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Kenya six months on: A new beginning or business as usual?

28 August 2008

The Kenyan government has failed to support vital peace-making efforts aimed at healing ethnic divisions in the country following the country’s worst outbreak of violence since independence, says the international human rights organization Minority Rights Group International (MRG).

In a new briefing paper, Kenya six months on: A new beginning or business as usual?, MRG says six months after the power-sharing agreement between the opposition Orange Democratic Movement and the Party of National Unity, tens of thousands of Kenyans remain displaced, living in miserable conditions in transit camps, while ethnic tensions fester.

‘Without a serious commitment to build bridges between these communities, then violence could easily erupt again’

MRG’s Head of Policy and Communications, Ishbel Matheson, says, “From the outset, the new government seemed more interested in breaking up the highly visible IDP camps in major towns, rather than facilitating the sustainable return of these people.”

“Without a serious commitment to build bridges between these communities, then violence could easily erupt again.”

The clashes, which broke out after the disputed election results, left the country with its biggest IDP crisis ever. Over 400,000 were displaced, whilst 1,500 had been killed. MRG found peace-building efforts were patchy, poorly funded and lacked major government backing.

The biggest difficulties are in the Northern Rift Valley, where the violence carried out by Kalenjin ethnic militia against the Kikuyus was worst. But small communities, like the indigenous Ogiek hunter-gatherer group living close to the Rift Valley town of Nakuru, were also hard-hit.

Daniel Kobei, of the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Programme, says, “Our people have received no help at all. Their houses were burnt to the ground. Tensions between the Kikuyu villages and the Ogiek are still high.”

MRG’s briefing paper also examines the new government’s record on its pledge to be more inclusive.

It finds that, despite the rhetoric, the government has yet to reach out to minority and indigenous communities – some of the most marginalized and poorest sections of Kenyan society.

“If Kenya is to have a new start”, says MRG’s Ishbel Matheson, “the coalition government must put aside the ‘winner-takes-all’ mentality of the past.”

MRG says that key reforms – such as the constitutional review and a truth and justice commission – will only be successful if minorities and indigenous peoples who have borne the brunt of exclusion and injustice are fully involved in these processes.

Notes to Editors

Click here to download the briefing

To arrange an interview with Ishbel Matheson, MRG’s Head of Policy and Communications, please contact:

Emma Eastwood/Farah Mihlar, MRG Media Officers
T: +44 (0) 207 4224205
M: +44 (0) 7989 699984/ +44 (0) 7870 596863
Contact target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>the MRG Press Office or [email protected]

To contact Daniel Kobei, Chairman, Ogiek Peoples’ Development Programme in Kenya, please call +254 722 433757

Minority Rights Group International is a non-governmental organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide