Kenya: Spears, machetes, other weapons reign as re-run election sparks ethnic tensions

Last Thursday’s repeat election in Kenya which was boycotted by millions of Kenyans has reignited tension between ethnic communities in some areas.

Protesting residents push a flaming tyre towards a burning barricade on a road in Kibera Slum in Nairobi on August 9, 2017, as they take part in protests in the Raila Odinga-led opposition alliance National Super Alliance (NASA) stronhhold in the Kenyan capital following the announcement of national election results.
Police engaged in running battles with a few hundred protesters in Odinga’s bastion Kisumu in western Kenya, firing tear gas as his supporters set tyres alight as burning barricades also went up in Nairobi’s Mathare slum as ballots from 94 percent of polling stations counted showed Kenyatta leading with 54.4 percent of the over 14 million ballots tallied against Odinga’s 44.7 percent. / AFP PHOTO

Inhabitants of a small village in the West of Kenya picked up traditional arms on Saturday as the tension grew worse. Reuters reports that in the bright green sugarcane fields where the western Nyanza region rolls toward the Nandi hills, two tribes — the Luo and the Kalenjin — have lived in relative peace for years.

But in the village of Koguta, down the road from the town of Mugoroni in Kisumu County, Thursday’s polarizing vote reignited old grievances.

The stand-off, is a reminder of how Kenya’s political crisis could easily spark ethnic violence. In 2007, an election induced ethic unrest led to the death of over 1,200 people.

On one side of Koguta are Kalenjins. Here are ardent supporters of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Kalenjin deputy, William Ruto. But the Luos across the road support opposition leader Raila Odinga, who called for a boycott of the vote because he said it would not be fair.

Some of the Luos here fought police to stop ballot boxes being delivered. The Luo accused the Kalenjin of stealing cattle and burning their sugarcane crop in revenge, prompting both sides to grab machetes, spears, bows and arrows, and wooden clubs.

“This is an area where they tried to come in with ballot boxes, there was serious resistance, so that was the genesis of all this enmity between the Kalenjins and the Luos,” said Julius Genga, a county legislator, as a colleague stood atop a sports utility vehicle to calm a crowd of men with spears.

The opposition dismissed the vote as a “sham” although Kenyatta’s supporters say it was legitimate. Protests stopped four counties from opening polling stations at all. Only a third of voters turned up, and the opposition is likely to challenge the poll in court.

“This has to do with politics,” said Collins Owuor, 21, holding a machete. “Before politics we did not have problems with these people.”

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