After a month of bloodshed, Raila Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki finally met face-to-face last week for that proverbial photo op. It was the first time the two had met since the country fell into ethnic violence as a result of Kenya's December 27th election.
The meeting didn't do anything to stop the violence, which, of course it wasn't meant to. Good thing too.
At least 19 people were killed here on Sunday in battles between members of President Mwai Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe and Luos and Kalenjins who backed his rival Raila Odinga in disputed elections a month ago.And the backlash has begun in earnest.
A Reuters reporter heard screams late into the night. Mobs stopped cars on the main highway and demanded passengers' identity cards. One man was beaten before being kicked under the wheels of a minibus as it sped to safety.
At least 750 people have died since the December 27 polls plunged Kenya into a spiral of violence, battering its image as an east African trade and tourism hub and one of the continent's more stable nations.
Kikuyus torched the homes of Luo rivals in the center of Navaisha. Police, apparently overwhelmed, did not intervene. Gunshots rang out into the evening.PERSONAL: My father was fine as of yesterday. His English grammar/usage column and his political column ran on successive days. However, I am under no illusion that his renown or his age would grant him permanent immunity to the blood lust of murderous gangs were they able to catch up with him, my step-mother or anyone else in my family. But I pray and I hope.
Looters used iron bars to smash the windows of shops belonging to non-Kikuyu businesspeople, and made off with television sets, groceries and clothing.
One woman came screaming down the road from a blazing house.
"They set it on fire, they are killing my brother and sister," Alice Okoth said.
Mike Aringo, a 27-year-old resident, said hundreds of men swarmed the area Sunday morning.
"They told us if you are a Luo, you will be killed today," Aringo said. Odinga is a Luo.
Here's the best from Father's political column, in which he tells the story of a low-ranking Kenyan police officer talking a mob down from their intended actions:
Said he: “Listen, my brothers and sisters. This is our country. We have built it together for many arduous years. What can we possibly gain by destroying it with the same single ‘stroke of havoc’ with which uncaring people once ‘unselved’ the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “aspens dear’?”UPDATE: Ninety dead over the weekend.
The words are mine. But the message was the policemen’s. [SNIP]
And it showed that the mob is not always completely deaf to reasoned appeals. As soon as my hero finished his words, I saw the crowd balk and turn back. I saw a number throw away their “crude weapons”...[SNIP]
This was where [Kibaki and Odinga] let the nation down. [SNIP]
Even when they finally made the appeal, it left a great deal to be desired. For, as I say, appeals which are not didactical are almost always worthless.
An appeal must be explanatory. It must teach Kenyans why it is useless and dangerous to kill one another for the sake of parochial politicians.
The reason we kill one another as tribes at critical political moments is that none of our institutions of governance and moral upbringing has done anything serious to demystify and demonise the tribe as a vehicle of politics.
We usually lay the blame on the Government, the Church and the university.
We should. But, in my opinion, the living room is the chief culprit.
It is there that we introduce our children to some of the most grotesque tribal stereotypes. As they say, prevention is cheaper than cure.