Update From Kenya IMC

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FIVE DAYS AGO, ON THE 27th OF DECEMBER, I stood in a queue for
six hours—from 5.30 AM to 11.30 AM, waiting for my turn to
cast a vote in my country Kenya’s presidential, parliamentary
and civic elections. When the votes were counted later that
night, Raila Odinga, the opposition leader, began taking a
near-unassailable lead. At one point, he led by almost one
million votes. But somehow, Mwai Kibaki, the incumbent
president, squeezed through a disputed victory. I can live
with that. What I can’t live with, is that in the last three days,
more than 200 Kenyans have lost their lives because of this
disputed election results.
When the tension escalated, I had to move to my brother’s
house, because I live in a neighborhood dominated by
the Kikuyu, the biggest tribe in Kenya and also the one that
President Mwai Kibaki comes from. Tragically, Kikuyus
around the country are bearing the brunt of an angry people
and they are also beginning to retaliate. Just a kilometer
from where I am now staying, a crowd of Kikuyus gathered
at the police station asking for trucks that they can use to
ferry their fellow Kikuyus from different parts of the country.
In the meantime, they are beginning to demand that all
non-Kikuyus in this region should start vacating.
I recently talked with a close Kikuyu friend from Eldoret
town and she was so scared. She is from the Kikuyu community
while most of her neighbors are from the Kalenjin community.
Due to no fault of hers, the president happens to be
from her community. Due to his own fault, the president has
greatly angered the Kalenjin community together with thirtyeight
other communities. Even the supposedly official results
show that he only led in two provinces out of eight. Consequently,
members of all other communities generally feel that
the president has robbed them. Unfortunately, they are taking
it out on innocent members of the three communities that
voted overwhelmingly for the president—Kikuyu, Embu and
Meru. It is becoming a ping-pong game of violence as members
of these three communities are also starting to hit out.
I blame the people who commissioned and condoned the
rigging of these elections. While I realize that most losers
blame vote rigging for their losses, these particular rigging
claims are not mere speculation. Samuel Kivuitu, the chairman
of the Electoral Commission of Kenya has already admitted
that he announced the presidential results under pressure
from the President’s Party of National Unity. He also conceded
that there were widespread irregularities which resulted in
extended delays in announcing results from some forty-eight
constituencies. Both local and international observers have
explicitly reported that while the actual voting process was
beyond fault, the tallying of the votes was riddled with faults.
Raila Odinga has refused to accept these results. Millions of
Kenyans have refused to accept these results. Business has
been paralyzed across the country, and it is not ‘business as
usual.’ Lives have been lost and life cannot go on like this.
Kenya is now in a state of panic. Just yesterday, when the
rest of the world was celebrating the New Year, thirty women
and children were burnt alive in a church where they had
sought refuge. They have died because someone found it fit
to rig an electoral process and someone else found it fit to
either facilitate or condone that rigging. They have died
because there has been no concerted high level effort to quell
a fire that is now consuming highways, byways and villages of
this great nation. They have died because a subjective mass
intolerance has been borne from massive political deception.
I hold all the aforementioned persons responsible for these
deaths and any other deaths that may result from this tragic
situation. The blood of these fellow Kenyans is primarily on
the hands of the politicians whose legs have trampled on the
fundamental voting rights of Kenyans. This innocent blood is
also on the guilty hands of those whose acts of violence
inflicted irreversible death blows. No injustice, however
heinous, warrants murder of innocents. As we learnt from the
Rwanda genocide, this blood will also be on the hands of all
those who will turn a blind eye on this simmering conflict.
Which is why we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to this
violence, and other violent situations around the world.
But what can you and I do to stop this violent, raging
fire that is razing down innocent Kenyan lives?
1. Share this information far and wide: Send this piece
to your local newsrooms and radio stations. When
more and more people are informed, more possibilities
avail themselves.
2. Volunteer as a web designer for the Kenya Independent
Media (Indymedia) website: The Kenya Indymedia
website can and should act as a platform for
accurate and widespread expression. We need to publish
dozens of first hand stories that may not make it to
the mainstream media. We also need to publish photos,
audio and video. We therefore need volunteer web
designers and programmers to work on it consistently
for a period of 2–3 months as the Kenya Indymedia
team builds its web designing and programming capability.
As Kenya Indymedia, we now need to communicate
to the world what is really happening and a
vibrant website will be one way of doing this. We are
liaising with a national movement known as Million
Youth Action to call and text people from across the
country, moreso the worst hit areas of western Kenya
and Rift Valley, so that we can in turn share their stories.
This way, statistics will cease to be cold figures and
they will take on a personal, human angle.
3. Host the Kenya Independent media website: In order
to enable a download of videos, images and audio of this
conflict, the website needs to have sufficient space. We
would like to use this site to keep track of all the Kenyans
who are needlessly losing their lives, getting injured,
robbed and displaced in this post-electoral violence. We
would also like to use it to keep track of who is instigating,
undertaking and condoning this violence. Even more
important, we would like to know the victims of this violence
so that we can reach out to them one way or another,
in our own small way.
4. Mobile phone communication: The only way that most
endangered people can be communicated with is through
mobile phones. We would like to distribute mobile phone
air time to as many people as possible so that we can
enable them to communicate about what happened, is
happening or may be about to happen. As already mentioned,
we will file all this communication on the website
and pass it on to relevant authorities. One dollar will provide
four minutes air time. These four minutes may make
a difference between life and death.
5. Help relocate someone from a danger zone: This violence
has taken on ethnic dimensions, which means that
people from certain communities are now no longer safe
in certain places in which they are the minorities. Property
belonging to such individuals is being looted and
destroyed. Even worse, their lives are in grave danger.
Many of them are, however, not able to flee since many
public means of transport have suspended their services
due to rampant insecurity on the roads. We intend to
relocate such people through any means possible. This
includes tipping food delivery trucks, cargo trains, newspaper
vans and any other vehicles that are moving from
one point to another for whatever reason.
6. Help feed a relocated person: We have identified and are
continuing to identify families in Nairobi and other parts of
the country that can temporarily host relocated persons. As
this is a grassroots movement with an emphasis on grassroots
solutions, we intend to temporarily host displaced
persons in host families. These families will greatly appreciate
whatever food supplements we can give them.
7. Diplomatic missions: Contact your respective
embassies in Kenya and seek to know what they are
doing about the deteriorating situation in Kenya . Give
them our contacts and forward this paper to them.
Embassies can do more than issue blanket statements for
people to ‘keep the peace,’ as if don’t already know that!
8. Tend to a child: More than 75,000 Kenyans are now
internally displaced. Most of them are women and
children. What a tragedy when young children are
caught up in such a mess. There is no perfect formula
for reaching out to such innocent ones. We intend to
take them toys, clothes, chocolate, drinks, books and
more gifts that can cheer them up. We will particularly
target children who have been displaced or those
whose parents have died in this conflict.
9. Pray: For those of you, who like me, believe in God,
do whisper a prayer that peace will eventually prevail
in Kenya .
10. Share your ideas: It will greatly help if you share any
concrete ideas that you may be having. Most politicians
are just telling Kenyans to keep the peace and not really
taking any concrete action to address this situation.
People power and solutions can make a BIG difference.

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