Kenya Reneges on Promise to Election Violence Victims


Jessamy Nichols, Africa Correspondent
Last Modified: 00:31 a.m. DST, 10 September 2013

Victims of 2007 Kenya Post-Election Violence, Photo by Martin NduguKENYA, Africa - At the close of 2007, Kenya held Presidential elections between Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga that resulted in months of atrocious violence and mass chaos. The eruption of killings resulted from the ethnic cleavages between the two candidates, as Kibaki is from the Kikuyu ethnic group and Odinga is from the Luo group. Once Kibaki was declared the winner despite widespread electoral fraud and manipulation, opposition groups revolted at the results and chose to make a stand.

However, this resulted in citizens, mostly of opposition Luo ethnicity, targeting Kikuyu citizens and brutally killing hundreds of them. Eventually, some Kikuyus retaliated and murdered citizens of Luo and Kalenjin descent. The few months of violence resulted in over a thousand deaths, and around two hundred thousand displaced persons. This is still a huge issue for the country today as thousands of citizens continue to live in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps that lack proper shelter, running water and basic education and healthcare.

One such example is an IDP camp called Jikaze that is in the Great Rift Valley and is about a twenty minute ride from Limuru. I've visited and worked in the camp twice, and have met the most wonderful, loving people who despite having their lives turned upside down, continue to be hopeful for the future. One couple in the camp owned a hotel before the 2007 election, but had it burned to the ground in the violence and went from being well-off to having nothing. Another family went from having acres of fertile land and a profitable farming business to running for their lives and starting from scratch. Some members of the camp lost family members in the violence and will never be able to return to their old home.

Now, imagine these Kenyans who have spent over five years healing and rebuilding their lives, to now find out that the Kenyan government will not fulfill its promise to face justice and seek justice for the victims of the post-election violence. This week, the Kenyan Parliament voted to remove themselves from the Rome Statute that would ensure that the national government sought justice and reparations for the hundreds of thousands of victims of the violence. Although it has been many years and many citizens have found a new way forward, they still deserve the justice and help that the government owes them. Without fulfilling their promise, not only are they abandoning their citizens again, but are setting a disappointing precedent for government accountability.

On a similar note, the Parliament also voted this week to remove themselves from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to avoid many of their prominent leaders' indictment and trials. Considering Kenya's growing economic and regional power potential, it is a nasty setback that the government is moving backwards in reneging on international standards and human rights laws. The international community, including the US, has released statements urging Kenya to fulfill their commitments and remain accountable to its people.

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