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Diary 21 – Observations (from the ground as it were)


1. i have been in kenya since early september 2007. i am finding it a tad bit intellectually dishonest when people here express shock at the aftermath of saturday bloody saturday (december 29th, 2007). i find their expressions a bit rich in that the one thing i quickly realized when i arrived here some four odd months ago is that the whole place was very polarized. peoples minds were balkanized long before kivuitu soiled his legacy. most of the people I have interacted with are young urban elites, and so it only goes to sociologically figure that if their positions were/ are so hardened, then those of the less privileged would be even more so. the polarization was/ is largely based along tribal lines. being that they are urbane, schooled, well traveled, and sophisticated, it was of course cloaked in the language of “unprecedented economic growth” on one side, and “a desire for genuine change for all” on the other. every now and then, after a few loose frothy ones for the guys, and a few glasses of casketed wine for the ladies, it would slip out from certain quarters that their side was going to win and there was no other possible outcome. both sides and their rabid supporters had basically already imagined the outcome of the election. the incumbent side (and i am still talking about their urban elite supporters here) went as far as to declare that if it meant that they would have to rig the election, then so be it. the main opposition side (and i am still talking about their urban elite supporters here) went as far as declaring that anything short of victory would result in all hell breaking loose. it has now come to pass that there was indeed rigging, and all hell hath broken loose. why then are we acting surprised when we had called it all along? we were so hardened and blinded in our positions, we never envisioned any outcome other than our imagined one, we happily (albeit stylishly) donned our parents tribal blazers and pashminas, what did we expect? how else could it have ended? are we being intellectually honest with ourselves when we demand a reasonable outcome given our almost universal unreasonable posturings and positions in the months leading up to the election, and even after?

2. oftentimes when the kind of lawlessness that we have recently witnessed breaks out, the political elite and we in the privileged classes are quick to label the perpetraors of such acts as “drugged up youth” or “hired guns”, or “idlers” who have “nothing to lose”, etc. it has also been said that the “type” of guys throwing stones and burning stuff up are guys who have never worked a single day in their lives and are simply waiting for handouts, etc. now meet my mechanic, who shall be named X for now. guy is in his mid 30s. owns a garage in donholm estate. employs six guys. is a beneficiary of the much touted youth fund. is looking to start importing and selling cars this year. a fairly successful average kenyan as it were. making his money the honest way by providing a badly needed service. probably contributing more to the kenyan economy than i or some of my well oiled chaps are. yet and still, the guy downed his tools last week, put away his favoured daily attire of slacks, italian shoes, and dark stylish shirts, and spent the better part of two days engaged in running battles with the cops in the thika road area. he says he was protesting the declared outcome of the presidential election. he and those alongside him felt that the only way their voices of protest can be heard given that their votes did not count for anything, is by taking to the streets and making their presence thus felt.

21 comments to Diary 21 – Observations (from the ground as it were)

  • kamau

    ..Quite an inciteful perspective on the likely genesis of the current Crisis. It is just sad to hear that even the resonably well enlightened crowd on either side had for whatever reason given into blind loyalty to their tribal charlatans masquerading as politicians. For the life of me i cannot get the”economic growth” crap. Granted the country has perfomed well economically, who is to say some other person wouldn’t faired equally if not better than General Kiguoya (coward), pardon me but the last time i was in the lower half of central (read greater Kiambu) this what he was referred to as ….i don’t know what changed but i digress.

    I would argue based purely on anecdotal evidence that whatever economic progress recorded was not entirely by design. This’s how i get there, Kibaki is just too lazy to govern or do the heavy lifting that comes with the office (Fred Thompson anyone). So the dude lets the government get the heck out of the way and the free enterprise (democtratised socialism) takes over… Before long too many people take Michael Douglas’s famous line in the Wall Street – Greed is good, litterally, and so the race to the abyss (bottom line to them) commences.
    Untill these minions- urbunites included(saddly) stop heeding advise from the elected clowns and do something independent like ……what’s the word i’m i looking for????? o yeah… THINK!! we’ll be in for a long protracted ideological battle and i do not see these demagoes backing down – not when they can count on regions of narrow minded-our turn-us v/s them constituents.

    Lord have mercy

  • savin

    Heres the video of Police shooting unarmed civialians.

  • sam dc

    Well said, or should I say, honestly said.

  • Khalifa Hussein

    Thank you.

  • hi,
    i can totally relate to you feelings of deep division.
    I have been called a traitor by my friends for supporting “that thing”.
    And it is even more sad that these firends of mine are well educated and in well paying jobs.
    What defeats me is the fact that they have all retreated into the shell of thier tribes, yet all have lived in nairobi their whole lives!!!!!!!!!!
    i believe what is fuelling their dis illusion is the message they get from thier homes.The message from parents, uncles, aunties and the rest who come from a generation where there was the “you” and the “us”..I have visited these home and heard the vitriol poured against the”violent luos” yet they dont want to see the basic facts.
    I myself am nairobi bred and born and have no affiliates with my “motherlad”.i socialise with my friends from all over kenya with no tags ppaced on them.
    I feel hurt and helpless that instead of coming together to find a solution my ‘friends’ choose to congregate, start speking in their mother tongue and have an air of ‘we are greater than you all”.
    Its sad.
    Its also sad that tribal lines are being used to fuel hatred in the RV.I dont agree with that………
    To give you a picture of how cosmopolitant we are in our family let me give a break down.:
    brother married a mkamba:two children…what does that make the children?
    sister married a kalenjin
    other sister married a kikuyu
    myself am married to a kikuyu

    what will our children say?
    lets think and fight for the right things:
    1.a new constitution to govern the country so the mess of last year may never be repeated.
    2.lets not propagate for “fake” peace, let us get to the root of the problem.
    3.lets not cheat ourselves that everything is ok, lets deal with it.We kenyans have a knack of burying our heads in the sand and waitning for all hell to blow over….”then we move on”

  • Con

    The idea of being ‘surprised’ that Kenyans are still tribalists is not only silly but ignorant and a sign of visual and mental blindness. For months before the election it was always a conversation of ‘us vs you’ or ‘we will show you guys’. I’m not talking of guys in Kibera or Rift Valley, I’m talking of guys in Lavington, Westlands and Runda!
    Even before that it was ‘ i am a XXXXX, i should behave like this…’ What a shame!
    Aren’t you the same urban elites who assume that because in your family you have ‘intermarried’ you are no longer a tribalist! Well, if you were not one, you would not even know what the word ‘intermarry’ means. Aren’t you the same people who see a biracial (.5 as other say) and ask ‘what tribe is your Kenyan parent?
    he who says he is shocked at the aftermath ought to be ashamed!

  • David Mutai

    Kind regards,
    Could you please have a look at this and maybe start a topic on it. It may shock you:


  • Daniel Waweru


    (1) I’ve been to Kenya twice this year. First visit was in June – I hadn’t been there for a while. I had intended to register to vote. The country was more ethnically polarised than ever before. It must be said that both sides were going at it. Since I’ve had some experience of (and written against) anti-black racism, I had absolutely no desire to even remotely cooperate with either side. I decided not to vote, so didn’t register.
    I returned in December, as a sort of one-man observation team. I’m familiar with the conduct of the campaign in parts of the Rift Valley (both North and South). It was clear that preparations for serious violence were in place: the hate speech now flowed freely (especially, and surprisingly, in the South Rift); it was clear that substantial numbers of children were no longer at school (especially in the North Rift); and people were beginning to get serious and detailed warnings – a friend of mine in an interethnic marriage moved his immediate family out and warned some of the others (he’s now in very serious trouble for not warning all of them). I’m in an interethnic relationship; friends of mine arranged for me to talk to a woman who was also in one. She was extremely perceptive about the nature and likely sources of the violence; talking to her convinced me that there was going to be serious fighting, even in Nairobi, whatever the outcome of the election. Quite simply, neither side would accept defeat. For these reasons, I, like you, I expected violence.
    What has surprised me has been the intensity of the violence, the clear evidence of long planning, and the fact that nominally progressive people have been willing to excuse it. Especially in parts of Kisumu, parts of Kibera, and in the North Rift, the intensity of the violence is unprecedented. It is now clear that quite a lot of the violence was planned in advance, and that some ethnic groups were selected at the planning stage (see below). Before the election, I was alarmed by the rhetoric of the politicians, and even more so by that of the activists. I too received the vile texts. But I was very sympathetic to ODM’s case for redistribution, and discounted at least some of the anti-GEMA rhetoric as the price of getting progressive politics done in Kenya. I was stupid. But I’m surprised that progressive or leftish people who – now that the deliberately ethnic nature of much of the violence is clear – should know better, are quite willing to continue to excuse, ignore, minimise, or downplay just what is going on.

    (2) I quite agree that the violence this time isn’t confined to desperate, poor, or ill-educated people.
    However, you’re drawing the wrong conclusion from it. There was a good interview with some of the Kibera militia leaders on the BBC recently. They were well-dressed and spoke reasonably good English. The BBC reporter asked them why they were targeting Kikuyus; they responded that (i) they couldn’t get Kibaki, and (ii) it was a deliberate strategy to cause a crisis serious enough to get international attention. (In that, they have definitely succeeded – the BBC interview is proof.) I have to admit I found it quite surprising that they didn’t bother to deny that they were targeting Kikuyus. It was also obvious that the Kibera militias had good logistical support: they were able to identify patrolling plainsclothes police officers. Two conclusions ought to be drawn: the violence, even in Kibera, has been planned for some time; and that even at the planning and strategy stage, Kikuyus – and, as subsequent experience has shown, other ethnicities suspected of voting PNU – were deliberately selected for violence on the basis of their ethnicity.
    No doubt it is a matter for careful judgement whether spontaneous, ethnically-directed violence after the announcement is justified. But all the evidence now shows that a great part of the violence after the announcement of the election results was deliberately planned, and that it was ethnically-direceted at the planning and strategy stage. I can’t see that deliberately procuring the murder and ethnic cleansing of your neighbours is an appropriate response to election rigging.

  • Thank you for sharing this. I have experienced the us vs them position with my friends, and felt uncomfortable and shocked. I continue to wonder what will happen next, and wonder whether we have the power to effect change.

  • NYC

    Great point….nobody should act surprised of the outcome.I was in Lowell/ Massachusetts, during election period…Ory i know you are familiar with this area cause Harvard was but 45 mins away.Now for those who have visited Lowell/Mass..well know it is predominantly populated by Kikuyu’s .. i think there are more kikuyu’s than they are Americans in Lowell-Mass but my point is..it’s Kibaki city….i got into an argument with some locals down there making comparrissons of the two parties PNU & ODM not cause i’m Luo,Luhya,Kalenjin,Meru,Kamba..Other..but as a Kenyan who has a right of opinion and let’s just say it didn’t go too well..i mean for real…not well @ all to the point that ,i was @ Logan International Airport in no time.It’s 2008 get over your TRIBE..it ain’t that serious.

  • fiona

    Am not ashamed that I thought better of my people. Am not naive either to think that tribalism is not the bigger problem in this current crisis we are facing, it is not lost to me that this is abit of Molo, Lamu, Kibera, Naivasha, Eldoret,Kisumu in it.. All those dark days of sweepng it under the rug and forgetting about it.When loss of life is just another gorvernment statistic and not national tragedy.

    That belief that one tribe is more superior than the other. The foolish thought that if the leader is from your tribe then you too “kula from the pot” see how the Kalenjins thrived under Moi, the progress the Kikuyus had under Kenyatta when all roads led to Gatundu. The great Luhya prophecy of the day when the Luo will be the leader and then they will topple him and take over. The luos and Raila Kende. I know all that and hear it.

    That nonsense when the truth is how many Kikuyus just like every other Kenyan live from paycheck to paycheck? How many Kalenjins during Moi’s reign lost their land. livelihood and could not even afford to educate their children? How many Luos and Luhyas would assume that under Railaa/Mudavadi life as they know it will be transformed overnight? How many Kikuyus are living in Kibera just like every other slum dweller in Kenya ?

    Tribalism has been since the days of the British to present day Kenya the magic wand that has destroyed and not built us . But it works you see. It is easier to blame each other,even when we live in the same pit hole and eat dust. Divisions are created throughout history to keep the masses in check. So that the leadership maintains its status quo. Let us make it about Kikuyus and Luos (how many other tribes exist in this country ?) And not about the real issues the questionalble election, Goldenberg, Anglo -Leasing, 6 figure salaries for MPs while the teachers, doctors and nurses get squat. Sub-standard education system. The jobs Kibaki promised when he came into power..

    Yap, I know it all , but am also believing that there are some out there who like that young man are sick of this nonsense. Sick of Goldenberg, Anglo-leasing, Artur brothers,having no voice, no justice, sick of Obama and many other brilliant sons and daughters of Kenya who Kenya could not take care of so they sought refuge elsewhere to give themselves that simple chance of progress. Maybe some of us are like that. Hoping that they will be a time in Kenya when there will be a young independent mind from anyprovince who will get his/her chance at leadership because his/her people will like his/her ideas and give him/her a chance. He/she will probably be the son/daughter of a hard working family , not of the many ruling Kenyan families who feel they are all entitled to State house. Am looking at that day and that is why am going out there in the bitter cold to protest. It is not lost to me that reality of my situation, but I also know the kind of change I want in my country, despite of the many stereotypes I know many Kenyans above that today. It is for their sake that I say no this fight going on is for justice. For our future and for the future of our children. It is for future elections in Kenya. It is for our voice. It is for vote.

    We either want tribalism or nationalism to win. I choose the latter let peace prevail. Till then we shall fight on.

  • pat

    Is it possible for you to prominently encourage members of the press and the general public to take photos of individuals and government actions as evidence. I mean like pictures of the trigger happy police who are shooting innocent people. The images can be used in an international tribunal (if there will be one in future) and as a deterrent, bring this evidence gathering to the police chief, specifically by telling them that in case of a trial, they will be answerable to the actions of their staff.
    If you publicise this exercise, there is a small chance that they will restrain them from excessive force.
    If you need web space for the photos or a web album, i can help.

  • Great thoughts, as usual. I’d really enjoy your comments on this post and academic article, and whether it applies to the Kenyan situation like I think it might:



  • To David Waweru:

    Please get in touch with me at kenyanentrepreneur@gmail.com – I’d like to get additional information on what you just wrote above. thanks


  • Mama Janet

    This video http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=DtFhwgyeVyI is sickening. Thank you for posting.

    I’m sure this is just one of thousands of atrocities going on right now at home. I’ve never felt so impotent. What can I do? What can we do? Publicizing such horrific acts and forcing a dialogue is much needed. Bullets fired into a crowd don’t discriminate between “us” and “them”- that boy could be any Kenyan’s brother/cousin/ son/uncle/husband. This is just totally vile, but the world needs to see this. I’m just…speechless.

    I was talking to someone who was scheduled to comment about the events in Kenya on European television. She was bumped for a more pressing current affair (perhaps for Bush’s travels to the Middle East), the explanation being that “the crisis in Kenya has finally cooled down, it’s not such a hot topic anymore”. The media sucks sometimes.

  • Ishara

    I just read this article and had to post an exerpt here so the Diaspora knows the business community in Kenya feels as aggrieved by the election results as much as any other Kenyan and they are quite capable of closing up shop and joining the protests as is shown by the exemplar below in Voi Town.

    Business paralysed and schools closed as more youths protest

    Story by NATION Team
    Publication Date: 1/18/2008

    Business in Mwatate and Voi towns was Thursday paralysed the whole afternoon as police clashed with several hundred demonstrators who had responded to the ODM call for mass action.

    The Orange Democratic Movement had called for three days of mass action countrywide to protest at what they claim to be the rigging of the December 27 elections in favour of President Kibaki. The protests began on Wednesday.

    In Voi, police officers led by deputy OCPD John Leshimpiro, confronted area Member of Parliament Dan Mwazo who was leading about 50 people to Moi Stadium for the rally.

    As Mr Mwazo argued with Mr Leshampiro, some businesspeople closed their premises and joined the march, causing the crowd to grow to about 300.

    Mr Leshimpiro on realising things were getting out of hand, ordered his officers to disperse the crowd with tear gas.


  • debaba

    Guys, let us all think as human being with all basic needs of life, it does not mater who you are where you come from, we all want the best in life, nobody chooses their parents, thus where they are born, Therefore regardless of what has happened we should come words of healing, kindness and sympathy. Thos of you living abroad, know what it is to be black in the western world. We should be advocates of peace, love unity, kindess and most of all loving our neighbours as we love ourselves, Need I say more, the Bible says it all.

  • Edwin Mukhokho

    Am surprised that some people think what has happened in kenya was organised. i can tell you that if the police continues to brutalizing unarmed citizens and not leaving them options. Orgainsed crime is going to set in. we have seen that happen inthe past with the ” infamous dissidents” and “mwakenya”. I hope some one in the Illigite government get some sense and exercises some judgement.

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