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Cablegate: Kenya Elections: Odm Rally On the Coast: Fanning

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UNCLAS NAIROBI 004269

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV PREL KE
SUBJECT: KENYA ELECTIONS: ODM RALLY ON THE COAST: FANNING
ETHNIC RESENTMENT


1. (SBU) Summary: PolCouns observed an Orange Democratic
Movement (ODM) rally in the coastal town of Khilifi during
which some prominent ODM leaders used explicitly anti-Kikuyu
language, receiving roars of approval from the crowd. Other
prominent ODM leaders chose to appeal to reason rather than
passion, stressing that ODM's "majimbo" (decentralization)
agenda does not involve "chasing upcountry people out of the
coast." Their remarks received only polite applause. In
some areas of the country, such as the coastal strip and
parts of Rift Valley Province, there is intense resentment of
resident Kikuyus for supposedly gaining extensive properties
through nefarious means, while many of the indigenous
population are landless. These passions can more easily be
exploited than controlled. End Summary.

2. (U) On Monday, 22 October, PolCouns observed an ODM rally
held in the coastal town of Khilifi, a district capital one
hour's drive north of Mombasa. The district is largely
ethnic Mijikenda (Christian majority, Muslim minority). The
headliners at the event included Mombasa MP Balala, ODM
Executive Secretary Prof. Peter Anyang' Nyong'o, Vice
Presidential Candidate Musalia Mudavadi and recent KANU
defectee Ronald Ngala. Also in attendance was Martin
Shikuku, both a minister and a political detainee under the
Kenyatta and Moi governments (a rare accomplishment).

Ngala & Anyang' Nyong'o: Voices of Reason
------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Ngala was initially booed and heckled by the crowd,
preventing him from speaking. Balala then took the
microphone and explained that Ngala (whose late father is
considered one of Kenya's founders and was the longtime
political godfather of the coast), had just defected from
KANU (which is part of the pro-Kibaki coalition) to ODM. The
crowd roared their approval, but then responded in a much
more subdued manner as Ngala explained that "majimbo
(decentralization) does not mean chasing upcountry people
from the coast." He went on to stress that "we respect all
those who respect us. Everyone is welcome to the coast.
Majimbo will permit us to develop according to our own

priorities. Through the tourism industry and our port we
contribute massively to central government revenue, but get
very little back in return. Just look at the state of our
roads. Majimbo will give us our fair share of the national
cake."

4. (SBU) Prof. Anyang' Nyong'o spoke in similar terms,
emphasizing the good governance aspects of decentralization,
such as locally elected governments and moving resources and
the administration closer to the people. He repeatedly
stressed that all Kenyans are one and majimbo did not require
anyone to return to their home district. "All Kenyans are at
home anywhere in Kenya. What we want is federalism like in
the United States." The Professor received a tepid response.

Balala & Shikuku: Blatant Appeals to Anti-Kikuyu Passions
--------------------------------------------- ------------

5. (SBU) Balala, who can be suave and urbane in private,
gave an emotional, populist address pointing to central
government exploitation, corruption and neglect as
responsible for the coast's land and resource problems. He
noted that "they" use control of the central government to
funnel a disproportionate share of national resources to
develop "their areas." (Given known coastal sentiments,
Balala obviously intended "they" to refer to the Kikuyu
elite.) Balala said that ODM's majimbo agenda was the only
way for "coast people to take back what was stolen." Balala
promised that "majimbo will be implemented within six months
of an ODM election victory." (Note: Implementation of a
decentralization scheme would require at least constitutional
amendments, if not a complete overhaul. ODM is on record
supporting the Bomas draft constitution. Adoption of a new
constitution requires a referendum. Six months seems
unrealistic. End Note).

6. (SBU) Shikuku, a Luhya from Western Province who is often
listed as one of Kenya's independence heroes, explicitly
identified the Kikuyu community as the problem. He led the

crowd in a chant as he named every ministry or parastatal
headed by a Kikuyu. He claimed 65 percent of provincial and
district officers are Kikuyu (by our count, the true figure
is 26 percent). He told the crowd "you send your taxes to
Nairobi so they can spend it on 'their people' in Central
Province, leaving you with bad roads and no services." He
also claimed, "All the tourist hotels on the coast are owned
by people from Central or else foreigners; none are owned by
coast people." Comment: One worried coastal Kenyan
expressed concern at this rhetoric, commenting "this must be
the sort of thing Mugabe said in Zimbabwe; if they keep this
up, then Kikuyu shopkeepers in Khilifi will not be safe.
People will feel they have permission to chase them out and
take their goods."

7. (SBU) PolCouns discussed political sentiments in Khilifi
with a half dozen ODM aspirants for the local parliamentary
seat. They stressed that unlike elsewhere in the country,
political rivalries in Khilifi are friendly and non-violent.
As one of the aspirants put it, "Remember that civilization
began on the coast." (Later in the day, during the ODM
rally, a woman aspirant arrived with an escort of young,
drunk and rowdy "security youths." The crowd and ODM
officials reacted with evident disapproval.)

8. (SBU) The group of ODM aspirants were unanimous on the two
main political concerns of the coast: fair distribution of
national resources and land allocation. By fair distribution
of national resources they do not mean equal distribution on
a per capita basis or resource transfers from relatively
wealthy areas to poor areas. Rather, they intend that most
of the revenue generated from a region should remain in the
region to address local priorities, not the dictates of
Nairobi officials. (Comment: This may be problematic since
some of the poorer provinces do not have the tax base to
sustain public services. End Comment.) As to land
allocation, they claimed that many large estates in the
region were illegally allocated by politicians with little or
no payment, dispossessing local people. "This began with
Jomo Kenyatta, who gave his people (Kikuyu elites) all the
prime beach land and sisal estates," claimed one aspirant.
"No, it goes back further, we must review the illegal
seizures by the British in 1908 when they stole the coast
from the Sultan of Zanzibar," said another aspirant. The
aspirants differed on what basis to challenge "illegal land
allocations," but all agreed that the land issue must be
thoroughly reviewed and corrective actions taken to address
deeply felt grievances of the "coastal people."

9. (SBU) Comment: The revenue distribution and land
allocation issues are of intense concern to voters along the
coastal strip of Coast Province, but much less so in the vast
interior of the province. The coastal strip was at various
times in history governed by the Omani and Zanzibar
sultanates, the Portuguese and the British. The area's
incorporation into Kenya was opposed by some coastal leaders
during the run up to independence. These sentiments linger.
Kenya's first president, Jomo Kenyatta, did indeed acquire
large land holdings on the coast and arranged for several
family members and Central Province supporters to do the
same. Coastal Kenyans, whether Christian or Muslim, feel
themselves to be culturally and historically distinct from
the rest of the country. They often express the view that
"our traditions of hospitality and courtesy have been
exploited by upcountry people who have taken our best land,
run all the businesses, only employ their people and take
away our tax revenue to spend in their home districts."
ODM's coast campaign is largely based on these resentments.
In 1992 the Likoni area of Mombasa suffered severe rioting,
killings and looting directed against Kenyans whose origins
were outside the coast, principally Kikuyus. The violence
was instigated by politicians. There is a danger that ODM
rhetoric may ignite dangerous passions that can easily get
out of control.

RANNEBERGER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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