Potential Hot Spots: Kenya Crumbles Under Corruption and Ethnic Strife

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November 7, 2008: A year ago Kenya was involved in a tumultuous election, with daily reports of ethnic violence. The election, held at the end of December 2007, produced a small scale civil war, with at least 1,300 killed and 300,000 refugees. Most of the displaced were members of a tribe living in an area where another tribe was the dominant ethnic group. It was a sad story – one tribe's members flee to a "home tribal area," in the process passing members of another tribe fleeing from that region.

Kenya has done a fairly good job of working through the aftermath of the disputed election and the ethnic violence. Outside mediation (provided by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan) proved to be useful. Annan brought the two key rival leaders, President Mwai Kibaki (who claimed he won the election) and opposition leader Raila Odinga (who claimed Kibaki won by fraud) to the negotiation table. During the negotiations, cooler heads (many in the business community) pointed out that the violence was damaging Kenya's reputation and would harm the economy – ultimately impoverishing everyone.

Negotiations produced a power-sharing agreement which led to the Grand Coalition Government (national unity government). The Grand Coalition has brought a degree of stability, but Kenya is still struggling with the "ethnic politicization" – code phrase for parties organized on ethnic lines. Corruption still plagues the country, and in an odd way that gives most Kenyans a common interest. Anger at corrupt elites is common complaint from Kenyans of all tribes.

Kenya's Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence (CIPEV), which filed a report in mid-October, noted the anger and suspicion of Kenyans. The CIPEV demanded that perpetrators of violence be prosecuted. It also derided systemic institutional failures in Kenya's "internal security mechanisms." The CIPEV recommended that Kenya improve its police forces (both regular police and Administration Police) and "stream-line" intelligence gathering. The Administration Police are the government national police force and operates as an internal security force. It has a small Rapid Deployment Unit.

October 31, 2008: At least 20 people died in inter-clan fighting between the Murule and Garre clans in the Mandera region (northeast Kenya). The fighting erupted in late October, and  a subsequent government security operation in the area ended up injuring at least 200 civilians. (NOTE: A security operation usually indicates an operation by paramilitary police units.) The government denied that "hundreds" of civilians had been injured, and claimed that it had confiscated nearly 50 weapons.

October 16, 2008: A Somali Islamist group claimed that it would start a "jihadi war inside Kenya" if the government decides to help train Somali military forces loyal to the transitional federal government. The Somali Islamists see Kenya as an ally of Ethiopia – which in fact it is.

 

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