650 people killed, 2,500 people displaced, elections rigged.
At first blush, this doesn't seem to make sense to Americans used to peaceful elections. To make sense of it, we need to understand the details and, more importantly, the fundamental importance of Les Rex (Rule of Law) and Property Right.
First, read this article for the details...Kenya's current president, Mwai Kibaki, was re-elected under suspicious circumstances. This from the East African:
In an interview, ODM presidential candidate Raila Odinga made the claim that they have been protesting for over a year President Kibaki's stacking the election board with his supporters (one being his personal lawyer) in order to do this very thing.
This came out clearly after the chaos that unfolded in Kenya following the December 27, 2007 election. Three days after polling, the Electoral Commission chairman Samuel Kivuitu declared the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki re-elected by around 230,000-majority vote.
THIS TRIGGERED COUNTRYWIDE VIOlence that has left hundreds of Kenyans dead, rendered thousands homeless and sent hundreds more into exile.
It seemed preposterous that Kibaki could win the election at the eleventh hour when he was already trailing his rival, Raila Odinga, by around a million votes!
NOR DID IT MAKE SENSE THAT VOTers would elect 99 of the 210 MPs from Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement compared with 43 MPs for Kibaki’s Party of National Unity — and, at the same time, fail to elect Mr Odinga president!In any case, Mr Kivuitu later admitted he didn’t know who won, and that he declared Kibaki “winner” under pressure from Kibaki officials and other vested interests. Commissioners Jack Tumwa, Joseph Dena, David Ndambiri, Samuel arap Ng’eny and Jeremiah Matagaro also publicly doubted the results.
He has not said much to quell the violence.
When the opposition leader was asked by the BBC if he would urge his supporters to calm down, he replied: “I refuse to be asked to give the Kenyan people an anesthetic so that they can be raped.”Tribal issues play a major role in the violence. The two largest tribes are the Kikuyu and Luo. Kibaki's tribe, Kikuyu, dominated government due to cronyism. When they rigged the election, Kenyans were infuriated and have victimized many innocent Kikuyus.
Many among the Luo have also seen this as an opportunity to retake tribal lands they believe belong to them. A gentleman I know, of the Kikuyu tribe, has had his family's business completely destroyed by Luo -- all buildings, vehicles, produce -- gone. People have fled to Nairobi to escape tribal repercussions.
It seems to me that tribalism is a factor, but the underlying problem is corruption, which undermines respect for law. An underlying theme of every third world country is corruption.
For example, in the 80's the Ethiopian famine that was popularized by Sally Struthers was not caused only by a lack of rain, but by corrupt government officials that left grain on the docks, refusing to provide it to their people.
I don't know that Odinga is the man to bring about clean government (he allegedly promised Northeast Kenyans Sharia Law if he was elected), or if his comprehensive land reform would be based on anything remotely akin to property right (though he did say that his land reform would make land "accessible to people who want to use it for productive purposes." This may mimic John Locke's theory of property right.)
However, he at least seems to understand 2 things: The initiator of this conflict was the rigging of the election (rule of law) and the land issues must be addressed (property right).
UPDATE: Click "Kenya" label for ongoing updates and insights