Cablegate: Kenya: Behind a Calm Facade, Hardliners Prepare for More Violence

DE RUEHNR #0574/01 0581032
O 271032Z FEB 08





E.O. 12958: DECL:02/27/2028

Ref: Nairobi 379

Classified by Ambassador Michael E. Ranneberger for reasons 1.4 (b)
and (d).

1. (C) Summary: Kenya has been tense but remarkably calm since the
end of January, thanks in large part to the progress being made in
the Kofi Annan-mediated peace talks and the visit of the Secretary.
Tensions remain very high, however, and behind this calm facade lurks
the potential for more ferocious, ethnically-motivated violence. One
sign is that ethnically-based forced evictions continue around
Nairobi. More ominous are a steady stream of rumors that hardline
elements from both sides of the political divide are organizing for
more violence should the peace talks fail. The pivot will thus be
the outcome of the peace talks. If a compromise is reached on power
sharing that is seen as fair by all sides, support for organized
violence is likely to ebb away. If not, however, then Kenya could
see a wave of violence far worse than the unrest seen in January
following the disputed election. End Summary.

A Deceptive Calm

2. (SBU) Kenya has remained tense but remarkably calm throughout the
month of February. In late January, the country was shocked by
violent, ethnically-motivated clashes in the tourist towns of Nakuru
and Naivaisha, both not far from Nairobi. This was followed by the
back-to-back murders of two opposition Orange Democratic Movement
(ODM) parliamentarians on January 29 and January 31 (reftel), which
led to a brief spasm of unrest in Kericho in western Kenya. In
short, at the end of January, the country appeared teetering on the
edge of all-out anarchy and sustained civil unrest and disobedience.

3. (SBU) Since then, however, Kenya has generally enjoyed an
interlude of relative calm, in large part due to the progress made
each week in the Kofi Annan-mediated peace talks, which has led both
political camps to call for an end to violence. U.S. support for the
talks, including through the Secretary's visit, has also helped
reassure Kenyans. The current perception that the country's
politicians are taking steps towards an agreement on power sharing,
which could pave the way for political reconciliation and a return to
normalcy, has since continued to keep tensions and violence at bay.

Forced Evictions Keep Nairobi On Edge

4. (C) The current state of relative calm, however, should not be
interpreted as a return to sustained peace and normalcy. In fact,
the opposite may be true. Throughout February, there has been a
stream of anecdotal evidence and reporting indicating that
ethnically-motivated forced evictions continue to occur around the
country, including parts of Nairobi. While it is often difficult to
conclusively confirm what is happening, it appears that in Nairobi,
Kikuyu youth gangs, probably incited and funded by hardline Kikuyu
politicians and businessmen, are taking revenge for the violent
"ethnic cleansing" of their Kikuyu breathren in January in western
Kenya by rival Luo, Kalenjin, and other groups. In early February,
there was a spate of media and first-hand reports, including from
U.S. Mission staff members, that Kikuyu gangs were marking the doors
of non-Kikuyu residents in the Kilimani, Eastlands, and Kibera areas
of Nairob in an attempt to intimidate them into leaving. In the
largely Kikuyu, rough-and-tumble area of Banana Hill on the city's
northwestern edge, leaflets were allegedly circulating threatening
non-Kikuyus with beheading if they did not leave. There were also
many reports of Kikuyu landlords being threatened with violence if
they did not summarily evict their non-Kikuyu tenants.

Militias: Preparing for Battle?

5. (C) More ominous than forced evictions are daily rumors about the
formation and arming of ethnic-based militias in different parts of
the country. It remains very difficult to confirm rumors that
militias are being organized, but where there is so much smoke, there
is likely to be fire, and the logic behind this phenomenon is
compelling: Should the Kofi Annan-mediated peace talks fail, all
sides want to be ready for the violent aftermath. Perhaps one of the

NAIROBI 00000574 002 OF 004

most difficult puzzles to solve is the extent to which such militias
are truly militias, characterized by a discernable chain of command
and requisite weaponry and training, versus mere youth gangs
organized and bussed to a site on an ad hoc basis to engage in
violence when it is in the interest of hardline leaders to have them
do so. In either event, however, the results are violent and
difficult to control.

Kalenjins: Arming to the Teeth?

6. (C) The most persistent stories about militias have the Kalenjin
community in Rift Valley Province as the best organized and most
war-like. Conventional wisdom explains this as due in part to the
Kalenjins' strong warrior/cattle rustling cultural tradition, but
also to the fact that under the regime of Danial arap Moi, Kalenjins
filled out the ranks of the Kenyan military in disproportionately
high numbers, including in the officer corps. As many as 25-30
senior Kalenjin officers lost their positions after the 2002 election
of Mwai Kibaki, adding fuel to broader, longstanding grievances among
the Kalenjin over unfair land allocations and economic and political
marginalization at the hands of the Kikuyu.

7. (S) The combination of these grievances and the fact that many
Kalenjins have military training and experience has created a
potential scenario: That of a highly motivated and highly effective
para-military force that could make Rift Valley Province ungovernable
if the peace talks fail. While the Embassy is unable to fully
confirm these reports at this time, Kalenjin militias are purportedly
organizing under the leadership of retired Kalenjin General John
Koech, and are arming themselves to the teeth, according to some
contacts. (Note: Another contact, however, indicates Kikuyu
politicians are attempting to link Koech to Rift Valley violence, but
that he is in fact clean. His role thus remains unclear. End note).
A local contact reports that the Kalinjin forces are in firm
alliance with the self proclaimed Sabaot Land Defense Force (SLDF), a
clan-based militia in the Mt. Elgon region of western Kenya
established to defend ethnic Sabaots in land disputes that pre-date
the post-electoral unrest. Indeed, there has been an increase in
attacks, including cattle rustling and rape, by the SLDF in the Mount
Elgon and Trans Nzoia areas on the homes of Kikuyu settlers. The
SLDF has historically been well armed, and is reportedly well-versed
in obtaining weapons via Uganda.

Kikuyus Not Afraid to Strike Back

8. (C) On the other side, Kikuyu vigilantes are also organizing to
defend against attacks or carry out revenge attacks on ethnic rivals.
Many attribute Kikuyu-led violence to the Mungiki, a
well-established Kikuyu criminal organization/religious sect with
deep roots in Kenyan history. However, after engaging in a violent
crime spree last year well before (and unrelated to) the elections,
the Kenyan policy cracked down on the group, reportedly fracturing
its leadership. It is thus unclear whether the Mungiki have in fact
been re-energized and are behind some of the current tensions, or
whether newer groups have formed and ordinary Kenyans simply can't
tell the difference. It's likely both scenarios are playing out, as
the current environment is providing the perfect context for the
rejuvenation of the Mungiki, as well as for the formation of new
groups catering to the large numbers of unemployed, disaffected
Kikuyu youth in Nairobi and elsewhere.

9. (S) According to an Embassy source, elements of the
Kikuyu-dominated Party of National Unity (PNU) are backing the
so-called "Forest Guard" militia, which includes Mungiki members and
is being organized and led by retired General H.W. Njoroge, former
Commandant of the National Defense College. Njoroge has reportedly
put pressure on current Kenya Army Commander, Lieutenant General
Augustino Njoroge (no known relation) to release G3 rifles and
provide helicopter support to the Forest Guard. H.W. Njoroge is
allegedly being assisted by retired Brigadier General Peter Ikenya,
who is acting as Chief of Staff for the effort. This movement is
reportedly receiving funding from a number of Kikuyu businessmen,
including a Solomon Karanja and Steven Mbugwa. Mbugwa is said to be
running fund raising and other financial support operations out of
his business Muthaiga, Nairobi.

NAIROBI 00000574 003 OF 004

10. (SBU) Finally, in the Coast Province, as in Rift, there is a
tradition of youth organizing "in defense" of their communities. The
Provincial Security Committee in Coast, acting on information that
youths in the South Coast were being armed and trained "in readiness
for war", held a meeting two weeks ago with the local elders in an
attempt to dissuade the youth from continuing this preparation.
Should other areas explode if current negotiations fail, the
currently quiet province, popular with tourists, may see more
turbulent times.

Police Transfers and Live Bullets

11. (C) In a related development, tensions are running high in the
lakeside city of Kisumu in western Nyanza Province, around which much
of the immediate post-electoral violence was centered. The Kenya
Police Service (KPS) recently transferred 200 Luo and Luyhia officers
from Nyanza Province, an ethnic Luo stronghold. KPS publicly stated
that the transfers were routine, but police sources have since
reported that the Provincial Police Officer (PPO) for Nyanza is on
record as claiming that those being transferred were responsible for
leaking police operational details to the opposition based on their
Luo affiliation. The PPO also reportedly ordered his Officers in
Charge to ensure the transfers took place no later than 22 February.

12. (C) On top of this came news last week from police sources that
the PPO issued a stunning directive to his Station Commanders telling
them that during any future political protests in the region, deadly
force is immediately authorized. He further assured the officers
that any query as to the nature of the death or injury resulting from
this order should be directed to him personally and that he would
support the "victimized" officers.

13. (C) Subsequently, an Embassy FSN Investigator based in Kisumu
reported that a consignment of live ammunition, allegedly received
from Israel, had recently been received in Kisumu, and that 30 Kenyan
Army troops had arrived in the city on February 21, to be joined
within days by an additional 100 KPS/General Service Unit (GSU)
personnel. These movements could be seen as prudent reinforcement on
the part of the Kenyan Government, as KPS was unable to control the
violence that erupted after the elections in early January. On the
other hand, it could be an indication that the government does not
expect the peace talks to succeed and is readying for a violent
crackdown in that event. In response to the order to use live
ammunition, the Ambassador wrote February 22 to Police Commissioner
Ali to express U.S. concern about any such change in the rules of
engagement for police in dealing with unrest. Text of this letter
follows below in para 16.

Crime: Waiting for an Uptick

14. (SBU) Finally, in light of the distraction and stress on the
police caused by ongoing political tensions, there is a real risk
that there will be an uptick in ordinary crime in Kenya in the coming
weeks and months. Even if a political agreement is reached, those
now ready to engage in political and ethnic violence may turn their
weaponry and attention to common crime instead as a new livelihood.
The armed carjacking on February 15 in broad daylight of a U.S.
Mission employee a short distance from the Embassy (the employee was
robbed but released unharmed) served to remind that Kenya is rated
"critical" for crime for a good reason.

Comment: Peace Deal Holds theKey

15. (C) Behind the current quiet facade, there is trouble lurking in
the shadows. Whether the genie of ethnic-based violence can be put
back in the bottle or not clearly hinges on the outcome of the Kofi
Annan-led peace talks, now at a pivotal moment. If a compromise is
reached that is agreeable to the two sides and most of their
followers, then we believe much of the impetus and support for
organized violence will fade away. If not, however, then we should
brace for a fresh round of violence that could dwarf January's unrest
in its scope and ferocity.

16. (SBU) Text of February 22 letter from the Ambassador to Police

NAIROBI 00000574 004 OF 004

Commissioner Ali follows below:

Dear Commissioner Ali:

I would like to take this opportunity to first commend you and the
vast majority of police professionals in the Kenya Police Service
(KPS) for your efforts over the past few months in maintaining law
and order during this most trying time in Kenya's history. I have
been encouraged by the numerous reports received of KPS leadership
effectively and peacefully engaging large gatherings, resulting in no
injuries to the populace at the hands of authorities or the public.
I also applaud all efforts to investigate and hold accountable all
persons involved in inciting violence during this time, whether
civilian or civil servant.

However, we have recently become aware that certain officers in
charge have directed personnel under their command that "the
immediate use of deadly force is authorized to quell any and all new
political protests". Obviously, reports of this nature are both
alarming and contrary to established rules of engagement and, in the
spirit of true cooperation, I feel compelled to bring this to your
immediate attention, as we have enjoyed a tremendous partnership
across an array of law enforcement and security issues.
Consequently, we believe that the established rules of engagement and
situation-specific circumstances should continue to dictate the
minimal use of deadly force.

We trust that you will continue to address this issue with the
urgency and importance it merits.


End text.

© Scoop Media

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