HRW – Ballot to Bullets – Organized Political Violence and Kenya’s Crisis of Governance

Summary

The scale and speed of the violence that engulfed Kenya following the controversial presidential election of December 27, 2007 shocked both Kenyans and the world at large. Two months of bloodshed left over 1,000 dead and up to 500,000 internally displaced persons in a country viewed as a bastion of economic and political stability in a volatile region.

The ethnic divisions laid bare in the aftermath of the elections have roots that run much deeper than the presidential poll. No Kenyan government has yet made a good-faith effort to address long simmering grievances over land that have persisted since independence. High-ranking politicians who have been consistently implicated in organizing political violence since the 1990s have never been brought to book and continue to operate with impunity. Widespread failures of governance are at the core of the explosive anger exposed in the wake of the election fraud.

The Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation between the political parties provides Kenya’s leaders with a historic opportunity to step back from the brink and to reform and establish institutions that can help build long-term stability. The establishment of a Commission of Inquiry on political violence; an Independent Review Committee on the elections; a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission; and the agreement on the general parameters for a constitutional review process – all agreed in such a short time frame – represent a serious and positive response to the crisis.

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