Kenya: DIY Violence is Corrosive of Nationhood

This article is part of a debate organized by Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR) in collaboration with Moi University (Eldoret) and Pambazuka News. A selection of essays based on this debate will be published in an edited volume by Fahamu Books. For PDF documents of the debate please go to www.csls.ox.ac.uk/otjr.php.


It is not often that participants in ethnic cleansing confess to it openly, but William ole Ntimama has managed it twice: in a 1996 interview, and more recently. The brazenness of the impunity is revolting: it is natural to want accountability and reform, and equally natural to think we can have both. This, unfortunately, is a bit of a farce: stable reform and calling the violent to account are incompatible. The key is to see that the main strand of political violence in multiparty Kenya is unified by a stable and clear set of aims: majimboism, understood to mean the Kenyan form of exclusive ethnic federalism which finds its most fervent advocates in Rift Valley Province’s political class. In the 1990s, the violence was driven and supported by the majimboist-controlled state; it didn’t require mass mobilisation. 2007 was a genuine departure because the extent and intensity of majimboist violence demonstrated that communal mobilisation for violence is an effective substitute for state support. The beneficiaries have no incentive to give it up, and every incentive to avoid the consequences of past violence by holding onto power. Since their participation is necessary for reform, we can have either reform or accountability but not both.

My first job is to show that despite appearances (diversity of actors) the violence was actually unified in aim. The argument is simple: Rift Valley province is the centre of political violence in multi-party Kenya. The easy metric is deaths: even in 2007, when the violence is supposed to have been much better spread, 65% (744/1133) of recorded murders happened there (Waki: 309). We’re now eighteen years into the violence: it has broken out intermittently since 1991. Prolonged violence of this sort – locally-specific, ethnically-targeted, lethal, and carried out by a number of coordinated small groups – is organized and backed by some sort of ideological structure. That follows from the fact that most unplanned violence is difficult to start or maintain, tends to be brief, and is usually non-lethal (Collins 2008: 14-16). The exceptions to the rule of brevity (for small-group violence) occur where:

either (a) the fight is highly circumscribed, so that it is not really “serious,” or it is clearly understood that there are safeguards to limit the fighting; or (b) the type of exception described by the expression “hitting a man when he is down” (although the victim may well be a woman or a child), where in effect there is no real fight but a massacre or punishment (Collins 2008: 16).

Repeated bouts of this kind of sustained lethal violence require planning and preparation; planning and preparation for violence require coordination and justification, and hence institutionalisation. The justification is fairly clear: a middle-aged man interviewed by Al-Jazeera in Kibera, and Jason Kosgei in the Christian Science Monitor, gave almost identical answers: the violence was to end state-backed Gikuyu domination, which had begun with Kenyatta and never ended. As Lynch 2008 reports (Lynch 2008: 567), a significant portion of Kalenjin backed the violence, and have fairly specific reasons for doing so. Those reasons aren’t significantly different from those reported in Multiparty Politics in Kenya: In 1992, Biwott promised that non-Kalenjin trading licences would be revoked, and Lotodo demanded that all Gikuyu leave West Pokot (Throup and Horsnby 1998: 543). Then, as now, the immediate aims of the violence — to remove non-Kalenjin from the Rift Valley, and to place the remainder, if any, in a subordinate and dependent position –were clear.

The state did outsource violence in the 1990s; much less so afterwards. Why? In the face of the state’s significantly increased capacity for repression (Branch and Cheeseman 2008: 20), why was the violence so much worse in 2007? And why was violence was much better controlled in the 1990s than it was later? Most analyses of the violence have proceeded by identifying the actors, on the reasonable assumption that pinpointing the actor is a good proxy for pinpointing the motive. Going directly to motives, however, has some explanatory advantage: it promises informative answers to each of those questions.

Susan Mueller’s The Political Economy of Kenya’s Crisis may be the most comprehensive analysis of the underlying causes of the post-election violence. Her argument is pretty much that three factors – privatized, diffused, extra-State violence; ethnic clientelist parties; and the high-stakes prize of the Imperial Presidency – conjoined (with a very close election) to blow things up in 2007. The obvious response is to ask why nothing similar happened in 1997, and why all the factors she mentions are structural: the explanation, as given, would still work if the agents were switched. Every factor she lists was present then – if anything, the Presidency was even more imperial, the ethnic clientelist parties even more intensely ethnocentric. Yet there was relatively little violence around election time in 1997: most of the violence came well before or well after polling day. In particular, the announcement of the results in 1997 – results which in several cases were known to be entirely fraudulent – passed without incident.

This lack of specificity leaves the analysis less compelling than it might be; nowhere more so than her analysis of the state’s cession of its monopoly of violence. It is one thing to observe that the state outsourced violence; quite another to ignore the fact that the first Kibaki administration sought, very crudely, to re-establish the monopoly of violence. It is more accurate to attribute the cession of the state’s monopoly of violence to the Moi state – the state in the hands of the majimboist faction. That move – appeal to the motives of the faction in control of the state, rather than the state itself – explains why the state acted so differently either side of 2002, and it offers a direct explanation for the state’s choice and method of outsourcing violence. Moi’s outsourcing of violence in the 1990s is often explained as a pragmatic choice: irregular gangs and militias are untraceable; in employing them, the state got its extra-legal coercion done while minimizing its exposure. This is utterly unconvincing. A quick flick through the Akiwumi report demonstrates that civil servants openly participated in the violence. Nicholas Mberia – then the District Commissioner in Kericho – and 29 APs in his command violently evicted tenants from Buru farm on the morning of 13 December 1993. Not long after, he was promoted to Provincial Commissioner, Rift Valley Province. Several witnesses to the evictions in Enoosupukia testified that the Narok County Council wildlife ranger Johnson ole Punywa shot dead three residents. He too was later promoted. (Klopp 2001: 496). If the point of outsourcing violence was to conceal the state’s hand, then the state made a fearful mess of it. It’s likelier that the outsourcing of violence was driven, at least in part, by ideological motives – the drive to weaken and personalize the centre of the state, while strengthening the majimboist periphery.

Branch and Cheeseman account for the upsurge in violence by appeal to elite fragmentation. That’s a necessary rather than a sufficient condition. Remember that what’s wanted is an answer to why the violence crossed a certain threshold – why it escaped control of the state. Without an underlying capacity for violence, elite fragmentation need not have violent consequences, and it certainly need not have consequences so violent that the state struggles to control them. Appeal to a generalised diffusion of violence is nearer the mark, but it still underdetermines the quality of the violence in the Rift Valley: if elite fragmentation were sufficient to explain the escape of the violence from state control, then that would have happened in more than one place. It didn’t so, it isn’t. Capacity for violence matters; appeal to majimboist motives is sufficient to predict it.

After nearly 20 years or so of intermittent ethnic violence with zero consequences, with and without state support – and since much of the Kalenjin political class (and William ole Ntimama) is on board with the violence – it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the violence has communal approval and support (Lynch 2008: 566-7; Ashforth 2009: 16). Some significant proportion of Kalenjin opinion leaders outside the political class – the rural middle classes, in particular – have been radicalised. That has been a necessity: when the violence had state support, it did not need communal mobilisation, and there was no need for the ideological backing. Absent state support, communal backing is necessary: the violence has become more ideological as it has become more popular. The balance of power is such that Kalenjin opinion leaders who support ethnic violence, and the majimbo project which justifies it, lack effective internal constraints.

The view that majimboist violence is driven by elite incitement is false: rather, majimboist aims are now widely popular outside the political class, and are captured by it (Ashforth 2009: 18-19). Majimboists willing to resort to violence are well-mobilised because they’ve had to be: without state patronage, the fervour of their cause has had to cover for the organizational goodies the state would have brought. The underlying strategy of reform-by-coalition-government in Kenya is to get the big beasts of the political jungle into government, so that they’re all bought into the new constitutional order. If they are to feel invested, they must be free to manoeuvre; for majimboist politicians, that freedom of action is directed, as it must be, to avoiding accountability for the violence. There can be no new constitutional order without majimboist involvement; since most of the violence has been in majimboist areas, accountability and reform are incompatible.

*Dr. Daniel Waweru is the Chief Editor of KenyaImagine

 

The above article is available as a PDF

 


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Adam Ashforth (2009). “Ethnic Violence and the Prospects for Democracy in the Aftermath of the 2007 Kenyan Elections.” Public Culture, 21(1): 9-19.

Shashank Bengali (2009). “One year after the massacres, Kenya’s runners reflect.” The Christian Science Monitor, February 25, 2009 <http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0225/p25s11-woaf.html> (8 July 2009).

Bill Berkeley (1996). “An Encore for Chaos?The Atlantic Monthly, February 1996. <http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/96feb/africa/africa.htm> (08 July 2009).

Randall Collins (2008). Violence: A Micro-sociological theory. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence (2008). Report of the Commission of Inquiry into post-election violence (“Waki”). October 15 2008. <http://www.dialoguekenya.org/docs/PEV%20Report.pdf> (08 July 2009).

Jacqueline Klopp (2001). “Ethnic Clashes’ and Winning Elections: The Case of Kenya’s Electoral Despotism.” Canadian Journal of African Studies, 35(2): 17.

Gabrielle Lynch (2008). “Courting the Kalenjin: The failure of dynasticism and the strength of the ODM wave in Kenya’s Rift Valley province.” African Affairs, 107(429): 541-568.

NTV Kenya (2008). “William ole Ntimama War Monger or responsible minister?” 24 July 2008. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLIM9gPHq5s> (08 July 2009).

David Throup, Charles Hornby (1998). Multi-party Politics in Kenya. Oxford: James Currey.

Akiwumi Judicial Commission of Inquiry on Tribal Clashes (1999). Report of the Judicial Commission appointed to inquire into tribal clashes in Kenya: Rift Valley. Date of publication unclear. <http://www.scribd.com/doc/2204752/Akiwumi-Report-Rift-Valley-Province> (08 July 2009).

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4 thoughts on “Kenya: DIY Violence is Corrosive of Nationhood


  1. Daniel Waweru’s post is certainly provocative and there are a number of issues that we wish to raise in response. First, we dispute Waweru’s representation of an argument we made in an article published in African Affairs earlier this year. Apparently we ‘account for the upsurge in violence by appeal to elite fragmentation.’ This is an overly reductive version of our argument. The article was an attempt to identify some longer-term contributing factors to the ongoing political crisis, of which the violence was but a part. As Waweru acknowledges, this process of elite fragmentation is certainly part of the story but nowhere in that article do we claim that it is the whole story.
    Our main concerns with Waweru’s piece do not, however, relate to what we or others may or may not have written. Rather it is the simplistic depiction of the nature of political violence in Kenya since the 1990s and the attempt to identify just one cause of it. First, the situation is bad enough without needing to be described as a single two-decade long episode of ethnic cleansing. Second, to reduce all political violence down to a majimboist agenda is a gross over-simplification. What about Mungiki? Or Mount Elgon? And where’s the state in this account? If it was, as claimed controlled by majimboists under Moi, why did Kenya retain its highly centralised state institutions? Third, the definition of majimbo (exclusive ethnic federalism) is not one that is universally shared. The term is constantly debated and there are countless operational definitions in contemporary Kenya. Fourth, while the Kalenjin are critically scrutinised, can the conclusion that ‘Kalenjin opinion leaders who support ethnic violence … lack effective internal constraints’ not be applied to other communities? Finally, ‘going directly to motives’ has no explanatory advantages if those motives are simply those that one individual, without any great evidential basis, chooses to ascribe to a whole range of actors. Waweru may see it as his aim to show that ‘the violence was actually unified in aim’ but without any compelling reason for doing so we are not convinced.

    Daniel Branch (University of Warwick) and Nic Cheeseman (University of Oxford).

  2. While Waweru’s article is provocative, to one familiar with Kenyan developments, it is partial and for the most part renders the narrative of a narrow constituency while glossing over important concerns and actors in the debate.

    First,  I find unconvincing his main argument – that violence is due to  the permeation of a majimboist ideology outside of the political class and into the community. His reductionist approach is baffling. How does one reduce such a complex situation to a majimbo agenda? If one were looking for the single reason to explain political violence in Kenya, it would be centralisation of state power which: enabled allowed successive regimes violate rights with impunity; which coupled with corruption and bad governance positioned the state as the dominant dispenser of largesse; exclusion of those not in power (vast majority) from political and economic spaces. The result is a zero sum game in which those in power use violence to hold onto the reigns of power.  The land-based violence in the 1990s and the recent violence fall into this pattern.

    The majimbo debate has been shaped in this context. I agree that Waweru ignores the rich array of views on this question. When one considers the debate more broadly, it becomes immediately clear that Waweru’s definition of Majimbo represents the views of power wielders. President Moi and those around him rubbished those clamouring for devolution of power and resources as petty majimboists bent on balkanising the country. Towards the end of his term, the kalenjin saw majimbo as their only avenue to retain a foothold in power that they were unsure of mastering beyond Moi. President Kibaki and those in his camp on capturing power were not keen to share it or ‘lose’ it to the regions/provinces. Deploying the same arguments as the previous KANU clique, attacked ODM’s view on devolution/majimbo – despite the fact that it was backed by leaders from the Rift valley, Nyanza, Western and Coast Provinces as saw an attempt to balkanise the country along ethnic lines. Waweru’s views on majimbo seem to be to be of this strand. What he does not say is that as of now …..President Kibaki is busy doing what he vehemently argued against – although on his terms without consulting anyone – dividing the country into ethnic units. Rather than deal honestly with issue of devolution and the problematic land question at the root of conflicts in western Kenya,  he is busy creating 20 sub-provinces which many see as a gerrymandering exercise with an eye on the next elections. This will also hive off large parts of the rift valley, which many kalenjin’s consider as ‘their land’ on which ‘outsiders’ were unfairly allowed to settled by kenyatta. It is not sure why Waweru choses to ignore these claims in his narrow and reductionist definition of majimbo.

    It is these sorts of developments that undermine the transitional justice debate in kenya. One wonders if it is possible to address accountability for crimes committed during the post electoral violence without addressing broader reform issues first or alongside these initiatives. This is however an issue for another debate.

    I wonder why Waweru seems certain that violence in the Rift Valley is driven by a group of people who want to live in a ethnically homogeneous province or federal unit. The reality is closer the reasons alluded to above. What seems to me certain, as gleaned from kenya’s history is that those wielding state power have used violence to consolidate, shield it and hold it. For perhaps the first time, lessons have been learnt by those on the other side of the divide that to attain power – especially in contested circumstances such as those witnessed recently in Kenya – violence can get you close. ODM’s refusal to approach the courts after the disputed elections, while not an endorsement of violence, speaks to the limited spaces where grievances can be ventilated and addressed.

  3. I’m not a doctor, so it’s an honour to have two actual doctors — and a soon-to-be-doctor — respond at length to my post. Let’s see if I can manage to remain unscathed.

    1. So here’s the first issue:

    First, we dispute Waweru’s representation of an argument we made in an article published in African Affairs earlier this year. Apparently we ‘account for the upsurge in violence by appeal to elite fragmentation.’ This is an overly reductive version of our argument.

    Branch and Cheeseman’s complaint rests on the premiss that I credit them with the following achievement: [Branch and Cheeseman] account for the upsurge in violence by appeal to elite fragmentation
    My defence is simple. Attention to the paragraph in which the sentence is located shows that the claim with which I credit them is a distant relative, at best, of the claim they employ in their complaint. Once it’s clear which claim is in play, it will be clear that there’s sufficient textual support to justify my actual attribution.

    Here’s the relevant paragraph from my post:

    Branch and Cheeseman account for the upsurge in violence by appeal to elite fragmentation. That’s a necessary rather than a sufficient condition. Remember that what’s wanted is an answer to why the violence crossed a certain threshold – why it escaped control of the state. Without an underlying capacity for violence, elite fragmentation need not have violent consequences, and it certainly need not have consequences so violent that the state struggles to control them. Appeal to a generalised diffusion of violence is nearer the mark, but it still underdetermines the quality of the violence in the Rift Valley: if elite fragmentation were sufficient to explain the escape of the violence from state control, then that would have happened in more than one place. It didn’t so, it isn’t. Capacity for violence matters; appeal to majimboist motives is sufficient to predict it.

    Whatever else it does, the first sentence mentions elite fragmentation to the debate. The third sentence of the paragraph identifies what is to be explained: the fact that the violence escaped the state’s control. The fifth sentence gives a reason to think that elite fragmentation isn’t a sufficient explanation for the state’s lack of control. In that context, it ought to be clear that the first sentence of the paragraph doesn’t, as Branch and Cheeseman seem to suppose, lumber them with the claim that this particular outbreak of violence was caused by elite fragmentation. Rather, because I’m presupposing that it is common ground that the violence this time was different, and that one of the relevant differences was the state’s failure to get a grip, the sentence ascribes them the claim that elite fragmentation suffices to explain the state’s inability to get the violence sorted.

    How could so strange a thought have crossed my mind? Roll tape:

    Kibaki was also well aware that the coercive power of many of the key security institutions of today’s state is as strong as – or stronger than – in earlier periods of post-colonial history. What Kibaki failed to realize was that without the elite alliance that had given the Kenyan state its initial strength, and against an opposition remarkable for its unity, the physical appearance of the bureaucratic-executive state was no longer a true reflection of its ability to demobilize opposition. The centre tried to hold as it had done in the past. But this time Kibaki and his supporters found that the centrifugal forces within the Kenyan political system could no longer be contained. (Branch and Cheeseman 2008: 5)

    That paragraph appears to justify my ascription to Branch and Cheeseman of the claim that the violence could no longer be contained by the state because the elite had fragmented.

    2. Second issue. Rather it is the simplistic depiction of the nature of political violence in Kenya since the 1990s and the attempt to identify just one cause of it. First, the situation is bad enough without needing to be described as a single two-decade long episode of ethnic cleansing. Second, to reduce all political violence down to a majimboist agenda is a gross over-simplification. What about Mungiki? Or Mount Elgon? And where’s the state in this account? If it was, as claimed controlled by majimboists under Moi, why did Kenya retain its highly centralised state institutions?

    First, ‘intermittent’, as used in the post, suggests that the violence has proceeded in fits and starts.
    Second, I’m not committed to the claim that all political violence in Kenya is majimboist in nature. In the first paragraph of the post, I claim, rather, that the main strand of political violence in multiparty Kenya is majimboist; a claim backed by ample evidence. Kimenyi and Ndungu (Kimenyi and Ndung’u 2005: 128-138) compare incidents of ethnic violence across the decade from 1991 to 2001. On their evidence, the vast majority of politically-motivated displacements, violent incidents and deaths since 1991 have come in the Rift Valley. Nor is their finding idiosyncratic: independent observers since the 1990s have consistently concentrated on political violence in the Rift Valley because that’s where it is at its most intense. Kimenyi and Ndung’u conclude that the bulk of the RVP violence was aimed at ethnic displacement (Kimenyi and Ndung’u 2005: 149-50; 154); a view that finds favour with a range of independent commentators.
    The presence of both Mungiki and violence in Mount Elgon is entirely compatible with the claim that Kenyan political violence usually comes in the majimboist flavour.

    There’s something to be gained from looking past the state. I might have expressed myself more clearly; the point was that the usual state-invoking explanations seem not to do a good job, because either they underdetermine the violence, or they’re neither necessary nor sufficient to explain the violence. There are different ways in which the state could have mattered. If any one of them is to be useful, it needs to pick out majimboist violence. That majimboists are competing for state power isn’t enough to pick out the violence, since other competitors manage to compete without violence on a majimboist scale; competition for state power underdetermines majimboist violence. Majimboist violence has happened both when majimboists were in power and when they were out of power; non-majimboists have had control of the state without engaging in majimboist violence. Control of the state is neither necessary nor sufficient for majimbo violence. Time to try something different.

    Fifth. Suppose the majimboist in power wants to do two things: first, to maximise the effective power of the state while it is under majimboist control, and, second, to avoid an effective post-majimbo state which excludes majimboists. Then the retention of centralised institutions of the state is sensible. The central institution of the centralised Kenyan state is the Presidency. The violent gerrymandering has carved out a set of safe majimboist seats, without which it’s difficult to win the Presidency (Snow 2009: 8). Any future non-majimboist holder needs majimboist support. Institutions outside the Presidency have been systematically weakened, while the Presidency – imitating Sauron in this respect as in so many others – has sought to concentrate power in itself. So it is slightly misleading to say that the central bits of the state have been strengthened: rather the powers of the Presidency have been expanded at the expense of other parts of the state. While a majimboist held the Presidency, this was acceptable since, naturally enough, he sought to maximise his effective power; so long as any future non-majimboist holder of the Presidency is indebted to majimboists, this state of affairs is tolerable for the majimboist. The persistence of centralised institutions doesn’t tell against the majimboist account.

    3. Onward to the third question. Third, the definition of majimbo (exclusive ethnic federalism) is not one that is universally shared. The term is constantly debated and there are countless operational definitions in contemporary Kenya.

    I take it that the point here is that my definition — characterisation, actually — of majimbo is unsound, incorrect or otherwise dodgy because it’s not universally shared, and because there continues to be debate about its meaning. Disagreement dictates that my definition of majimbo is in some serious (but unspecified) trouble. That’s not very plausible. It’s easy to think of lots of other terms whose definitions are contested with some heat: justice, equality, diversity, and the like. Participants in arguments in which those terms occur don’t generally have to bring their opponents to a truce on the definitional front before making their positive argument. There doesn’t seem to be any pressing need to impose a stronger requirement in this case.
    Both sides agree on the dictionary definition(s) of the word; there’s also substantial agreement on non-dictionary definitions. Yet there is a dispute. So it is unlikely that the definition of the word is what’s at issue. In fact, the dispute revolves around a contested case: the ethnic cleansing of the last twenty years. Proponents of majimbo want a definition of the word which excludes that case. Opponents of majimbo want a definition that doesn’t. Proponents of majimbo argue, therefore, that what they mean by their use of the word majimbo is given by the lexical definition of the word. Opponents want to say that looking up the dictionary meaning isn’t a terribly useful way of determining what majimbo proponents intend. What could resolve that dispute? Well, it would end if someone or other turned up with a theory of how to determine the meanings of words. The meaning of majimbo-as-used-by-its proponents would follow; we could all inspect the shiny new meaning of the word; it would be clear who was right, or whether both were wrong.
    Two pleasant consequences. First, the Branch and Cheeseman objection doesn’t get off the ground because it relies on the false premiss that the dispute is about the meaning of the word, rather than about a method for finding its meaning. Second. In general, from the fact that there is a dispute about how to determine the meaning of a word, it just doesn’t follow that a user of the word doesn’t know the meaning of the word, for two reasons. First, the fact that there’s a dispute doesn’t establish that none of the disputants is right. And second, there’s simply no requirement that one has to settle disputes about how to find the meaning of a word before being credited with knowledge of the meaning of a word: for any given language, there are lots of native speakers who lack the formal training necessary to engage disputes about the semantics of their language, but whom it would be absurd to regard as incompetent users of their language.
    It’s possible, then, that I’ve got the meaning of the word wrong, but Branch and Cheeseman’s argument doesn’t show it.

    4. Fourth, while the Kalenjin are critically scrutinised, can the conclusion that ‘Kalenjin opinion leaders who support ethnic violence … lack effective internal constraints’ not be applied to other communities?

    First, the questions are independent. The focus on majimboist violence is justified by its duration, intensity and reach, on all of which counts it stands out. The status of internal restraint in other communities is independent of these facts. Second, there’s reasonable evidence that non-Kalenjin communities have restrained themselves. Kimenyi and Ndung’u (Kimenyi and Ndung’u: 152-3) explain Kenya’s lack of a proper civil war partly by appeal to precisely this restraint. They think, for instance, that the Gikuyu experience of Mau Mau, and the high opportunity cost to Gikuyu business of violence, have restrained retaliation. I’d add that the first Kibaki administration’s extraordinarily violent repression of Mungiki is proof that there are internal restraints – even if only pragmatic ones – on the use of ethnic militias in the Gikuyu political elite.

    5. And finally… Finally, ‘going directly to motives’ has no explanatory advantages if those motives are simply those that one individual, without any great evidential basis, chooses to ascribe to a whole range of actors. Waweru may see it as his aim to show that ‘the violence was actually unified in aim’ but without any compelling reason for doing so we are not convinced.

    This can’t be quite right, since the motives ascribed may have explanatory power even if the evidential basis for their ascription is thin. The explanatory power of the attributed motives is independent of the evidence given for adopting them. The objection confuses the reasons we have for believing that this motive has explanatory power and actual possession of explanatory power. So an argument that succeeded in showing that there was no good reason to ascribe this motive doesn’t show that the motive, if ascribed, would not do the explanatory job. (And nor does the failure of one attempted explanation by motive call into question the general strategy, as Branch and Cheeseman seem to suppose.)

    Again, they’ve slightly misrepresented my argument: the point of which – the main conclusion of which – is that reform and accountability are incompatible. To get there, I needed to show that there’s a continuous history of violence in the Rift Valley which has caught the RV political class, hence the claim that the violence is unified.

    The shape of the sub-argument on the way to that conclusion is thoroughly unmysterious. Spontaneous – more accurately, disorganized – violence is short-lived, rarely lethal, and unlikely to be selective. Past episodes of majimboist violence have been prolonged, lethal, and ethnically-selective. It’s safe to assume they were organised, which makes it sensible to wonder what the point of this organisation is; while the consequences of the violence make it sensible to assume that past episodes had ethnic cleansing as an intermediate end, at least. The recent episode of majimboist violence is so similar in important ways – in location of the violence; in the cast, both victims and assailants; and in results – that it’s safe to say that the motives, too, remain the same.
    Start with the victims. Majimboist violence has been ethnically-selective since its inception. There’s substantial overlap in the sets of victims: quite consistently through the violence, the victims have been non-Kalenjin, and usually disproportionately Gikuyu. I’ve already mentioned Biwott and Lotodo’s exhortations to anti-Gikuyu violence in the post, but there’s no shortage of other stuff of that ilk, then or now: from Ntimama’s remark about envelopes; to the remarks often heard in those days about ‘opposition-free zones'; to Ntimama’s 2007 remarks about ODM’s redemption of Kenyans from their enslavement by Gikuyu; and on to the well-reported fact that Rift Valley led in recorded incidents of pre-election ethnic hate speech (KCHR 2008: 24). In the 90s, as Boone (see below) points out, Kalenjin and Maasai were urged to evict their non-KAMATUSA neighbours. In 2007, Lynch urges us to pay attention to both elite manoeuvring and to local understandings of history (Lynch: 567-8): a polite way of saying that were rekindled to encourage Kalenjin and Maasai to evict their Gikuyu neighbours. As one might expect, the victims were disproportionately Gikuyu in the 90s; a pattern repeated in the most recent round of violence. The selectiveness of the violence is not incidental to it: in 1992, there were severe attacks on Luo; in 2007, majimboist violence was directed elsewhere. If the ethnic selectivity of the violence can vary in this way, t’s safe to assume it’s intended; and equally safe to infer that the motives at work in the 90s aren’t impotent in 2007.

    Majimboist violence, it has been noted, is consistent in its location. Prof. Catherine Boone’s exceptionally detailed analysis of the violence (“Politically-Allocated Land Rights and the Geography of Electoral Violence: The Case of Kenya in the 1990s” (unpublished)) picks out key areas of conflict in the 1990s: Nandi and Muhoroni; Trans-Nzoia and Mount Elgon; Uasin Gishu and adjacent areas; Molo, Kericho, Sotik and Narok. In the 1990s, as she says, politicians in all these encouraged their Maasai and Kalenjin constituents to dispossess and evict their non-KAMATUSA neighbours. Every single one of the areas she picks out also saw violence in 2007; indeed, Uasin Gishu was the epicentre of this round. Much the same goes for Throup and Hornsby’s analysis.
    Comparing the Akiwumi Commission’s list of adversely mentioned persons against the Kenya National Human Right’s Commission’s Schedule of alleged perpetrators of post-election violence, one finds that the lists have at least three distinguished names in common: Jackson Kibor, Kipkalya Kones and William Ole Ntimama. Much of the rest of the Akiwumi list is a roll call of the senior membership of the KAMATUSA political class. Anderson and Lochery (Anderson and Lochery 2008: 334) report that culpability for the 2007 violence among ‘local-level Kalenjin politicians’ was widespread. This is more or less the pattern reported in Boone, in Throup and Hornsby and in countless other sources. Majimboist violence, it appears, has similar personnel, both at the level of individuals and at the level of groups, a smilarity which, taken together with the others, justifies the inference that the motives for the violence have remained the same.

  4. To fail to appreciate the historical sources for the demands for majimbo (federalism) as Waweru has done, is to fail to ascribe to its proponents clear motive. The central motive of majimboism in Kenya was the pursuit, at the turn of independence, by minorities, for the relocation of more political decision making authority from the centre to the peripheries. This move therefore sought to construct regions that were, to a high measure, semi autonomous, in order to facilitate more ownership of developmental goals by local communities hence defeat centrist imposition of an agenda that necessarily did not have sufficient local resonance. It is no coincidence that this project found greater acceptance most in the Rift Valley and Coast Province. Not only were the two regions home to less populous cultural groups, but these regions were also, courtesy of huge multinational capital investments-the Mombasa port for the coast and large scale agricultural enterprises in the Rift Valley- hosts to the highest number of communities that were non-indigenes to the regions. Consequently, a certain strategic fear informed the pursuit for more autonomous arrangements to empower less populous but autochthonous inhabitants of these regions from being ‘overrun’ by settler groups. At this point in time, the question of inequality in land relations between settlers and autochthones had not arisen. Post-independence, the unilateral and forced dismantling of the semi autonomous arrangements within the 1964 constitution had the more deleterious effect of enlarging settler incursions into the two provinces while at the same time strengthening political control of the peripheries by the centre, increasing feelings of marginalization and victimhood. The nascent majimbo discourse then singularly focused on mediating power relations was thus driven under, only to re-emerge nearly thirty years later, as a mutant, whose main preoccupation was the protection of perceived gains of the coast and rift valley provinces in the national political matrix. The mutated majimboism, now more keen on sustaining national political gains, rather than affording political space for local communities, was interested in ensuring that regional demographics favoured the achievement of this primary political objective. The forced evictions, deprivations of property and killings, when they occurred, were merely incidental to the maintenance of this larger national political agenda.

    It must therefore be asserted that the violence of the mutant majimboists, reprehensible as it is, was not any different than the violence of the state perpetrated through a skewed and dysfunctional legal and political system. Albert Memmi, the Tunisian essayist in context of decolonization discourse has argued that law is violence by other means (The Colonizer and the Colonized, 1965). The imposition of a unitary constitution backed by an array of statutory enactments that escalated regional inequalities in development and land relations, particularly, has accelerated political competition at the centre, providing incentives to political elites to ‘manage’ settler communities through the recourse to violence. It is not enough to utilize, as Waweru has done, what I see as a mutant majimboist discourse as the single plane for the analysis of the post electoral violence. The need to closely interrogate the changing notions of governance, entitlements and property relations is key to a better understanding of the problem. Further, an admission of the normalization of violence in the country, as argued by Daniel Branch, would help us recognize that beyond the ‘victim’ vs ‘perpetrator’ communities, stands a state and its institution, which has utilized and hegemonized violence since creation. The Kenyan state as it stands, needs deconstruction too before its inhabitants can espouse a universal citizenship. Neither violence is acceptable but the violence of one genre cannot sufficiently explain the post electoral mayhem of 2007/8.

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