Cablegate: Kenya After the Crisis: The Ambassador's Visit

DE RUEHNR #0803/01 0801622
O 201622Z MAR 08





E.O.12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Kenya After the Crisis: The Ambassador's Visit
to Rift Valley

REF: Nairobi 706


1. (U) Summary. On March 1-2 the Ambassador visited
several areas of Rift Valley which were hit hard by the
post-election violence. While all these areas were calm
in the wake of the signing of the February 28 political
accord, they remain traumatized by what happened. People
are hopeful that the coalition government will address
the underlying land grievances that fueled the violence.
The Ambassador used the visit to delineate U.S. policy,
to urge support for the political accord, and to
emphasize the importance of reconciliation. The message
was well-received, and there was widespread praise for
what is seen as the decisive U.S. role to end the crisis.
The visit was covered extensively by the media. End

2. (U) During March 1-2 the Ambassador, accompanied by a
Mission team, visited Eldoret, Kitale, and Nakuru in Rift
Valley, three of the areas hit hardest by violence during
the post-election crisis. Throughout the visit, the
Ambassador articulated U.S. policy, and highlighted our
support for reconciliation and full implementation of the
political accord. Members of civil society, elders,
internally displaced persons, government officials, and
representatives of the private sector widely and publicly
praised the decisive U.S. role in helping resolve the
crisis. The visit received extensive media coverage.

Nakuru -- Land Issues and Marginalization

3. (SBU) The situation was calm in all these areas, but
all are burdened with tens of thousands of internally
displaced persons resulting from the post-election
violence. The deputy provincial commissioner stated that
the violence during January and February were the worst
the area had ever experienced, but he put it into
perspective by noting that enormous violence and
displacements had also occurred following violence during
the 1992 and 1997 elections. Then, as now, the
underlying cause of the violence is disputes over land.
This manifests itself through violent actions of the Rift
Valley's dominant Kalenjin ethnic group, who feel
economically marginalized, to force out Kikuyus, who own
much of the land. The Rift Valley Province is currently
hosting 220,000 IDPs. The deputy provincial commissioner
said he had been instructed by the government to focus on
reconciliation, particularly by involving local political
leaders and Members of Parliament in the process.
Contrary to some reports, he maintained that the violence
started spontaneously, but was then hijacked by
politicians. He also frankly indicated that Kikuyu
leaders from Central Province had likely brought in some
youths (including perhaps the Kikuyu criminal gang called
the 'Mungiki') from there to retaliate for violence
perpetrated against Kikuyus. He accurately pointed out
that unemployed youth were the fuel for violence and
emphasized the need for youth employment programs (which
is a focus of the government's March 17 appeal to donors;
see septel).

4. (U) The Ambassador participated in an event sponsored
by the Ebony Foundation, which handed out micro-
enterprise grants to help small businesses rebuild
following the violence. The event, covered by the media,
highlighted the U.S.-Kenyan partnership, since 40 percent
of the Foundation's support comes from private individuals
in the U.S. The foundation, which is supporting about
24,000 small businesses across Kenya, allocates 60
percent of its funds for women entrepreneurs. During the
event, the Ambassador addressed about 50 small business
owners. The fact that all the businesses are controlled
by mixed ethnic groups highlights the theme of
reconciliation (and also reflects the fact that
displacements were largely the result of land disputes,
and not primarily the result of ethnic animosities per

5. (U) The situation in Nakuru also points out the

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plight of marginalized communities. The Ambassador met
with representatives of the Masaai and Ogiek communities.
Many years ago both ethnic groups were forced out of this
part of the Rift Valley into less productive land. The
Maa Civil Society Forum noted that this dates back to the
Anglo-Masaai treaty of 100 years ago. They complained
that encroachment on their lands is accelerating, with
the development of housing schemes that will not benefit
the Masaai. The Ogiek community, which is so small that
it is not counted among Kenya's 42 ethnic groups,
described how it had been forced off land in the Mau
Forest along Rift Valley. In another manifestation of
unresolved underlying grievances, their court case has
been pending 15 years. They are advocating for the
creation of a minority people's forum. Both groups
emphasized the need for the constitutional review process
to be inclusive.

6. (U) The Ambassador met with IDPs from the local stadium.
The IDP population is mainly composed of Luos and Luhyas who
had been displaced from Central Province and areas around
Nakuru, which demonstrates that Kikuyus were not the only
groups affected by the violence. As in other camps, the
Kenyan Red Cross is doing a good job. U.S. support is
deeply appreciated, according to all.

7. (U) The Ambassador's impromptu town hall meeting with
about 200 people in the local market resulted in a lively
discussion of the current situation. The group was
ethnically mixed, reflected Nakuru's cosmopolitan nature,
and generally agreed that ethnic groups could continue to
live peacefully together. They emphasized, however, the
need for land reform to address the grievances that were
at the heart of the violence in rural areas.

8. (U) The Catholic Bishop, who had never received an
ambassadorial visit, discussed the Church's support for
about 19,000 displaced persons. The Bishop echoed others
pointing out that the violence was mainly about land
issues. He said that unemployed youth were exploited by
politicians who organized violence.

Kitale -- Impacted by Violence in Mt. Elgon

9. (SBU) Kitale, in the North Rift Valley, has been
affected by violence even before the post-election
crisis. Kitale borders on the Mt. Elgon area, where a
localized land dispute has triggered serious violence
during the past two years (a militia group estimated
at several thousand operates in the Mt. Elgon area;
see reftel). While the town of Kitale itself has been
relatively unaffected, the Mt. Elgon violence spills over
into surrounding rural areas. Kitale is also part of one
of the richest farming areas of Kenya. Local businessmen
told the Ambassador over lunch of their grave concerns
that post-election violence and the spillover from Mt.
Elgon has impeded planting on the eve of the rainy
season. They estimated that planting is one-tenth of the
normal acreage. Small businessmen in and around the town
have suffered from the violence and disruption of the
local economy. Kitale, which is celebrating its 100th
anniversary, has a young mayor, who talked persuasively
about the need for reconciliation and the difficulty of
returning people to their homes given what appeared to be
a worsening situation in the Mt. Elgon area.

10. (U) The Ambassador assisted in distribution of
USAID-supplied food to IDPs at the Kitale show grounds,
addressed them, and met with their IDP committee. The
visit highlighted problems with health care, as supply of
HIV/AIDS drugs were disrupted as a result of the
violence. (Note: PEPFAR and the Ministry of Health have
moved rapidly to restore normal operations in the wake of
the political accord. End note.) Most of the IDPs are
Luhya, but there were also Turkana, Kikuyu and Kisii. They
uniformly expressed deep skepticism that conditions would
ever be safe enough for them to return to their homes.
This is the third time (1992, 1997 and now) that many of
them have been displaced, they noted. Many of the IDPs,
therefore, want to be resettled in other areas. They also
pointed out that many of the IDPs have no land to go back

NAIROBI 00000803 003 OF 006

to, since they worked as squatters and day laborers. They
stressed how difficult it will be to resume farming
activities, since all their implements and supplies were
destroyed. Reflecting their belief that they will be in
camps for a long time, they also emphasized the need for
provisions for adequate education for their children.
Finally, they insisted that they receive compensation for
their destroyed property. Discussion with the committee
revealed great resentment over large tracts of land owned
by the GOK's Agricultural Development Corporation and
large tracts held by Kikuyu elite (who purchased them
during the Kenyatta era).

11. (U) A series of meetings with civil society revealed
the negative impact on Kitale of the spillover of
violence from the Mt. Elgon region. A group of religious
leaders talked about the complex land issues in Mt. Elgon
which triggered the violence of recent years. (reftel)
They urged that the political accord be used as an
opportunity to resolve this conflict. A group of women
civil society leaders described their impressive efforts
to foster reconciliation at the grassroots level. Youth
groups focused on the reality that youths were the ones
primarily responsible for committing violence, because
they could be readily exploited due to pervasive

12. (U) A large group of elders from the Mt. Elgon area
came to Kitale specifically to meet with the Ambassador.
They reviewed the troubled history of the Mt. Elgon area,
particularly the fact that the Sabaot people have been
increasingly pushed off their ancestral lands since
independence. This has fueled the resentment manifested
by their support for the 3,000 strong Sabaot Land Defense
Force, an extremely violent local militia which is
currently under siege by Kenyan armed forces (refel).
The elders said that they are talking with the youth to
end violence, but the youth have no incentive to do so.
The Ambassador urged the elders to redouble efforts to
achieve peace, since violence precludes the kinds of
programs needed to address the issues in the Mt. Elgon

13. (U) At dinner, two senior retired generals discussed
the nature of the post-election violence. It was not,
they maintained, pre-meditated, but rather a spontaneous
reaction to the perception that the election was stolen.
Once it started, however, violence was then manipulated
for political purposes.

Eldoret -- Hope in the Epicenter of Violence

14. (U) An extraordinary one-day visit to Mt. Elgon
highlighted both the terrible dimensions of the violence
which took place there, and reasons to be hopeful. In
the morning the Ambassador visited an IDP camp of 15,000
primarily Kikuyus. He met with the IDP committee, toured
the camp, and addressed several thousand IDPs. The IDP
committee emphasized the recurrent nature of violence in
the area, noting a pattern dating back to the 1960s. IDPs
want reassurances that the underlying land issues will be
addressed and that safeguards will be put in place to
ensure such violence never occurs again. The IDPs also
seek compensation. Indicating that most believe they
will need to remain in the camp for some time, they urged
upgrading of facilities, particularly access to education
for their children.

15. (U) In the afternoon, the Ambassador spoke to about
5,000 Kalenjins gathered for a peace and reconciliation
conference hosted by a U.S.-sponsored NGO. The
Ambassador's remarks (see para 19) were broadcast live on
the Kalenjin vernacular radio station Kass FM (the
Ambassador asked the most popular announcer of the
station to be his translator at the rally). The
Ambassador told the Kalenjin audience that he had just
visited the IDP camp, not more than a kilometer away. He
challenged the Kalenjins to extend support to the IDPs,
and to reconcile with them. Unexpectedly, all the Rift
Valley MPs, including ODM's William Ruto, showed up at
the event. Ruto, who has been attacked by Kikuyus as an

NAIROBI 00000803 004 OF 006

alleged organizer of violence, made a strong speech in
which he told the Kalenjin audience that Kikuyus are
their friends and neighbors and must be allowed to return
to their homes. Text of the Ambassador's remarks are
included at the end of the cable.

16. (U) The city of Eldoret, which was an epicenter of
the violence, was calm. Some burned buildings starkly
highlighted the reality of what had happened. The
obvious presence of unemployed youth on the streets -- a
phenomenon seen throughout the country -- testified to the
large challenge inherent in getting this area of the
country fully back to normal. A meeting with the
Catholic Bishop, however, provided reason to be hopeful.
Earlier, the District Commissioner had highlighted the
Bishop's efforts as extremely important. The Bishop, who
is widely respected in Kenya, has been working
systematically at the parish level to promote
reconciliation. Peace and reconciliation committees have
been set up in 40 parishes; these include elders as well
as youth. He has facilitated some meetings between
Kikuyu and Kalenjin elders. The Bishop accurately
emphasized that the violence was about politics and
economics. It manifested itself along tribal lines
(because Kikuyus are perceived as having taken the land
and as having stolen the election), but the violence does
not reflect ethnic hatred.

17. (U) The Bishop believes that his reconciliation
efforts have laid the groundwork for small-scale returns
in several locations. Per septel, we are working with
Catholic Relief Services, one of our implementing
partners, to support such returns as soon as they can be
safely carried out. At the same time, the Bishop did not
minimize how much the violence traumatized the
population. He said the Church sponsored an essay
program as part of healing and reconciliation efforts.
Students were asked to write about the worst day of their
lives. One twelve-year-old girl wrote about the day she
was forced to watch her sister being gang-raped, and then
to witness the decapitation of her brother.

18. (U) As horrible as some of the violence was, Kenyans
-- even in Eldoret and other parts of Rift Valley -- have
reacted very positively to the political accord. They
see this as a first step along a difficult path to
address underlying land grievances that have repeatedly
fueled violence. Progress in that regard will be
necessary to give the displaced confidence to return to
their homes. In the meantime, reconciliation will
undoubtedly yield mixed results, but may be sufficiently
acceptable in some areas to permit limited returns. All
of this underscores the need for the U.S. to support
Kenyan efforts to maintain momentum on implementation of
all elements of the political accord, including the
reform agenda.

19. (U) Ambassador's remarks in Mt. Elgon follow.

Begin text:

I planned this visit to the Rift Valley before the
agreement was signed between President Kibaki and the
Honorable Raila Odinga -- but I also planned the trip with
confidence that a deal would be achieved. I believed
this because of the enormous faith I have in the Kenyan
people. You and people across this great land made your
voices heard that the two leaders must put the interests
of the nation first. I commend them both for having done
so, but in a very real sense the Kenyan people deserve
the most credit for what has been accomplished.

This is my second trip to the Eldoret since the end of
December. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
Jendayi Frazer and I came here and to Kisumu on January
8th to see exactly what had happened in the first days of
the violence. Like all Kenyans and their friends, we
were shocked by the devastation. The presence of
Assistant Secretary Frazer in Eldoret testified to our
concerns about how the violence was affecting Kenyans
here and throughout the country.

The crisis that Kenya experienced during the past two

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months traumatized people across the ethnic and political
spectrum. I know that the people of Rift Valley have been
particularly affected by the violence, but many areas
throughout Kenya have also suffered. Some of the
violence was spontaneous, some of it has been organized
by those who seek to exploit young people to advance
their selfish political aims, and some amounts to nothing
more than hooliganism. There have also been cases of
excessive use of force by the police. None of it was
justified. Those seeking to arm groups and to plan for
further violence must be stopped. And those responsible
must be held accountable.

In signing an agreement to work together, Kenya's leaders
have shown the way forward to achieve peace, justice, and
reconciliation. Now is the time for all Kenyans to come
together to support the agreement so that all Kenyans can
enjoy the fruits of economic prosperity, can exercise
their democratic rights, and can have access to the
educational, health, and other programs that they and
their children deserve.

The agreement that was signed was an important first step
to help sustain Kenya on its democratic path. The
agreement provides an historic opportunity for the Kenyan
people to finally address the underlying grievances that
have torn the fabric of the nation for far too long. The
agenda for institutional reform that the parties are
working out -- including constitutional, electoral, and
land -- provides a blueprint for accelerating development
and strengthening institutions so that the trauma of the
past two months will never be repeated. Implementation
of the agreement and the reform agenda will be a complex,
challenging process, but I am confident that your voices
and the political will of your leaders will get results.

Americans understand these issues, because we have
experienced similar problems. We fought a civil war.
One hundred years later, in 1968 when the Reverend Dr.
Martin Luther King was assassinated, violence erupted in
a dozen American cities. Many were killed, much property
was damaged, and the U.S. military had to be deployed to
restore order. This happened because the assassination
unleashed pent-up anger regarding longstanding
grievances. Civil rights issues that had lingered since
the civil war had never been fully resolved. American
rose to the challenge of that crisis by grasping the
opportunity to deal with these grievances, redoubling
efforts on civil rights and related issues. Today, our
country is stronger as a result.

As a strong friend and partner of Kenya, we will help the
Kenyan people seize their opportunity to address
fundamental grievances and to strengthen institutions.
We will do this in part by providing 25 million dollars
(1.75 billion KS). We will work in consultation with
Kenyan civil society groups and with the new coalition
government to determine how best to employ these funds.
Our focus will be on: supporting implementation of the
political agreement and the agreed reform agenda;
assisting people to resume their livelihoods; helping
with reconstruction and the return of displaced people to
their homes; and strengthening democratic governance and

At the same time, we will continue to provide
approximately 1 billion KS in humanitarian assistance for
those affected by the violence. We are providing funding
to the Kenya Red Cross Society, various U.N. agencies,
and numerous non-governmental organizations, including
Catholic Relief Services. Our assistance is helping
provide food, tents, blankets, clean drinking water,
health services, and protection for the displaced.

Rift Valley has been an epicenter of violence during the
past two months. Unspeakable things have happened. Yet
I challenge the people of Rift Valley to set an example
for the nation of peace, dialogue, and reconciliation. I
understand this will not be an easy process, but I have
faith in the decency and good sense of the Kenyan people.
Whether you are a Kalinjen, Luo, Kikuyu, Luhya, Masaai,
or a member of one of the other 42 ethnic groups of
Kenya, you share certain values of respect for life, of

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hospitality, of love of family -- and, I believe, you
share a sense of pride in being Kenyan. Remember that
the rich ethnic diversity of Kenya is one of its greatest
strengths and offers much to the world. Cherish your
values, your unique ways of life, your traditions and
cultures, but reach out to one another in a spirit that
truly reflects your values. Show Kenyans the way
forward. Be an example to the world. End text.

© Scoop Media

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