February 2024
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2008 Post Election Violence in Kenya

The 2008 post-election violence in Kenya erupted in parts of Kenya after then-President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the presidential election held on December 27, 2007. Orange Democratic Movement was the main challenger to Kibaki’s PNU (Party of National Unity). Violence erupted in ODM strongholds where the ODM supporters alleged the election had been manipulated in favour of Kibaki. Manipulation of that year’s electoral process was widely confirmed by international observers, as being perpetrated by both parties in the election. Even the head of the electoral commission, Samuel Kivuitu confirmed this and said that he could not tell for sure who won having lost contact with his officials in certain areas. Notwithstanding this, he announced the incumbent as president.

In part due to the ethnic and geographic diversity of Kenyan politics, no singular narrative can explain the reaction of opposition supporters to the announcement of Kibaki’s swearing-in, which was done on December 30, 2007, in the evening. The opposition announced a mass protest against the official results, the violence was largely stoked by the police. Raila Odinga encouraged supporters to engage in mass protests which he announced on local television and radio stations, most noticeably in Mombasa, Eldoret, Kericho, Kisumu, Nakuru and parts of Nairobi. Police shot hundreds of violent demonstrators, including a few in front of TV news cameras, causing more violence to erupt.[10][11]

Read: How States House Keeps Slipping from Raila Odinga

Targeted ethnic violence (as opposed to violent protests) escalated and at first was directed mainly against Kikuyu people—the community of which Kibaki is a member—living outside their traditional settlement areas, especially in the Rift Valley Province.[12] The violence started with the murder of over 50 unarmed Kikuyu women and children, some as young as a month old, by locking them in a church and burning them alive in Kiambaa village in the outskirts of Eldoret Town, on New Year’s Day. Tribal tensions in the Rift Valley region had resulted in violence in several previous Kenyan elections, most notably in the 1992 Kenyan Elections. This issue prompted the Kikuyu to start defending themselves which forced the Luos and Kalenjins to stop the killings of the Kikuyus.

In Mombasa, the Kenyan coastal residents took to the streets to protest the electoral manipulations and support their preferred candidate, Odinga. Tensions rose as the landless indigenous Coastal communities felt this was a time to avenge the grabbing of their land by mainly up–country Kikuyu. Looters also struck a number of stores in Mombasa. The slums of Nairobi saw some of the worst violence, some of it ethnically motivated, some expression of outrage at extreme poverty, and some the actions of criminal gangs. The violence continued sporadically for several months, particularly in the Rift Valley.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan arrived in the country about a month after the election and successfully brought the two sides to the negotiating table. On February 28, 2008, Kibaki and Odinga signed a power-sharing agreement called the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008, which established the office of the Prime Minister and created a coalition government.[1] The power-sharing Cabinet, headed by Odinga as Prime Minister, was eventually named on April 13, after lengthy negotiations over its composition;[13] it was sworn in on April 17.[14]