Post-election Violence in Kenya and its Aftermath
August 11, 2009
Nature of the Violence
The majority of Kenya's post-election violence took place in January and February, 2008. The fighting resulted in 1,133 casualties, at least 350,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), approximately 2,000 refugees, significant, but unknown, numbers of sexual violence victims, and the destruction of 117,216 private properties and 491 government-owned properties including offices, vehicles, health centers and schools.
Initially, the violence was spontaneous and a reaction to the perceived rigging of the elections by the government. In areas like the Rift Valley and the Coast, members of the Kikuyu and Kisii communities (perceived to be associated with the PNU party and with President Kibaki) were targeted. In Nyanza and Western Kenya, the violence was mostly directed towards government facilities and gradually took the form of looting and destruction, and while it also targeted Kikuyus and Kisiis, the intention appeared to be not to kill them but rather to expel them and destroy their property.
According to Human Rights Watch, the pattern of violence subsequently showed planning and organization by politicians, businessmen, village leaders and local leaders, who enlisted criminal gangs to execute the violence. This was particularly the case in Rift Valley and Nairobi. In Naivasha, Nakuru and the slum areas of Nairobi, Kikuyu gangs were mobilized and used to unleash violence against Luos, Luhyas and Kalenjins, and to expel them from their rented residences. Similarly, organized Kalenjin youth, particularly in the North Rift, attacked and drove out Kikuyus living there. In many instances the police action added to the violence, with considerable evidence that officers took sides and used terror tactics against slum dwellers.
According to the report by the Commission of Inquiry into the Post Election Violence, sexual violence against women and girls took the form of individual and gang rapes, many of which were ethnically driven, as well as female and male genital mutilation. This official investigation into the violence documented cases of gruesome sexual violence, including genital cutting among women and forced circumcision among men and boys. The investigation also reports instances in which families, including children were forced to watch their parents, brothers and sisters being sexually violated. Perpetrators of sexual violence were cited as ordinary citizens, gang members, and members of security forces. The report alleges that this included members of the General Service Unit (a paramilitary wing of the Kenyan military and Kenyan police consisting of highly trained police officers and special forces soldiers), as well as regular and administration police.
Many victims were unable to access timely medical care, including obtaining post exposure prophylaxis (PEP), a short-term antiretroviral treatment to reduce the likelihood of HIV infection after potential exposure. The reasons for not obtaining medical care included the following: a breakdown in security and the fear of leaving home, lack of transport, ignorance about PEP, and fear of stigmatization. The void created by the lack of official response to sexual violence was partly filled by private hospitals, including the Nairobi Women's Hospital, some government facilities, and a number of NGOs, including the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS).
People were displaced as a result of violence and threats of violence. They moved from their places of residence and business to places considered safe like police stations, administrative posts, churches and trading centers. Thereafter, they moved to formal camps or were integrated with their relatives and friends in urban centers or their ancestral homes. As a result of the violence, approximately 350,000 persons were displaced from their residence and or business. IDPs were concentrated in Western, Nyanza, Rift Valley, Central, Nairobi and Coast Province. About 1,900 Kenyans sought refuge in Uganda. The KRCS, local and international NGOs and CSOs, faith-based groups and individual volunteers played an important role in alleviating the suffering of IDPs by offering refuge, food, shelter, security, education, medicine, counseling and other needs.
A Commission of Inquiry on Post Election Violence (known as the Waki Commission) was formed following political mediation with a mandate to investigate the facts and the conduct of state security agencies, and to make recommendations. In October, the Commission submitted its report to the government. The Commission called on the government to establish a Special Tribunal to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of the violence. If the government failed to do this, the Commission recommended that the cases be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Kenyan politicians promised Kofi Annan, chief mediator in the crisis, that they would form a special tribunal to try the suspects in Kenya. Annan threatened to communicate a list of names of key suspects (including top government officials) to the ICC chief prosecutor, should Kenya fail to set up its own special tribunal by March 1. Kenya's leaders, paralyzed by competing agendas and the prospect of prosecuting their own, have not yet set up a tribunal. On July 9th, Annan handed the list of names to the ICC. The Kenyan government now has three options: coax Parliament into approving a special tribunal; refer the cases to the ICC; or do an end run around Parliament and set up a special branch of Kenya's judiciary.
The situation in Kenya began to stabilize towards the end of March 2008. As of July 2009, an estimated 61,000 IDPs remain in camps, transit sites and relocation sites. In addition, there are reports that ethnic gangs are rearming themselves with guns across the country in preparation for the next round of elections.
Psycho-Social Programs in Kenya
Kenya has little provision for mental health. According to Dr. David Kiima, director of Mental Health in Kenya, there are only 50 active psychiatrists in Kenya to serve a population of more than 30 million: a ration of one psychiatrist for every 500,000 people. Only a third of these psychiatrists work in the public sector, the rest only take on private patients at great expense. The Kenyan budget allocates less than 10 per cent of financial resources to the health sector. Out of this allocation, the ministries of health jointly allocate less than 0.01 per cent of their expenditure to mental health services countrywide.
The Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) was appointed by the government as the lead coordinating agency for response to the emergency. KRCS organized psychosocial interventions to support victims of the post-election violence, especially IDPs, in coping with the trauma. Activities centered on psychological support, First Aid, group debriefing sessions, referrals for specialized care or treatment and support in accessing basic needs. Outreach programs were also conducted in institutions of learning and Orphans and Vulnerable Children centers that hosted displaced children.
KRCS, in collaboration with other stakeholders such as the UN Population Fund, UN Refugee Agency, the government of Kenya, and Liverpool VCT (a Kenyan HIV care and treatment NGO), conducted training sessions in designated areas (among them Kisii, Kisumu, Eldoret, Nakuru and Nairobi), to build the local capacity in addressing gender-based violence issues in IDP camps. Counseling services were provided by counselors drawn from the Nairobi Women's Hospital and Ministry of Health. Medical cases were referred to Nairobi and provincial/district hospitals in the vicinity.
International Organization for Migration (IOM), in collaboration with the Ministry of Health's Department of Mental Health, KRCS and other agencies, continues to provide psychosocial support to IDPs. This includes direct counseling, capacity-building in psychosocial support and trauma counseling including specialized child therapy trainings, and the establishment of counseling, and recreation centers in the camps. IOM will also build capacity of the local communities by training community members in counseling and psychosocial support to provide sustainability to the psychosocial program.
UNICEF, in collaboration with Trans-Cultural Psycho-Social Organisation, KRCS, and a number of nongovernmental and community-based organizations, created a program to ensure provision of community-based psycho-social support, through training of community-based service providers, including teachers (in cooperation with education). UNICEF is establishing child-friendly spaces/safe spaces to address recreation and psycho-social needs. This program was designed to benefit 250,000 displaced children and women and members of neighboring affected communities.
Nairobi Women's Hospital is home to a Gender-based Violence Center that offers free counseling services and support groups to survivors of rape and domestic violence. The center provides free post-exposure prophylaxis to survivors as well as HIV care and treatment to those individuals who are HIV-positive.