Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Promoting Post-Conflict Peaceful Co-Existence in Multi-Ethnic Communities: Lessons from Internally Displaced Persons in Kenya

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Promoting Post-Conflict Peaceful Co-Existence in Multi-Ethnic Communities: Lessons from Internally Displaced Persons in Kenya

Article excerpt

Introduction

The world has witnessed many conflicts that are perpetrated along ethnic lines. The Rwanda genocide that shocked the world to the core was one such conflict. Sudan has recently been a theatre of similar violence and many others continue to be witnessed in a smaller scale an example being Uganda's with a militant rebel group. Such conflicts do not just erupt but have their underlying causes that can be diagnosed way before the threat of violence becomes an event.

Discourse is seen as part of social practice (Dijk, 1998) and it can therefore be used as mirror the society. It can be used to describe various aspects of the society among them the relationships between various individuals and groups. Such relationships may be characterised by competition and tension or co-operation and harmony. The paper considers discourse a useful tool to express both cordial and hostile relationships that exist between the various communities and the interpretations of the causes of such relationships. Conflicts between different groups are some of the possible manifestations of competitive relationships. In this pursuit the paper ponders the following questions:

Is there an inherent relationship between ethnicity and violence? Is ethnic conflict preventable? Can the communities which have been engaged in conflict live harmoniously? What are the long term solutions to the violence?

Using the discourse of the communities which have been involved in violence in Kenya specifically the Internally Displaced Persons in Kenya's 2007 post-election violence the paper seeks evidence of possible causes of the violence in the basic characteristics of the different ethnic communities and in man-made factors. By use of interviews, the paper has elicited descriptions of the relationship that obtains between the communities in non-conflict periods and considered the possible means in which these can be sustained even in the face of situations that engender competition.

Background to Kenya's Ethnic Related Violence

At the end of 2007 Kenya held general elections to elect the president and members of parliament. The presidential elections had been the most hotly contested yet in the history of the country and predictably attracted the highest voter turnout recorded so far. The two leading contenders for the presidency were Raila Odinga of Orange Democratic Party (ODM) and Mwai Kibaki of Party of National Unity (PNU). In the electioneering period the public had been treated to claims and counterclaims of plans to rig the elections and some violence characterized the campaigns.

Various pollsters differed markedly on who held the lead between the two principal contesters in the close race although a great majority of them pointed to a possible Raila victory (IFRA, 2008).When the elections were held, Mwai Kibaki was announced the winner beating Raila Odinga by a narrow margin of 3% with 47% of the votes against Raila's 44% (Dagne 2008).The results were fiercely disputed and ODM supporters launched violent protests in the party strongholds such as Kisumu, Eldoret, Mombasa and in some parts of the capital city Nairobi. The violence was mainly targeted at those who were believed on the basis of either ethnic or party affiliations to have supported Mr. Kibaki. According to Dagne (2008) in a report to the United States Congress, the violence was perpetrated mostly by the Kalenjins and Luo on Kikuyu and Kisii communities. Soon after, the targeted communities launched retaliatory attacks against the communities perceived to have voted for the ODM. The violence by the two sides involved looting, arson, assault, raping, maiming and killing. Members of the targeted ethnic communities living in the areas that were affected by the violence fled their homes for safety. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, KNCHR (2008) estimates that at least 1,162 people were killed, about 3,561 were injured (Waki Report 2008) and about 350,000 others were displaced from their homes in the post-election violence (PEV). …

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