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

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

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

“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

All this happened while I was in my twenties working voluntarily for a few months in Nairobi.

At first I thought it was great that there were elections in Kenya during the six months I was there. But that was because I knew so little about what the Kenyan elections might actually mean.

Because, just days after watching the election broadcast on television, in which many precincts gave nearly 100% to one candidate or another, I was sitting in a car across Nairobi.

From the car window I could overlook the Kibera slum. Many buildings caught fire. On TV, I could see that there were dead people in the streets.

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

Photo: AP

It looked like Kenya was disintegrating, and I was about to evacuate 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 rumors of widespread electoral fraud. Because it took a long time for the election results to appear, and in the midst of the vote counting process, incumbent President Kibaki was suddenly able to defeat opposition leader Odinga.

It turned violent when many young people took part in demonstrations after the 2007 elections in Kenya.

It was dangerous to be out on the streets during the riots of 2007. The riots were racially motivated.

Photo: AFP

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 those accused there was a man named William Ruto. At the time, he was a central figure in Raila Odinga’s electoral team. Ruto was blamed for organizing his army that went to war in the aftermath 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 president of Kenya, while his boss since 2007, Raila Odinga, remains the leader of the opposition.

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: AFP

There is something different with the protesters today

Now write me 2024, Kenya has taken several steps in the right direction since 2007. Leaders have managed 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 and not in the streets.

But the ethnic division that has made Kenyan politics not actually very democratic continues to create discord among people, distrust in democracy, and 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, they are ready to go to battle.

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

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 argue based on 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 quite dramatic when protesters stormed Kenya's parliament this week. Many were injured, and more than 20 people were killed.

Photo: Agence France-Presse

On the contrary, many young Kenyans 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 cost a few kroner more.

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 the age of 40. This rebellion started on TikTok. Nymoten’s platforms are where old habits need to 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.

Tear gas intensifies in Kenya's capital Nairobi

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

Photo: AFP

Could large 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 rebellion underway now has no clear leader, and there are many forces that may want to capitalize on the momentum and hijack the entire movement.

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

Perhaps they are resilient enough not to be exploited by forces that want to use the rebellion to their advantage, rather than to 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 with many protesters on the streets this week. Some of them lit candles in memory of their fellow protesters who were killed.

Photo: Vegard Tjorhom/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 11.18

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