rights Watch interviews Kisumu, Eldoret, and Nairobi, January 2008.

107 Human Rights Watch correspondence via email with Nairobi Women’s Hospital officials, February 22, 2008.

108 Human Rights Watch interview, Eldoret, January 18, 2008.

109 Human Rights Watch interview, Eldoret, January 18, 2008.

110 Human Rights Watch interviews with Kalenjin residents in and around Eldoret, January 2008.

111 Human Rights Watch interviews, several communities near Eldoret, January 2008.

112 Human Rights Watch interviews with activists and local residents, Eldoret, January 2008.

113 Human Rights Watch interview, Eldoret, January 19, 2008.

114 IRIN, “Kenya: spreading the word of hate,” IRIN News, January 22, 2008, (accessed January 22, 2008).

115 Human Rights Watch interviews, Eldoret, January 2008.

116 Human Rights Watch interview, Eldoret, January 21, 2008.

117 Human Rights Watch interviews, Eldoret, January 2008.

118 Human Rights Watch interview, Eldoret, January 19, 2008.

119 Human Rights Watch interview, Eldoret, January 21, 2008.

120 Human Rights Watch interview, Eldoret, January 21, 2008. Members of several Kalenjin communities have attempted to procure firearms from Pokot communities around Mount Elgon. The area is relatively saturated with guns and is the most obvious nearby market. Human Rights Watch interviews with Kalenjin community members, Eldoret, January 2008.

121 Human Rights Watch interviews, Eldoret, January 18 and January 19, 2008.

122 Human Rights Watch interview, Eldoret, January 19, 2008.

123 Human Rights Watch interviews and email correspondence, January and February 2008.

124 A councilor is an elected member of local government. Every Kenyan administrative district has a Council.

125 Human Rights Watch interviews, Eldoret, January 2008.

126 Pascale Harter, “Assignment,” BBC World Service, January 31, 2008.

127 Nation team, “Kibor released on 200,000Sh bond,” The Daily Nation, February 29, 2008.

128 In an interview with Human Rights Watch, Ruto made no apology for his anti-Kikuyu stance, “I accused Kibaki of driving this country on the basis of tribalism and I did not give examples which were remote.” Human Rights Watch interview with William Ruto, MP, Nairobi, January 24, 2008.

129 Human Rights Watch interviews, Eldoret, January, 2008.

130 Human Rights Watch interview with William Ruto, MP, Nairobi January 24, 2008.

131 Human Rights Watch interviews with Police, Burnt Forest and Eldoret, January, 2008 and with journalists, Eldoret, January 11, 2008.

132 Human Rights Watch interview, Turbo, January 22, 2008.

133 Human Rights Watch interviews, January 2008.

134 Human Rights Watch interview, Kachibora, January 12, 2008.

135 Human Rights Watch interview, Eldoret, January 21, 2008.

136 Human Rights Watch interview, Eldoret, January 19, 2008.

137 Ibid.

138 Human Rights Watch interview, Eldoret, January 18, 2008.

139 Human Rights Watch interview, Eldoret, January 11, 2008.

140 Human Rights Watch interviews, Eldoret, January 2008.

141 Human Rights Watch interviews, Eldoret, January 2008.

142 Human Rights Watch interview, Eldoret, January 11, 2008.

143 Human Rights Watch interview, Eldoret, January 21, 2008.

144 Human Rights Watch interviews with Langas residents and police witness, Eldoret, January 2008.

145 Human Rights Watch spoke to several professionals of Kikuyu ethnicity in Nairobi who had been asked to attend meetings to contribute money for such self-defense forces, Human Rights Watch interviews with three professional Kikuyus, (names withheld), Nairobi, February 2008. See also, Nation Team, “Raising funds to arm gangs for revenge poison delicate peace,” The Daily Nation, February 27, 2008 and Katharine Houreld, “The Return of Mungiki,” Associated Press, January 31, 2008. Houreld describes a government minister offering money to buy weapons.

146 See for example, Tim Cocks, “Tribal gangs clash in Kenyan town, 27 killed,” Reuters, January 26, 2008, (accessed February 29, 2008) and Andrew Cawthorne, “Kenya vows tougher action to stop killings,” Reuters, January 30, 2008, (accessed February 29, 2008).

147 Ibid.

148 Human Rights Watch interviews (names withheld), Naivasha, February 15, 2008 and Tim Cocks and David Lewis, “Kenya’s rift valley burns, death toll soars,” Reuters, January 28, 2008, (accessed February 29, 2008).

149 Juma Kwayera, “Mungiki infiltrates Kenya police,” Mail and Guardian, February 7, 2008; see also, Thilo Thielke, “Bloodshed in Kenya: We will kill everyone!”, Der Spiegel, February 5, 2008; Patrick Muriungi, “Panic over alleged Mungiki presence,” The Standard, January 31, 2008; “Kenya at risk of new wave of violence,” IRIN, Janaury 22, 2008; Star team, “Militias prepare for war,” Nairobi Star, February 20, 2008.

150 For a brief history see David M. Anderson, “Vigilantes, Violence and the Politics of Public Order in Kenya,” African Affairs (2002), pp. 101, 531-555.

151 See Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Preliminary Report on Alleged Execution and Disappearance of Persons between June and October 2007, November 2007.

152 Human Rights Watch interview [names withheld], Nairobi, February (date withheld), 2008.

153 Human Rights Watch interview with police spokesman, Nairobi, February 20, 2008.

154 Human Rights Watch interview (names withheld), Nairobi, February (date withheld), 2008.

155 BBC Newsnight,  March 5, 2008, Nation Team, “Raising funds to arm gangs for revenge poison delicate peace,” The Daily Nation, February 27, 2008 and Katharine Houreld, “The Return of Mungiki,” Associated Press, January 31, 2008.

156 Tim Cocks and David Lewis, “Kenya’s rift valley burns, death toll soars,” Reuters, January 28, 2008, (accessed February 29, 2008).

157 Human Rights Watch interviews Naivasha and Nairobi, February 2008.

158Human Rights Watch interviews with Mungiki members (names withheld), Naivasha, February 13, 2008 and interviews with Kikuyu youth, non-Mungiki members, Naivasha, February 15, 2008.

159 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Naivasha, February 15, 2008.

160 Human Rights Watch interview Mungiki members (names withheld), Naivasha, February 13, 2008.

161 Human Rights Watch interviews (names withheld), Naivasha, February 14, 2008.

162 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Naivasha, February 14, 2008.

163 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Naivasha, February 15, 2008, see also, BBC, “Kenyans ‘forcibly recruited to fight’,” BBC Online, January 29, 2008, (accessed March 4, 2008).

164 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), February 15, 2008.

165 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld], February 15, 2008.

166 Human Rights Watch interviews, Naivasha, February 15, 2008.

167 Human Rights Watch interview, unidentified woman, Naivasha, February 15, 2008.

168 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Naivasha, February 15, 2008.

169 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Naivasha, February 14, 2008.

170 Ibid.

171 Human Rights Watch interviews with Luo victims, Kedong IDP camp, Naivasha, February 14, 2008.

172 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Naivasha, February 15, 2008.

173 Human Rights Watch interviews (names withheld), February 14, 2008.

174 Human Rights Watch interviews with Morgue officials and Chief Doctor, Naivasha Hospital, February 14, 2008.

175 Human Rights Watch interview with unidentified police officer, Naivasha, February 15, 2008.

176 Human Rights Watch interview with Officer Commanding Police District (OCPD), Naivasha, February 15, 2008.

177 Ibid.

178 Ibid.

179 Human Rights Watch interview with Benson Makuru, Naivasha Prison, February 14, 2008.

180 Human Rights Watch interview with prison guards, Naivasha Hospital, February 14, 2008.

181 Human Rights Watch interviews (names withheld), Nairobi, February (date withheld), 2008.

182 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Nakuru, February 16, 2008.

183 Ibid.

184 Human Rights Watch interviews (names withheld), Nakuru, February 16, 2008.

185 Ibid.

186 Human Rights Watch interview, (name withheld), Nakuru, February 16, 2008.

187 Ibid.

188 Human Rights Watch interview, (name withheld), Nakuru, February 16, 2008.

189 Human Rights Watch interviews, Nakuru, February 16 2008.

190 Human Rights Watch interview, Nakuru, February 16, 2008.

191 Jeffrey Gettleman, “Signs in Kenya that killings were planned,” The New York Times, January 21, 2008.

192 Human Rights Watch interview, (name withheld), Nakuru, February 16, 2008.

193 Human Rights Watch interview, medical superintendent, Nakuru Hospital, February 18, 2008.

194 Human Rights Watch interviews with unnamed officials, Nakuru Municipal Mortuary, February 16, 2008.

195 Human Rights Watch interviews (names withheld), Nakuru, February 16, 2008.

196 Ibid.

197 Human Rights Watch interview with OCPD Nakuru, February 18, 2008.

198 Human Rights Watch interview with police spokesman, Nairobi, February 21, 2008.

199 See for example, Africa Watch, Divide and Rule.

200 See IDP Network of Kenya, ‘Internal Displacement Alert and Analysis: Kuresoi constituency,’ December 2007.

201 Ibid, postscript to IDP Network, Internal Displacement Alert, January 6, 2008 and Human Rights Watch interviews, Molo, February 2008.

202 See Africa Watch, Divide and Rule. The Akiwumi report (1999) names local MP Kipkalaya Kones and the IDP Network of Kenya report, above, mentions former Kuresoi MP Moses Chebiot.

203 Human Rights Watch interview with former Molo Town Councillor (2002-2007), Sirikwa, February 18, 2008. . . He also claimed that the fighters were paid between 500-1,000 shillings each by local businessmen.

204 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Molo, February 18, 2008.

205 Human Rights Watch interviews (names and locations of interview withheld), February 18, 2008.

206 Human Rights Watch interviews with IDPs in Molo, (names withheld), February 17 and 18, 2008.

207 Human Rights Watch interview (name and location of interview withheld), February 17, 2008.

208 Human Rights Watch interview, Human Rights activists (names withheld), February 17, 2008.

209 Human Rights Watch interviews, unidentified warriors, Mau Summit, February 17, 2008.

210 Human Rights Watch interview with journalist, Molo, by phone, March 3, 2008.

211 Photocopied notice shown to Human Rights Watch in an interview with IDPs in Jamhuri Gardens, Nairobi (names withheld), February 12, 2008.

212 Ibid.

213 Human Rights Watch interview with IDP in Jamhuri Gardens, Nairobi, (name withheld), February 12, 2008.

214 Human Rights Watch interviews with IDPs Jamhuri Gardens, Nairobi (names withheld), February 12, 2008.

215 Human Rights Watch interview, Eldoret, January 18, 2008.

216 Human Rights Watch interviews, January 2008.

217 Human Rights Watch interviews, January 2008.

218 Human Rights Watch interview, Burnt Forest, January 19, 2008.

219 Human Rights Watch interviews, Naivasha, January 15, 2008.

220 Human Rights Watch interview with hospital staff in Kisumu, January 14, 2008, Eldoret January 19, 2008, and in Nakuru, February 19, 2008.

221 “Chief Adeniji to release talks road map,” East Africa Standard, March 4, 2008, (accessed, March 4, 2008).

222 See ‘International Conference on the Great Lakes Region: Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region’ 14-15 December 2006 at:$file/Great%20Lakes%20pact_en.pdf