Uncertainties remain in post-violence Kenya

Many Kenyans are looking towards the future with uncertainty

Kenya seems to have recovered after last year's post-election clashes, but key underlying issues have yet to be tackled, Swiss organisations in the country report.

This content was published on February 28, 2009 and agencies

February 28 marks the one-year anniversary of the peace deal in which the two main political rivals agreed to share power following months of violence.

Tensions broke out in December 2007 after the then opposition leader Raila Odinga claimed the election had been rigged by President Mwai Kibaki. Voices in the international community also questioned the poll.

In the next months at least 1,300 people died and more than 300,000 fled their homes.

After the deal, Kibaki and Odinga formed a coalition and the violence largely stopped. The men are now trying to establish a court to try those implicated in the clashes.

"Things have mostly returned to normal," said Felix Wertli, programme manager for Burkina Faso and Kenya for the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund.

"There are still internally displaced people living in tents and wooden houses and sometimes when you travel around in Kenya, especially in the Rift Valley, you see burned-down houses, but mostly you won't see anything," he told swissinfo.

But the underlying causes of the violence have not been resolved. "We still have land and access-to-resources issues and a lot of government corruption – all the reasons that the hate came up so strongly," Wertli said.

Ethnic tensions

Longstanding ethnic tension was also a factor, says Caritas Switzerland's representative for Kenya, Marc Bloch. "There's lots of tribalism, that some tribes are advantaged by the party in power," he said.

"Not much has been done about all these problems, even after the parties agreed to share power."

Both the Lenten Fund, which had to suspend projects during the violence, and Caritas, which provided emergency aid, are currently running stabilisation programmes.

The Lenten Fund works on reconciliation, land and resource issues. But forgiving your neighbour is not easy, says Wertli. This is why Europeans act as intermediaries, because one wrong word from a Kenyan can lead to accusations of partisanship.

Caritas is cooperating with the southwest diocese of Kericho, where it is building water points, helping displaced people and holding peace forums.

Help for farmers

The Swiss NGO BioVision, which promotes sustainable agriculture in developing countries, also had to stop projects temporarily last year. But, where it could, it continued to send out its monthly farmers' magazine, The Organic Farmer.

"We have around 100,000 readers in Kenya and during the violent months we received many text messages from farmers in regions we knew were insecure, asking where The Organic Farmer was because they desperately needed the information," CEO Andreas Schriber told swissinfo.

Work has now largely returned to normal. But 2009 has brought fresh challenges, with a lack of rains affecting crop planting – crucial for the 80 per cent of the population that depends on agriculture.

The world economic crisis is also having an effect. Falling demand means jobs are being lost in Kenya's flower industry which is entirely export driven, Schriber said.

"One person in Kenya who earns money outside the agriculture sector usually feeds up to 20 people," he added.

Uncertain future

The political landscape remains uncertain. Wertli says the peace deal between the "two big men" may have averted a potential civil war, but it sanctified any possible election cheating.

Odinga and Kibaki's failure to establish a post-election violence court is also a concern. An inquiry had ordered it to be set up by March 1 or a sealed list of suspects would be handed over to the International Criminal Court.

The sensitive nature of the list - reportedly included are goverment officials - means a quick solution is unlikely. "It is said that politicians of really high ranking and even ministers were strongly involved in the conflicts, for example they financed youth gangs who attacked people," Wertli said.

Bloch believes a return to violence cannot be ruled out. "There is really a lot of aggression inside people; people are frustrated, that's why it broke out so strongly before," he said.

"I don't think it will come immediately, but it would need a trigger, like the next presidential election in 2012."

Wertli says 2009 is likely to be difficult, but there is hope. "Many people are willing to do something. The violence was a shock for Kenya, not just for the world. People are willing not to forget and want to improve the situation."

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson in Zurich

Swiss aid

Kenya is not a priority country for the government's Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). But spokesman Jean-Philippe Jutzi told swissinfo that because Kenya suffers from food insecurity, the SDC observes the humanitarian situation there closely and gives support to partner organisations when needed.

It gave funding to several partners in the wake of the post election violence, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, Caritas Switzerland and the World Food Programme. The Swiss Embassy in Nairobi also received some funding for small projects.

In 2009 funding is going to Caritas Switzerland's recovery project and to some other small projects through the embassy.

Total funding in 2008 was SFr1 million ($862,000). In 2009, SFr112,000.

End of insertion

Kenya's latest woes

Parliamentarians in February 2009 rejected the idea of setting up a special court to try the ringleaders of the 2008 violence.

Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who brokered a power-sharing deal between the factions, has warned that delays risk jeopardising Kenya's stability and prosperity.

Annan has been given a sealed envelope with a list of the names of key people suspected to be behind the violence. Should a court not be established, the list will head to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The original deadline was set as March 1.

Observers say many Kenyans are frustrated at the government's lack of progress and at allegations of multi-million dollar graft scandals in the maize and oil sectors.

End of insertion
In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Almost finished... We need to confirm your email address. To complete the subscription process, please click the link in the email we just sent you.

Discover our weekly must-reads for free!

Sign up to get our top stories straight into your mailbox.

The SBC Privacy Policy provides additional information on how your data is processed.