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Peace in Kenya Teeters as Reform Plans Unravel

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Peace in Kenya Teeters as Reform Plans Unravel

Posted by Laura Heaton on April 10, 2009

Peace in Kenya Teeters as Reform Plans Unravel

News out of Kenya today sounded an alarm about a looming threat of mass violence, as plans for reforms promised by the coalition government break down.

In a report updated by IRIN today, Wafula Okumu, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Security Studies, had this to say:

Kenyans are not only growing far apart but also frustrated and angry at the way politicians are playing a game of Russian roulette with their future; the pent-up anger will erupt with volcanic ferocity.

A rare editorial published today on the front page of Kenya’s leading newspaper, Daily Nation, noted that the communication between coalition partners was failing and pleaded:

Don’t lead us back to war. The people of Kenya are watching as their political leaders threaten to once again send this country down the path of death and destruction.

Of particular concern are reports that a number of leading politicians from the Rift Valley, the region at the epicenter of the violence in the fallout from the 2007 elections, are maintaining militias. From Charles Otieno, a security analyst who came across the information about the militias through his research on peace-building strategies in the region, said:

Conditions for armed violence in Kenya have never been so eminent. (…) There is something behind all this organisation. It’s not just organisation for the sake of [election] campaigns like you’ve seen in the past. This is organisation in preparation for potential violent confrontation. (…) Politicians are willing now to fund these militias to remain organised as a standing army, and that in itself means the potential for violence is very, very high because each constituency has a politician [in office] who has an opponent on the ground, and each opponent has his own militia group.

The U.N. is reportedly working with the government to investigate such groups. A U.N. representative noted that, while the coalition is imperfect, the government’s leadership should see it as the best vehicle for pushing the reform agenda and avoiding a slide back to violence.

Enough has its eye on these unfolding issues in Kenya. Check back here for updates.

Photo: Kenyans displaced by post-election violence fetch water at Eldoret IDP camp, April 2008 – IRIN