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

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid