Political Protests, Resistance, and Unrest in Kisumu

An Examination of Protests in Kondele and Nyalenda during the 2007-08 Post-Election Violence in Kenya

Many forms of responses sprout out whenever there are challenges in society. Such responses can be reflected in major protests that can blossom and lead to the development of significant changes in public policy. These kinds of responses to problems can be seen in protests that people in Kondele, Nyawita, and Nyalenda staged during the political crisis that arose in Kenya following the highly charged Presidential Election of December 2007.

Since the arrival of the Europeans in Africa, Africans have generally organized protest and resistance movements against their social, economic, and political agendas. They have also organized protest and resistance movements against bad leaders who have emerged in Africa since independence. This essay attempts to provide a historical perspective on the activities of those who have chosen to protest and resist the many systems of oppression by African leaders who do nothing but spend most of their time accumulating their own personal wealth at the expense of their fellow citizens.

In order to tell the whole story of these kinds of protests and resistance movements in Africa, we want to focus attention on the peri-urban places like Kondele, Nyawita, and Nyalenda in Kisumu, places that came so much into the spot during the post-election violence in Kenya within the periods of 2007-08. We have chosen Kondele, Nyawita, and Nyalenda because these are areas where the full heat of protests, riots, confusion, fighting, and violence raged for weeks following the rigged Presidential Election in December, 2007. So many lives were lost in these areas, and a lot of property was damaged. There were indiscriminate looting and other atrocities during the period.

So just how did this come to be? Why did Kondele, Nyalenda, and Nyawita erupt into violence during the announcement of the results of the General Election of 2007? In attempting to answer this question, a lot of things have run in my mind like a virus and I feel frightened because nearly all of us were affected if not infected by the violence in these areas.

The year 2007? You mention this year and your mind flashes back to the days gone by. This was the decisive year. Kenya was having a General Election and the contestants were very strong. A lot was at stake. Opinion polls were predicting a very close race. After the massive support that the incumbent President Kibaki Mwai had received in 2002 under NARC ticket, things had changed. President Kibaki was now fighting for his second term in office as stipulated within the constitution, but the support he had enjoyed during the 2002 election had hemorrhaged. President Kibaki was staring at defeat in the eye.

In politics there are no permanent friends or enemies. Raila Odinga, the son to the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, the father of opposition politics, the man who had declared “Kibaki Tosha” (Kibaki It Is) and thrown his weight behind Kibaki's candidature in the 2002 election, had now moved away from Kibaki's corner in the 2007 Presidential Election, and emerged as Kibaki's main challenger in the Presidential Election of Dec. 2007. He enjoyed massive support in the majority of the provinces in the country, while Kibaki could only be sure of support from his home area, the Central Province.

After a long-drawn campaign, people started queuing to vote. This was on December 28, 2007. The counting of the votes and the announcement of the results was supposed to follow immediately. But that was not to be. Problems started. The election results were not arriving at the headquarters of the Election Commission on time, and whenever they were, there were discrepancies and so did not always seem to conform or tally with the number of the registered voters in the constituencies the results were coming from, or with the figures announced by the returning officers at the polling stations in those constituencies. There were a lot of delays, procrastinations, and interruptions which seem to suggest to many people that something was afoot. These raised a lot of suspicion, and people became anxious.

After waiting for the official results of the Presidential Election for a very long time, people started demanding that the election officials should stop wasting time and announce the election results. Eventually, the Independent Election Commission officials led by the Chairman, Samuel Kivuiti, made the announcement of the results via the national broadcaster, the Kenya Broadcasting Cooperation (KBC). The Commission declared that President Mwai Kibaki had won re-election. An uproar immediately broke out all over the country. The election results had been clearly rigged, and the people of Kondele, Nyawita, and Nyalenda were having none of it. Disputes broke out at first at the central tallying center in Nairobi, and, almost immediately, the whole country was in turmoil. People demonstrated all over Kenya, demanding the "true" results of the Presidential Election.

Following the announcement of the results of the presidential election, people started fighting and President Kibaki and his state security agents led by John Michuki ordered the police and the military to deal with the protesters. Many military and police units were sent to Kisumu, to places like Kondele, Nyawita, and Nyalenda to counter the protesters. In response, people armed themselves with stones, sticks, clubs, machetes, bows and arrows, and spears and even guns. Mayhem and violence characterized that time.

During the protests, the police killed very many demonstrators in Kondele, Nyawita and Nyalenda who were on the streets exercising their God-given democratic right to protest against the rigging of the Presidential Election. The protests went on for close to two months, from December 2007 to February 2008. Kondele, Nyawita, and Nyalenda were the epicenters of these protests in the Kisumu area, a place where Raila Odinga enjoyed his most fervent support. This was also where you found most of the youth, unemployed and employed, the lumpen-proleteriat, the ordinary laborers, the jua-kali artisans and the mama mbogas (vegetable vendors) and the poor living or surviving side by side. Kenya was going the Rwanda way.

But thanks to the mediation team under the leadership of Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, the protagonists in the election dispute, Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga were convinced to sign the National Accord and Reconciliation Act., and form a Grand Coalition government. This coalition government saved Kenya from plunging further into crisis of the Rwanda Genocide proportions.

When the dust settled, the cost of the protests was high in lives lost and properties destroyed. More than 1,500 people were killed and more than 600,000 people were displaced or forcefully deported from their homes during the violence countrywide. We should not forget to mention the killing of innocent men, women, and children in Nakuru and Naivasha, and the torching of houses and the burning of children alive in places of worship like Kiambaa in Eldoret.

But why did Kondele, Nyawita, and Nyalenda erupt into violence following the disputed election of December 2007? The first thing we should agree on is that these protests didn't just come from nowhere, that the violence did not just break out spontaneously. Yes, there was a political situation that catalyzed the chaos and the violence, but still, there were socio-economic factors that made Kondele, Nyalenda, and Nyawita react the way they did.

First, most observers believe that Kondele, Nyalenda, and Nyawita are like the building blocks of Kisumu politics and Nyanza at large. Politics is said to be at the center-stage of the experiences of the people. People in this area have tended to distrust the government. Most recently, in 2013, for example, there were political protests and demonstration in the Kondele area following the decision of the Supreme Court of Kenya to uphold the outcome of the Presidential Election results. People decided took to the streets to protest the court's decision, arguing that the election had been fixed. The protest led to the death of two people, and injury to nearly a dozen. Thus, one can say that one of the reasons for constant outbreak of protests and even violence in the area is the high-level of distrust to anything to do with the government.

Second, the people in these areas have not had a good experience with the government since independence. They claim that they have been neglected, downtrodden, and beaten physically and mentally for so long by those in power and feel as if they have no one looking out for them. There is a widespread belief that there exists a system of oppression put in place by the government that continues to be a factor in the lives of people in the area. If the people cannot trust their own governments to support their best interests, really the only choice they have is to demonstrate and resist the systems they believe are oppressing them.

Third, the experiences of the peri-urban satellite towns of Kondele, Nyalenda, and Nyawita in Kisumu are a microcosm of what happens in many places around Africa. Social and political issues that occur in these areas serve as an example of the many challenges that Africans all over can relate to in a continent that has been taken away from them, an area where those in charge of the economy refuse to support the local people, and where the existing political system does not care about the very people that it purports to support. Consequently, there have been many socio- economic and political factors that have pushed Kondele, Nyalenda, and Nyawita into rampaging every time there is political turmoil.

Many years after the end of colonialism, we see relatively little change in the hearts and minds of those in power who are more than happy to continue with the trend of profiting off of the labor and resources of the Africans the way colonial powers did during the colonial period in Africa.

From the above, it can be deduced that many factors have contributed to putting Kondele, Nyawita, and Nyalenda on the cross roads of riots, protests, and demonstrations. The politics of the day in Kenya, and the Raila factor have also made Kondele, Nyalenda and Nywaita prone to the outbreak of violence. But, while one can blame politics for sparking off these protests, one should also bear in mind the social and economic forces that also often compel the area residents to go to the streets to protest and demonstrate against social, economic, and political injustices in the region, in particular, and Kenya, as a whole.

In conclusion, it is clear that the ground on which Kondele, Nyawita, and Nyalenda are standing on have been saturated with the blood of protesters. The people in these areas have always led protests against injustices in a region that is well-known for its opposition politics. We rest our case.

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