Monday, January 21, 2008

Kenya: Post-Election Violence Sparks Humanitarian, Economic Crisis

The New Vision (Uganda): “Economic Impact of Kenya Crisis”
Associated Press: “Kikuyus and Luos Clash in Nairobi Slum as Kenyan Turmoil Persists”
Voice of America: “Kenya Crisis—Thousands Flee to Uganda”
Reuters: "Kenya Poll Delay Sparks Ethnic Violence"

Kenya has long been considered among the largest, most stable, and vibrant economies on the African continent. However, a recent humanitarian crisis has been sparked by political and ethnic violence that has killed six hundred people, turned thousands more into refugees, and is threatening the Kenyan economy.

At the heart of this conflict is the contested election of Mwai Kibaki of the Party of National Unity (PNU). Opposition leader Raila Odinga and his supporters, who form the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) claim the election was stolen. They point to delays in the vote count that resulted in an almost miraculous comeback by Kibaki and the fact that Odinga’s party swept the parliamentary elections as proof of this allegation.

Ethnic strife is also implicated as observers note that Kibaki, the incumbent and a member of the Kikuyu ethnic group, had used his powerful position to benefit the Kikuyu at the expense of other groups. Opposition leader Odinga is a member of the Luos ethnic group. Post-election strife has often pitted groups against each other, with whatever group happens to be in the minority in a particular area being targeted for violence. Thousands of refugees have already fled to Uganda.

Observers have expressed concern that this unrest, which has now continued for almost a month, could hurt tourism in Kenya, which is one of the cornerstones of that nation’s economy. Additionally, reports indicate that economic troubles spurred by post-election violence pose a regional threat. One report notes the adverse economic effects felt by Uganda at the inability to access the Kenyan port of Mombasa.


What role—if any—should multinational organizations as well as other countries play in crises like that currently unfolding in Kenya? Does assisting at the humanitarian level necessitate picking sides in this kind of dispute? Is it ethical to pick sides or would doing so be a slight against national sovereignty?

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