Muthoni Wanyeki’s column this week in the East African strikes me as hitting exactly the right point: “Mpeketoni: Get on with finding out who and why”. Take time to read it.
The Jubilee Government was in a tizzy about stopping Raila Odinga from leading opposition CORD rallies around the country before the Mpeketoni attacks just over a week ago. The attacks then became the focus of attention for Kenyans and the Kenyan media, with Uhuru Kenyatta deflecting things back to Raila and CORD by as much as accusing them of undertaking the attacks and explicitly denying a role for Al Shabaab.
Any reasonable observer recognizes that the Mpeketoni attacks in a sensitive area very near the border have less ambiguity about them as an incidence of terrorism than most of the individual bombings routinely attributed to Al Shabaab in Nairobi or even the Westgate attack last year. Yes, the methodological details vary–as they did in each of these from the previous Al Shabaab World Cup attack in Kampala. Here is former Marine and security expert Andrew Franklin, who has written here previously, discussing Al Shabaab and Mpeketoni, along with unfulfilled security reform, on KTN.
With the victims largely now out of sight and out of mind in the hinterlands the media has moved on to the incessant tribal politics that makes for easy punditry in lieu of actual investigation and in-depth reporting.
I have never been a big fan of rallies in Kenyan politics–not in 2007 campaign when I was trying to help support a better process, not in 2011-12 when they were used to try to stop the ICC, and again, not in the 2013 campaign. Nonetheless, I am pretty well inured to the fact that the usual suspects in Kenyan politics, on whatever side they happen to be at any given time, use these rallies as a primary means to connect directly to their supporters and to get national media for their messages. I wish Kenya’s politics was a little more creative, but then, the political class as it exits always wins, so I guess they don’t feel a lot of incentive to change. Regardless, the rallies are not in and of themselves generally dangerous except to the extent the security forces are engaged to make them so.
Tribal animosities were clearly more raw and pervasive in the spring of 2013 when I was in Nairobi for the election than they were when I left in May 2008 during the immediate post-election period. It appears that the last year has not seen marked improvement. An obvious reason why all this should be expected is that the parts of the February 28, 2008 election peace deal that were to address the underlying issues have not been implemented and the politics of 2011-2013 were so explicitly tribal.
Why haven’t they been implemented? One reason is that the February 28, 2008 deal was made by Kibaki and Raila with Kofi Annan after the larger mediation process between PNU and ODM broke down. PNU was a coalition of parties and not all of them ever supported the deal from the inception. Uhuru Kenyatta’s KANU being one such at the time. Raila and Kibaki cooperated to support the passage of the new constitution in 2010, but the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission plodded along on the backburner. The biggest single thing to galvanize government attention during the remainder of Kibaki’s second term was the fight to block the ICC, and, of course, Raila was running for president again, along with Saitoti and Uhuru and some others. By the time the TJRC report was finalized, the new State House was not prepared to accept it as written.
Rallies will come, and rallies will go. The question is whether the long term work of protecting Kenyans from the persistent threat of terrorism and the long term work of “tribal” reconciliation will be taken up or yet again deferred for some future generation.