It was record food prices that triggered the so called “Arab Spring” in Tunisia and Egypt and Kenya stands on the brink of a similar explosion.
Compounding the hunger factor in Kenya is “Queen Christine” (no maize? let them eat cake) Legarde of the IMF applying a hammer lock to Kenya’s chronically cash strapped governments budget with food subsidies for the poorest scheduled to be slashed.
The USA instigated Kenya’s criminally foolhardy invasion of Somalia and has landed the Kenyan military, an ill-disciplined, brutal and corrupt band of uniformed hoodlums, in a quagmire that is spreading the flames of rebellion through out Kenya’s north eastern Somali population.
This weeks assassination, apparently by a Kenyan police death squad, of a popular Kenyan Somali nationalist sheik known for his anti-USA (read “Al Queda linked terrorist) stance was a match that could well have lit the fuse leading to an explosion from amongst long oppressed Somali’s in northern Kenya with a series of demonstrations and armed attacks on the police still in progress.
These “riots” and “terrorist attacks on police” are taking place mainly in the port city of Mombassa, home to a simmering independence movement amongst the long marginalized Muslim population
Today the mainly muslim population of the coastal region is almost unanimous in its desire for independence with opinion polls reporting up to 95% of the people supporting such.
While so far the situation around the “Africa’s Great Lakes” regions main port of Mombassa has yet to see any major outbreaks of armed violence reports from the Somalia arms markets (supplied by the African Union “peacekeepers” and the Ethiopian military) indicate that weapons are being purchased in increasing numbers by coastal Muslim organizations. Even a former Kenyan cabinet member from Mombassa has warned of an almost inevitable uprising in the region.
Historically the muslims along Kenya’s coast, with its port of Mombassa being vital to the economies of not only Kenya but Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan, were a semi autonomous state with allegiance to the Sultan of Zanzibar.
They claim that after Kenyan independence the Kikuyu regime made a secret deal with Zanzibar allowing Kenya to “lease” the region for several decades. The independence leadership on the coast claims this “lease” has long since expired and they want to exercise their right to self determination.
With the coastal region long suffering from rampant corruption, nepotism, economic neglect and marginalization along with the outright theft of lucrative beach front lands by the top leadership in the Nairobi government one might wonder why it has taken this long for an uprising to be born. A future independent state in Mombassa has East Africa’s busiest port, a 60,000 bpd oil refinery and the world famous hotels, why do they need Nairobi?
Since independence Kenya has been ruled by an ethnic minority Kikuyu regime installed by the departing British colonialists. The spoils of power were hoarded by an elite amongst the new Kikuyu rulers and the much larger Luo tribe in the highlands has been left to scrape by on a few dollars a day per capita.
If the now twice postponed elections were to be really free and fair few doubt the the Luo will win and the Kikuyu will lose. Once in power the Luo will waste little time seizing what they have only dreamed of having for more that 50 years since independence.
In other words, if the Kikuyu elite lose the election they will lose everything they have stolen fair and square from the trough of government largess, down to the land sitting under some of the largest hotels in Africa along Kenya’s world famous beaches.
The last election in Kenya in 2007 saw another typical Kenya election theft, but this time the Luo exploded. After a month or more of fire and the sword, a couple thousand dead and hundreds of thousands ethnically cleansed in the Rift Valley some sort of peace was finally restored with a “power sharing deal”. Power sharing as in doubling the number of government Ministers so both national crime syndicates posing as political parties could share in the spoils and in the process bleed the national treasury dry.
The Luo people know all to well that they should be the victors in the next election, postponed twice and still with no firm date set.
While a new power sharing deal struck in Nairobi’s halls of government may be accepted by the masses of poverty stricken Kenyan’s with maize prices doubling at the same time as the scheduled elections there is a strong possibility that matters will be beyond containment and the pent up anger of the Luo along with all the rest of Kenya over their half century of grievances against their ethnic rivals the Kikuyu will not be satisfied less a full scale transfer of power.
An ominous sign of things to come are reports of steady arms purchases on the Somali black market by Kenyan militias both Luo and Kikuyu. The last round of election triggered ethnic violence in 2007 was literally fire and sword, with machetes being the weapons used in the massacres. The introduction of automatic weapons adds a new, much more lethal dimension to the next wave of ethnic violence and could lead to the violence spreading much wider than in the past. It could also bring the ethnic based militias more on par with the police and army making it much more difficult for the Nairobi regime to contain matters.
Much has been written about how a new petroleum industry in Africa’s Great Lakes region is about to bring billions of petro dollars and economic development with even Kenya finding oil in the Turkana region. But all of this will go up in smoke, literally, if Kenya explodes in civil war, both in the Rift Valley in the highlands and the Mombassa centered “nation” along the Indian Ocean. What international energy company will invest $billions in building oil pipelines from central Africa to the coast if it has to pass through territory engulfed in civil war and reach a Mombassa fighting for independence?
While Kenya maybe able to postpone an outbreak of violence that is all that will happen, it will just be a matter of buying time. The underlying tensions in the region, fed by record high food prices and IMF enforced food subsidy cuts, will need more than “power sharing” or the inevitable crackdown on the budding independence movement on the coast to prevent civil war breaking out in Kenya someday. Kenya is in trouble, serious trouble, and 2013 may well see western hunger speculators cause an explosion that will see a civil war splinter the country.
Thomas C. Mountain is the most widely distributed independent journalist in Africa, living and