News / Africa

Kenya Power-Sharing Plan Sparks Conflict

Demonstrators burn tires to protest the results of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) primary elections, in Aherou, Kenya on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013. This week, political parties held internal elections to decide candidates who will vie for gubernatorial, senate, county and women representatives seats in the upcoming March 4 elections.
Demonstrators burn tires to protest the results of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) primary elections, in Aherou, Kenya on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013. This week, political parties held internal elections to decide candidates who will vie for gubernatorial, senate, county and women representatives seats in the upcoming March 4 elections.
Gabe Joselow
When Kenyans go to vote in March general elections, they will, for the first time, be selecting candidates for newly-created positions including governor, senator and women's representatives.

The new positions were created as part of a process of "devolution" laid out in the new constitution to distribute power and resources from the central government to local constituencies.

'Tearing the country apart'

But recent violence in the country's Tana Delta region, and the chaos of Kenya's party primary contests, could signal that a process designed to bring people together could instead be tearing the country apart.

Ekuru Aukot, the head of the constitution writing team, said the point was to correct the wrongs left over from years of colonial rule and the legacy of former Kenyan leaders who consolidated power in the central government and in their own tribes.

He says one of the concepts of devolution is “that level of inclusiveness, making every part of Kenya relevant to the governance of the country.”

Bringing government down to the local level will provide better access to education and health services as well as infrastructure and development funds, according to Aukot.

“People wanted power to come close to them,” he says. “They wanted to be able to make decisions for [themselves].”

Exacerbating problems

But problems have started to surface.

Last week, Kenya's party primaries for the newly created positions were marred by disorganization and allegations of vote rigging.

The International Crisis Group warns competition for these positions could increase the likelihood of violence around the election. In a new report on Kenya, the group says “candidates could exploit and aggravate local grievances and disputes to mobilize support.”

An example of this may already be playing out in Kenya's Tana River region, where back-and-forth raids between the Orma and Pokomo communities have killed more than 140 people since August. One of the suspects charged with instigating the violence, former member of parliament Dhadho Godhana, is running for governor.

The implementation of devolution has been problematic, according to ICG Kenya analyst Abdullahi Halakhe, who notes the boundaries of some of Kenya's 47 counties have been drawn in a way which groups populations by tribe or clan.

“Theoretically, devolution is looked at as a panacea for exactly the same problems that it's now exacerbating, if not carefully crafted,” he says.

Ethnic alliances

Tribalism was a mainstay of Kenyan politics long before the new constitution was written.

Presidential candidates normally choose running mates from other tribes to help them shore up as much of the vote as possible.

The presidential nominee for the Amani coalition, Musalia Mudavadi, believes it makes sense for a candidate to focus on his tribal base.

“[We] have to be realistic that the trend has been that somebody, first of all, consolidates a certain groundswell of support and then moves over to try and link up with other people,” Mudavadi says.

A political moderate, Mudavadi comes from the Luhya community, Kenya's second-largest tribe. He draws much of his support from western Kenya, which is also the home turf of Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Despite the current necessity for ethnic alliances, Mudavadi sees signs Kenya is slowly moving away from tribal politics.

“I'm not saying we're out of the woods yet, and perhaps we may not be for a fairly long period of time,” he says. “But we are gradually beginning to embrace politics that rotate around issues more and more.”

Post-election violence

Kenyans have firsthand knowledge of the dangers of tribal politics.

More than 1,100 people were killed in inter-ethnic fighting after the last disputed election in 2007.

Keen to avoid a repeat of that post-election violence, Kenyans hope a new system of government will help heal old wounds, rather than create new conflicts.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Audio Top 5 Songs for Week Ending May 23

This week's lineup can be summed up like this: 'It's The Same Old Song' - but they're great songs - featuring Walk The Moon, The Weeknd, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: david lulasa from: tambua,gimarakwa,hamisi,v
January 23, 2013 5:25 AM
the thing that will always spark conflicts is the total belief on things like number of electorate will be the absolute makers of leaders..they must know that millions and billions of voters can go astray..let there be wisdom the next time..raila,kalonzo,wetangula,uhuru,ruto should stop relying on the numbers of their tribes..they are not the well known best choosers in the world.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs