This week, our ‘Trending’ news round-up returns to give you all that you need to know about the biggest news stories affecting Kenyans this week. As always, we’ll put these news stories within the grander narratives of what it is that Kenyans are facing up to and contending with.
We’ll put these pieces within the bigger picture and inform you about the conversation surrounding them. First off, let’s start with the harrowing news of yet more violence along the Kericho-Kisumu county border.
Ethnic violence in Sondu
In the early hours of Wednesday morning (4th of October), violence erupted around the market place at Sondu, on the Kericho-Kisumu county line. The violence left two people dead. The Nation then reports that, after authorities arrived in the area, raiders continued to fire arrows at Sondu residents, killing a further four people.
Violence in the area is unfortunately common. On our X (formerly Twitter handle) we publicised a Red Cross situation report from 2014 documenting a very similar instance of ethnic violence in the area. Back in 2014’s attack, 4 (later confirmed as 5) people were killed and 157 (rose to 588) households were displaced.
In 2014, as it was again this week, one of the more obvious reasons for the conflict seems to have been livestock rustling. In the Red Cross’ sitrep of the 2014 attack, the raiders were described as having “entered and drove out a few goats”.
In reports of this week’s attack, “stealing cattle” is one of the descriptors The Nation attaches to the raid. Livestock, especially cattle, rustling is often associated with these forms of ethnic violence in Kenya and the unending cycle of revenge rustling, in which previously aggrieved parties attempt to take something back, is sufficient for many as they try and understand the issue of the Kisumu – Kericho border conflict.
However, as we stated on our X handle, there is also a sense that something deeper-rooted and couched in Kenya’s early history may also be at play here. Violence in Kisumu County has lengthily been a politicised matter.
During post-independence leader Jomo Kenyatta’s presidency, the Luo community centred in Kisumu County started to develop this perception that the first presidential regime’s land allocation programme was unfair and shaped by greed rather than an equal provision for all. This led to growing discontent from Luo leaders and a split between one-time allies, Kenyatta and Luo de facto leader Oginga Odinga.
There then followed a series of what are still today considered as political assassinations; the first of which was Pio Gama Pinto, Odinga’s right-hand man.
Luo-land grew increasingly unhappy with Kenyatta’s regime and protest against the Kikuyu leader grew culminating, eventually and to painful effect, in the 1969 Kisumu massacre. The presidential guard shot and killed protesters amassed and demonstrating against his regime. Official numbers put the dead at 11, other reports suggest this number is actually much higher.
Today, this violence, and a sense of injustice with regard to how land was allotted to different counties, still festers.
In fact, in a statement made on Thursday by ty the opposition party, Azimio la Umoja, led by Oginga Odinga’s son Raila Odinga, the land issue was again cited, this time as illustration that this violence isn’t just, and maybe never has been, about cattle rustling.
“Let’s make no mistake. The violence and mayhem in Sondu are not ordinary disagreements between villagers. Big names are behind this violence. They include leaders and politicians from the neighbouring county and in the national government,” the statement read.
There doesn’t look to be an end in sight.
Kenya police being sent to Haiti is approved by UN Security council
It’s an interesting follow-on from the above article, citing a continuous and as-of-yet uncontrolled security crisis in Kenya, with news that Kenya’s police will be sent abroad to handle another sovereign country’s continuous and, possibly, uncontrollable security crisis, but that is how we’re going to lead on from the previous piece.
Kenya, as many of us know and have already rolled our eyes at, is sending 1,000 members of it’s police force to Haiti. It’s an interesting development for a number of reasons, the one detailed above not least amongst them.
It’s interesting because it seems as if we’re doing this at the behest, and as a smokescreen for, the real engineers of this operation: the Americans. It was their resolution, co-drafted by Ecuador, that was put to the UN’s security council for ratification and it will be them that finances it. They’ve pledged to put 100 million dollars behind the operation.
It’s also interesting because Kenya’s police don’t seem, certainly to those of us living here, to be the kind of police you’d send anywhere to solve any problem. It’s an organisation widely perceived to be absolutely beset with corruption problems. In the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission’s 2022 survey on perceptions of corruption in Kenya, the Kenya police was ranked as the most likely place you’d encounter corruption.
That same survey also had 71% of respondents stating that they thought corruption was getting worse.
These are all ‘interesting’ angles that Kenyans of X have pored over and discussed already. However, there’s now a new angle emerging and it’s not something Kenya has had to deal with too often before. In its new position as an international player – and policing another country’s crime makes you an international player –, you open yourself up to international comparisons.
Previously, African problems – corruption foremost amongst them – have always been considered African problems. The rest of the world can be accused of being dismissive in the regard of these problems, but the reason they have been is because these problems came with no obvious drive to levy influence elsewhere.
With Kenya now positioning itself in a foreign country’s conflict, that’s now changed and we’re already seeing the result of it.
‘Haiti, Desperate for Peace, Turns to Police Notorious for Violence’, reads The New York Post’s headline. The article then goes on to question Kenya’s human rights record with the obvious intent that this, admittedly terrible, record disqualifies Kenya from the responsibility it has taken on.
This is the kind of close scrutiny that Kenyans should now expect as the country takes on an international policing role. Kenya’s government should ready itself for this new focus; it’s unlikely to be favourable.
Kenya’s cabinet reshuffle
In domestic news, this week saw president Ruto’s first cabinet reshuffle. Some big names changed places, power shifted hands and a few Ls were given out: normal cabinet reshuffle developments.
The biggest development on this front was probably the fact of Alfred Mutua’s being shuffled out of the Ministry for Foreign and Diaspora Affairs. This post has now been given to Musalia Mudavadi resulting in some online commentators querying the amount of power now held by a man who also holds the Office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary.
Mutua will now undertake the role of Minister for Tourism and Wildlife. This is obviously seen as a demotion. More on the cabinet reshuffle here.