A world of change can happen in three months. For those keeping score, we wavered quite a bit about if we should indeed head to Kenya. Once a mark of stability in a continent known for anything but, the East African nation disintegrated into deadly tribal strife after contested presidential elections late last year. By the time we were packing our bags, we were pretty sure that Kenya was off the itinerary. A month and a half later, things had settled and we cautiously looked into visiting the nation once again.
Ultimately, it was the blessing of Jon Rosen that gave us the confidence to buy our tickets. Rosen, a childhood friend of ours and a former teacher in Kenya, continues to maintain strong contacts with the Kenyan running scene and has a good hand on the local pulse. Currently a master’s student at Johns Hopkins School of International Studies in Bologna, Italy (a future destination on the Jaunt), Rosen recently wrote the following piece that masterfully breaks down the recent, and unstable situation in Kenya. -T.A.
For someone with a deep personal connection to Kenya and its people, the presidential and parliamentary elections of last December 27th had long been marked on my calendar. On that day, opinion polls showed, Raila Odinga, a youthful populist who preached a message of ethnic harmonization, stood a fair chance of upending the aging incumbent Mwai Kibaki.
Elected five years prior on a pledge to curb the country’s longstanding history of corruption, Kibaki was nonetheless accused of reverting to the ways of his forefathers: endorsing tribal favoritism, widening the gap between the country’s elite upper-class and its impoverished masses, and turning his back on various episodes of high-level plundering of state coffers.
As returns trickled in the day after the election, Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement had made large gains in Parliament, and, local sources reported, had a sizeable lead in the race for the Presidency. On the 29th, however, the announcement of further results was suspended under dubious circumstances. That day, I opened my inbox to find the following message from police officer friend who’s also an athlete – and an astute political observer – in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret.
“There are some alarming news about Kibaki rigging the poll ‘n a speedy swearing in ceremony tomorrow against the peoples’ wish. You can imagine what will definitely follow. The Eldoret you knew is not the Eldoret of today, total chaos, total mess.”
Thus began the overnight plunge of a country I’d grown to love for the hospitality and kindness of its people, into one replete with the vilest of human atrocities.
How on Earth did this come to be? At the core, I see three different explanations. (more…)