Political Intolerance in Mautuma
By Ezra Kigondu, FCPT Help Increase the Peace Coordinator and TCSC Program Coordinator
An angry crowd with traditional weapons.
Request: Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to Friends United Meeting to fund the salary of Ezra Kigondu, the author of this Report from Kenya. See the end of the report for details.
Background: Politics in Kenya is based on tribe. In the Kikuyu areas around Mt. Kenya, the Kikuyu candidate will receive more than 95% of the vote. In the Luo areas next to Lake Victoria, the Luo candidate will receive 95% of the vote. The election is then determined by high voter registration and turnout and who can make alliances with the leaders of the other major tribes. Three of Kenyan’s four presidents have been Kikuyu – Jomo Kenyatta, the first president; Mwai Kibaki; and now Uhuru Kenyatta, Jomo’s son. Uhuru Kenyatta is competing for his second and last five year term under the banner of the Jubilee Party. Jomo Kenyatta’s main opponent and for a short time Kenya’s vice-president was Oginga Odinga, a Luo. His son, Raila Odinga, supported Mwai Kibaki in 2002, barely officially lost to him in 2007under the CORD party banner and, after the post-election violence, was given the temporary post of Prime Minister, and he then officially lost to Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013. This report by Ezra Kigondu relates a killing of a Kikuyu by a Luo over politics in a place called Mautuma which is less than 10 miles from my house. This deadly incident indicates how emotional the election is and how tribalism is the root of the problem. It is a dangerous indicator of possible political violence for the August 8, 2017 election. Note in the reciting of the story how the local government officials were confident enough in Ezra and his team to call them in to mediate the dispute. This is at least the third major deadly conflict TCSC/FCPT has handled in this community, Ezra’s home community. Dave Z.
January 10, 2017 was a sad day for the people of Mautuma. John Muiruri had gone to repair his generator in Makutano area of Mautuma. As the generator was being repaired John, a Kikuyu, engaged in a discussion with the generator repair man, Mr. Oloo, about how the trend of politics was fairing on. John who is a Jubilee supporter was trying to show others how Jubilee will win the 2017 elections. Little did he realize that he was offending the generator repair man who was a Luo and a CORD supporter. After a bitter exchange of words, John said that Jubilee was prepared to win the elections at any cost. At this point Oloo attacked John with a blunt metal bar and hit him on the head, saying, “These people [that is, Kikuyu] need to be eliminated or otherwise they will rule us forever.” John was immediately rushed to a nearby dispensary but he succumbed to his death on the way to the dispensary.
When word spread that John had died from a political and election related argument, his kinsmen quickly planned revenge by trying to attack the generator repair man who went into hiding when he received information of the death. Then John’s relatives did the unexpected by burning the business premise of Mr. Oloo. Immediately the police arrived to prevent farther burnings.
John’s body was taken to a nearby morgue awaiting burial. At this point the local administrators were alerted and they called us at Transforming Communities for Social Change/Friends Church Peace Teams to try to help negotiate a peacefully funeral for John. But John’s kinsmen had vowed that they would seek justice using violence as they had no trust in the police in handling the case.
We did a round of listening sessions with both the victim’s and perpetrator’s families. We wanted to understand their needs so that we could develop a possible intervention mechanism. We all agreed that the situation was still tense and the community needed to bury John. We requested security for the funeral as we still continued with peace talks. John’s body was brought home on January 14, 2017 for burial, but angry mourners who had come for the burial refused it to take place until justice was found.
Mob planting a banana tree at the grave.
We had two camps at the burial, the CORD side and the Jubilee side. As the burial service was still proceeding a quarrel arose between the two camps causing the whole process to stop. Several people were injured during the mayhem and they were rushed to hospital. The police who were at the scene were overwhelmed and they had to call for reinforcements which eventually came. The angry mob had planted a banana plant at the grave as a sign of “no justice, no burial.” The body was taken back to the morgue awaiting an end to the conflict so that the burial could take place.
Community members fleeing for safety.
This caused a lot of political tension in the region which might again erupt during the upcoming campaign period. Thanks to Transforming Communities for Social Change volunteers [those who had been formerly trained in AVP, HROC, and other peacebuilding programs] who immediately after that violent and ugly scene came to help in resolving the conflict. We organized a transformative community dialogue in which both sides came and agreed to peacefully bury the body. John was properly laid to rest on February 2, 2017. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
We have been having separate meetings with both families even though the situation is still tense. We are organizing follow up meetings taking our trained HROC facilitators to deal with the trauma and tenseness. We are also conducting civic education seminars in the community so that people can ensure a peaceful election.
Peace is everything without which everything is nothing
Request details: Friends Church Peace Teams (FCPT) and Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC) are partner organizations in Kenya. Friends United Meeting-African Ministries Office is the fiscal sponsor for FCPT. In particular it pays the salaries, taxes, and fringe benefits for FCPT/TCSC employees. Until December 31, 2016, Ezra Kigondu’s salary was paid as part of a grant from the American Friends Service Committee. The AFSC program has finished, but Ezra is continuing to work with FCPT/TCSC, focusing on preventing election-related violence in the 2017 general elections. His work is essential to these efforts, and consequently we request donations of $333 per month to cover his salary, employee taxes, and benefits. We would prefer that people make monthly pledges of $10, $25, $50 or whatever is possible for the donor until we reach the total of $333 per month. Of course we will also appreciate regular donations.
If you are willing to donate, please make out your tax-deductible check to “Friends United Meeting” with memo notation of “FCPT, Ezra.” Mail this to Friends United Meeting, 101 Quaker Hill Drive, Richmond, IN 47374. Donations can also be made online at fum.org. Note that 10% of donations under $2500 are deducted to help cover FUM’s administrative costs in handling these funds.
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From 1998 to 2016, David Zarembka was the Coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams. He continues his peacemaking work in East Africa with Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC). He has been involved with East and Central Africa since 1964 when he taught Rwandan refugees in Tanzania. David is married to Gladys Kamonya and lives in western Kenya. David is the author of A Peace of Africa: Reflections on Life in the Great Lakes Region.
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