Could unrest in Kenya be the solution to their big problem? – NRK Urix – Foreign news and documentaries

Could unrest in Kenya be the solution to their big problem?  – NRK Urix – Foreign news and documentaries

Tala scrolls across the screen. 99 percent, 98 percent, 99 percent.

The results came from small and large towns and villages across Kenya. The year was 2007. It was election night. I was excited about the outcome.

“one of us”

For weeks I listened to Kenyans discuss it amazing Kibaki must be allowed to continue as president, or if Raila Odinga takes office.

I tried to understand the issues that divided Kenyans, but I was never able to fully understand the reasons that led people to support one or the other.

“Because he's one of us,” was the answer I usually got.

“One of us?” I thought they were both Kenyans and therefore “one of us”.

I was very disappointed when I realized the true meaning of the answer I received.

Houses burning and dead people in the streets

This all happened while I was 20 years old volunteering for a few months in Nairobi.

At first I thought it was wonderful that there were elections in Kenya during the six months I was there. But that was because I knew very little about what a Kenyan election would actually mean.

Because, just days after watching the election broadcast on television, with many constituencies giving close to 100% to one candidate or another, I was sitting in a car across Nairobi.

From the car window I could look out over the Kibera slum. Many buildings were on fire. On the TV screen I could see dead people in the streets.

A man on crutches walks next to a dead man during the 2007-2008 riots in Kenya

A man lies dead in the street, as another walks by on crutches. More than 1,000 people were killed in a few weeks in Kenya in 2007.

Photo: AFP

It looked like Kenya was falling apart, and I was about to be evacuated with other young Norwegians in the city to the Norwegian School in Nairobi, a relatively safe place on the edge of what had become a chaotic and dangerous city.

Kenya quickly and brutally descended into a conflict where people could be killed and attacked if they were of the wrong race.

Ethnicity is more important than politics

Kenyan politics has already turned out to be particularly apolitical. When people had to cast their ballots, almost everything revolved around which ethnic group the voter belonged to. And whether the presidential candidate is “one of us, or one of the others.”

Now there are also rumours of widespread electoral fraud. Because the election results took so long to come in, and in the midst of the vote counting, incumbent President Kibaki suddenly managed to defeat opposition leader Odinga.

The matter turned into violence when many young people participated in demonstrations after the elections in Kenya in 2007.

Being out in the streets during the 2007 riots was dangerous. The riots were racially motivated.

Photo: AP

The Luo people, to whom Odinga belonged, were angry. Many of them were prepared to kill, preferably Kikuyus, who opposed Kibaki's people.

It's no secret that disgruntled politicians in Kenya are often willing to pay poor supporters to cause as much trouble as possible.

Future president in trouble in The Hague

What actually happened in 2007 is unclear, but all the violence that was carried out eventually became a matter at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Among the accused was a man named William Ruto. At that time he was playing a central role in the electorate, Raila Odinga. Ruto was blamed for organizing his army which went to war in the wake of the election.

The indictment never led to a verdict in The Hague, largely because several witnesses suddenly withdrew in mysterious circumstances. The case against William Ruto was dropped.

Today, William Ruto is the president of Kenya, while his boss since 2007, Raila Odinga, remains the opposition leader.

William Ruto is a controversial president.  The Kenyan was previously tried before the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of committing human rights violations.  But he was allowed to go free.

President William Ruto is a controversial figure in Kenyan politics.

Photo: Agence France-Presse

There is something different with the protesters today

Now write me 2024. Kenya has taken several steps in the right direction since 2007. The leaders have been able to find a solution and manage things together. The Constitution has been changed, so that any future electoral fraud will be dealt with in the courtrooms rather than on the streets.

But the ethnic division that has made Kenyan politics undemocratic continues to create discord among people, distrust of democracy, and a fertile ground for corruption.

But perhaps this week begins a new chapter. Because even though demonstrations were common in Kenya, it is still something completely new that Kenya is witnessing now.

The youth are behind the rebellion. With Kenyan flags and white lines of make-up drawn under their eyes, they are ready to go to battle.

They roll their eyes when I ask them what they think of the ethnic divide in Kenyan politics. They want to move away from the way their ancestors thought. They know the world outside Kenya, and they want to see a democracy more democratic than theirs.

The slogan has been changed to “Ruto must go”, as protesters feel neglected by politicians and hounded by police.

It is not an ethnic group that takes to the streets. And it's not just the country's poorest people who are standing on the barricades.

Kenya's many young people are clustered across social and ethnic classes. They discuss on the basis of politics, not whether he or she is “one of us or one of them.”

Protesters killed and injured on the streets of Nairobi. A host is lifted by two men who try to carry him away. Tear gas is thick around them.

It was very dramatic when protesters stormed Kenya's parliament this week. Many were injured, and more than 20 were killed.

Photo: Agence France-Presse

On the contrary, many young people in Kenya rarely see politicians as part of the people. Politicians are rich, and have no idea what it means for a loaf of bread or a can of cooking oil to become a few kroner more expensive.

The beginning of something new: “One of Us”?

When I stood on the streets of Nairobi and looked around, it was almost impossible to see anyone over 40 years old. This rebellion started on TikTok. Nymoten platforms are where old habits must be fought.

Senegal, on the other side of Africa, has seen a similar social uprising to Kenya’s in recent years, ultimately leading to the continent’s youngest president being elected earlier this year.

Heavy tear gas in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi

Tear gas was heavy in Nairobi, Kenya's capital, this week.

Photo: Agence France-Presse

Could the massive demonstrations in Kenya lead to such an outcome? Is it a new opposition party that rallies voters on a political rather than ethnic basis?

Only time will tell. The ongoing rebellion has no clear leader, and there are several forces that may want to capitalize on the momentum and hijack the entire movement.

But the protesters in the streets are well-educated, and have a good idea of ​​how politics works in Kenya.

Perhaps they are resistant enough not to be exploited by forces that want to use the rebellion for their own benefit, not for the benefit of the people.

In any case, the youth have succeeded in forming a powerful partisan brake on Kenyan parliamentarians. Because outside the venue there are angry youth, and this week some of them stormed the corridors of power to sabotage.

VTJ — NM-Demo-Nairobi-Stills

NRK met many protesters on the streets this week. Some of them lit candles in memory of fellow protesters who were killed.

Photo: Vegard Tjurhome / NRK

In a few years, other, more peaceful protesters may be able to reach parliament in a democratic way.

The young party may be able to turn Kenyan politics upside down. So that future Kenyan voters, from all ethnic groups, can vote for the same candidate and say with pride that it is because that candidate is “one of us Kenyans.”

06/29/2024 at 10.01

06/29/2024 at 10:14

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Jabori Obasanjo

Jabori Obasanjo

"Coffee trailblazer. Certified pop culture lover. Infuriatingly humble gamer."

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