Passport: Kenya


Kenya is historically peaceful compared with its East African neighbors. It is the richest country of the region and, for a while, was the most stable.

However, the most recent presidential election plunged the country into a violent conflict. See how it all started.


Kenya is surrounded by Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda and Congo, all home to violent, lasting conflicts. Kenya's Democratic government, though, has remained relatively stable in recent history.

Kenya has the largest economy in East Africa, and one that is quickly growing. However, corruption is an ongoing problem and much of the population still lives in poverty. Because of its landscape and wildlife, Kenya has become a popular tourist destination for Africans, Europeans and Americans.


Since 2002, President Kibaki enacted free primary education and is credited with Kenya's economic boom. However, many average Kenyans felt they didn't have a part of the new economic wealth, and blamed Kibaki for ongoing government corruption.


In 2007 Raila Odinga, who was kicked out of Kibaki's cabinet when he formed his own political party in 2005, decided to run against Kibaki for President.

Odinga is a member of Kenya's "Luo" ethnic group. President Kibaki (who is a member of the long ruling ethnic group "Kikuyu") said the country was not ready to elect a "Luo" president. Odinga, who led the polls by a wide margin, promised to balance the ethnic composition of the government and get rid of corruption.


On December 27, 2007, Kenyans from across the country voted for their new President. Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner. But it's not that simple.


Soon after the election and amid suspicion, Electoral Commission chair Samuel Kivuitu admitted that President Kibaki might not have actually won the election. He announced that he would look at original documents to declare a winner. To many Kenyans, it confirmed their fear that the results of the election didn't actually reflect their votes.


After the election chair's announcement, violence broke out across Kenya. President Kibaki declared that a recount was not necessary and called for calm saying, "do not be afraid. The government will protect you. Nobody is going to be chased from where they live." Yet, about 250,000 Kenyans have been forced from their homes by mobs who are angry with the election results.


Kenyans of Kikuyu origin (President Kibaki's ethnic group) are paying the heaviest price in the conflict-- their businesses and properties are being targeted in the violence.


Clearly, the roots of this conflict go far beyond a flawed election. Experts call for dialogue between Kibaki and Odinga, the elected President and his rival candidate. Kenyans also want to see the votes re-tallied so they can see who the people elected as their President.

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