Friday, January 04, 2008

For those of you looking for actual information

Perhaps out of post-Rwanda and ongoing Darfur guilt (or because its a big tourist destination), the Western media has been giving a lot of coverage to the recent violence in Kenya. However, the tendency has been to oversimplify the situation and chalk it up as just another example of horrific "tribal conflicts" in Africa. Even the regional head of the ICRC, who should certainly know better, has made ignorant statements along these lines.

The violence began after there were delays in declaring a winner in the recent presidential election. The vote counting was subsequently stopped (sound familiar?) and current president Mwai Kibaki quickly declared the winner after trailing his opponent Raila Odinga. The majority of those killed have been protestors shot by security forces, but because Odinga is Luo and Kibaki is Kikuyu, Western media outlets have quickly jumped to the conclusion that “tribal rivalries” are at the root of the conflict. However, according to an anonymous expert on ethnic conflicts in Western Kenya, the unrest stems more from disenfranchised youths and anger over years of corrupt governments.

"No one is focusing on the real cause of violence ... which is political disillusionment," she said in an exclusive interview with Nemesis of Evil. "It's the young unemployed men who were told to vote and promised change, and who en masse were voting for the opposition, despite the fact that he was Luo."

News articles on the crisis have overlooked another crucial fact: that Odinga's opposition coalition was multi-ethnic in nature.

"What Raila (Odinga) did was tap into leaders in the other provinces and into the general feeling (outside of the central province) of wanting a new political system -- federalism, which to most people on the ground literally means roads," said the expert.

Hopefully a better understanding of the causes of the conflict will lead to a more effective solution. I'm waiting for Obama, whose father is Luo, to weigh-in on the matter. It's too bad he’s got other things on his mind right now, because he’s hugely popular in Kenya and might be able to help the move towards peace.

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