Everywhere you look, especially in the U.S. and European media, coverage of Monday’s Kenyan election is superseded by one central question.
Will Kenya resort to the kind of ethnic-based political violence that occurred after the last election in 2007?
Of course, the presidential race is tight — the candidate of the ‘Jubilee’ alliance, Uhuru Kenyatta (the son of Kenya’s first president), is essentially tied with the candidate of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) alliance, Raila Odinga (Kenya’s prime minister and the son of Kenya’s first vice president, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga).
Furthermore, the two major coalitions — Jubilee and CORD — are loose patchwork alliances of Kenyan ethnic groups, some of whom were allied in 2007 and some of whom were not, and they pit Kenyatta’s Kikuyu ethnic group against Odinga’s Luo ethnic group.
But it’s still unlikely that Kenya will repeat anything like the 2007-08 violence, which led to the deaths of over 1,000 Kenyans and displaced nearly 200,000 more after incumbent Mwai Kibaki was widely seen to have used vote-buying, vote-tampering and, ultimately, fraudulent vote counting, to retain the presidency against the challenge from Odinga. Two months of harrowing fighting followed before Kibaki agreed to share power with Odinga, who subsequently became prime minister.
Kenya remains on alert, of course, but scenes like those pictured above — a peace concert last week in Nairobi designed to promote Kenyan unity throughout the campaign and its aftermath — tell us more about the narrative of this year’s Kenyan election.
There’s really no reason to believe that there’s a likelier chance of violence today than there was after the August 2010 constitutional referendum, which came and went without significant tumult.
So while the world (especially Western policymakers and media) holds its collective breath waiting for more turmoil, here are five reasons why it’s a smarter bet that Kenya won’t repeat its 2007-08 experience. Continue reading Five reasons why Kenya is unlikely to repeat 2007’s post-election violence