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US Envoy: Kenyan Violence is Ethnic Cleansing
Jan-30-08 12:17 pm

http://www.intlreport.com/kenya.jpg

Kenyan men from the Luo tribe armed with
machetes and rocks enforce a makeshift roadblock

AP Photo / Ben Curtis

The situation in Kenya continues to deteriorate.  In a story titled, “Using golf clubs, rocks and machetes, neighbour turns on neighbour in ,” the Guardian’s correspondent reports from Kibera (LINK):

Some carried golf clubs: an old fairway wood, a lofted iron, a silver putter. A young man swung a hockey stick. Others clutched pieces of plumbing pipe, rubber whips, slingshots made of rope, melon-headed clubs straight from an Asterix comic, hammers, axes, and bows and arrows. But the weapon of choice was the panga, or machete, sharpened against the railway track as if it were a whetstone. 

"Everybody has to have something to defend themselves," said Jacob Otieno, a member of the Luo ethnic group, standing among a large group of angry men in the Mashimoni area, deep in Kibera, 's largest slum. "They cannot just wait to be killed like a chicken in a hotel kitchen." 

Facing Otieno 100 metres up the railway line were dozens of men with a similar array of weapons, who just a month ago were his neighbours and friends. Now, because they are Kikuyu - the ethnic group of President Mwai Kibaki, who won a highly suspect election on December 27 - they are the enemy. If it weren't for the dozen or so policemen separating the groups, firing live bullets into the air from time to time, the death toll in Kibera yesterday would have been far higher than seven. Most of those were hacked to death. 
... 

Kenya's rapid descent from political protest to all-out ethnic conflict, further fuelled yesterday by the murder of an opposition MP who was shot twice in the head outside his home, has raised fears that the enmity may soon be irreversible.

 ... 

Analysts say it may soon get a lot worse. The violence appears increasingly orchestrated, with violent gangs such as the Mungiki, a Kikuyu criminal sect, becoming involved.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Jandayi Fraser today labeled the violence “ethnic cleansing,” (LINK) but:

“At the moment I would not use the word genocide," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme. "At the moment we are concerned about certain atrocities that could conceivably escalate if they're not stopped."

As organized ethnic gangs (e.g. the Kikuyu Mungiki) threaten to make systematic what has heretofore been spontaneous and sporadic, the possibility that this will spiral out of control becomes more and more real.

How will this end?  Does the Kenyan central government have the capacity to establish order in the event of a total breakdown?  Clearly, international actors are approaching this situation in the shadow of the Rwandan genocide.  But, in today's geopolitical environment, what NATO member or major power will be willing to antagonize its electorate by contributing to a peacekeeping mission?

Posted by Jonathan Ossoff


About the editor:

Anthony Clark Arend

Professor

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.

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» Learn more about the M.A. in International Law and Government at Georgetown University.


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