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World View: Kenya Cracks Down on Political Opposition After Mock Inauguration

Raila Odinga
AP Photo/Ben Curtis

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Kenya cracks down on political opposition after mock inauguration
  • Fears grow of repeat of 2008 post-election violence

Kenya cracks down on political opposition after mock inauguration

Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga holds up a Bible as he swears himself in as "the people's president of the Republic of Kenya" (AFP)
Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga holds up a Bible as he swears himself in as “the people’s president of the Republic of Kenya” (AFP)

Kenya is in crisis after the government led by president Uhuru Kenyatta, an ethnic Kikuyu, has been cracking down on free speech in violation of a court order, and is making arbitrary arrests of leading figures in the opposition, which is led by Raila Odinga, an ethnic Luo.

The government earlier this week ordered Kenya’s top three independent TV channels to stop broadcasting, to prevent them from broadcasting Odinga’s mock inauguration ceremony. The shutdown was originally supposed to be temporary, but the government has ordered the shutdown to continue. On Thursday, a pro-Odinga activist obtained a court order saying declaring the shutdown at an end, but the Kenyatta government has used police force to prevent the court order from being served on the government.

At the same time, the government has ordered the arrests of several pro-Odinga supporters. In one case, that of political activist Miguna Miguna, the police are ignoring a court order that he be released on bail.

Kenya’s government chaos began in August of last year, when Uhuru Kenyatta won reelection as Kenya’s president in an election that claimed was invalid because of numerous irregularities. In a ruling that shocked not only Kenya but all of Africa, Kenya’s Supreme Court issued a ruling, overturning the election. A new election was held on October 26. Odinga’s party declared that election invalid and boycotted it. Kenyatta won that election as well.

On Tuesday of last week, Odinga held a mock inauguration ceremony at Uhuru Park in downtown Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city. (Uhuru is Kiswahili for freedom.) He held up a bible and declared himself the “people’s president” at a “swearing-in” ceremony where he said that he was answering to a “high[er] calling to assume the office of the people’s president of the Republic of Kenya.”

Despite the fact that Kenyatta’s government called the ceremony an act of treason, and despite fears that police would prevent the event from taking place, thousands of enthusiastic Odinga supporters attended the mock inauguration.

The government permitted the ceremony to go ahead, but called it an act of treason. It shut down the independent TV stations, forbidding anyone from broadcasting the event, and then began the arrests of the “conspirators” in the mock inauguration. CNN and Reuters and The Nation (Nairobi) and NPR

Fears grow of repeat of 2008 post-election violence

In 2007, there was a presidential election where Odinga from the Luo tribe was defeated for president by another member of the Kikuyu tribe.

After the December 2007 presidential elections, there was a period of extremely bloody inter-tribal violence in the Rift Valley in Kenya, beginning early in 2008. The worst atrocity occurred when 30 people were lured into a church to escape violence, and a young gang locked the doors and set the church on fire, burning everyone alive. All in all, more than 1,200 people were killed in the tribal violence between the Kalenjins, who are mostly herders, and the Kikuyus, who are mostly farmers. The Luos are an offshoot of the Kalenjins.

Kenya’s last generational crisis war was the Mau-Mau rebellion that climaxed in 1956. At that time, Kenya was a British colony, and the Mau-Mau rebellion was largely a fight against the colonists. The 2008 violence was not a full-scale war, and it fizzled quickly. But today, nine years later, a new crisis war is overdue, and with the British colonists long gone, it is feared that there will be a new full-scale crisis war between the Kikuya, Kalenjin, and Luo tribes.

Kenya’s history has been something of a clash between two dynasties, the Kenyatta and Odinga dynasties. During the Mau-Mau rebellion, both the Kikuyus, led by Jomo Kenyatta and the Luos, led by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, opposed the British colonists, although because of the country’s geography, the Kikuyus bore the brunt of the fighting.

The Kenyattas and the Odingas were united after the war ended, but as the younger generations grew up, there was a clear split by the Awakening era of the 1980s, with Odinga and the Luos leaning toward Communist Russia and China, while Kenyatta and the Kikuyus were strongly pro-Western.

Incidentally, Barack Obama’s ancestors were Luos. When Obama won the U.S. presidency in 2008, Kenyans were ecstatic, and his victory was declared a national holiday. But by the time of his re-election in 2012, Kenyan audiences celebrated him less as the son of a nation than as the son of a particular ethnic group, the Luos.

The Kikuyus have been in power for most of Kenya’s history, and the Luos have been continually marginalized. After a failed coup in 1982, Raila Odinga himself was placed under house arrest for seven months.

Today, Kenya is just entering a generational Crisis era. The survivors of the Mau-Mau rebellion have wanted to prevent a new full-scale war from occurring, but now those survivors are almost completely gone, replaced with younger generations, many of whom are thirsting for war. The 1982 coup, which occurred during a generational Awakening era, fizzled quickly, as did the violence in 2008. But the population is very different today, and an attempted coup, if one occurred, could quickly spread into a larger war.

Uhuru Kenyatta is probably aware of this, and that’s probably the reason he tells himself that it’s necessary to shut down opposition television stations and jail opposition leaders. Unfortunately, those repressive actions will not prevent violence, and, in fact, could bring about the violence more quickly. The Nation (Kenya) and The Herald (Zimbabwe) and NPR (24-Jul-2015)

Related Articles

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Kenya, Nairobi, Miguna Miguna, Uhuru Kenyatta, Kikuyu, Raila Odinga, Luo, Kalenjins, Mau-Mau rebellion, Jomo Kenyatta, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Barack Obama
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