The closely contested Kenyan elections in 2007 were based upon a flawed election process, and led to a deepening of ethnic divisions and serious post-election violence lasting well into 2008. Background
From 1965 to 1990, a monolithic, one-party system of government became entrenched in Kenya, characterised by a ‘presidential authoritarianism’ and the curtailment of fundamental rights. The repeal of part of the constitution in 1991 and the subsequent reintroduction of multi-party politics, although hailed as a major political landmark, were regrettably not accompanied by other constitutional, legal, and administrative reforms, resulting in a weak legal and institutional framework for elections.
Following the introduction of multi-party elections in 1991, and in the absence of an effective and organised opposition, President Moi (a Kalenjin) won the 1992 and 1997 elections, both marred by violence. However, in 2002, the opposition finally won by uniting around Mwai Kibaki, a former Vice President and Kikuyu. The 2002 government of Mwai Kibaki promised a new constitution that would help to deal with Kenya’s many governance problems – an overly powerful presidency with a weak legislature and judiciary, a centralised state, disputes around land, a history of impunity for violence and corruption, inequalities between ethnic groups, and poverty and unemployment. However, large parts of the population felt that these promises were betrayed.
Kibaki announced his intention to run for a second term in 2007.Potential opponents to Kibaki briefly united in the Orange Democratic Movement, which included opposition leaders Uhuru Kenyatta (of KANU), Raila Odinga( formerly the LDP), and another rival, Kalonzo Musyoka. By mid-2007 the Odinga and Musyoka factions split the ODM in two pieces. Kenyatta decided to move away from ODM completely and back the incumbent Kibaki. The split in the opposition seemed to advantage Kibaki as the December elections approached, but the polling between the sitting president and Odinga proved quite close and through much of te fall of 2007 Odinga held a lead. Raila Odinga, son of a politician and leader of the Luo ethnic group, was in for a rude surprise on Dec. 30 when the results were announced three days later Kibaki was named the victor — and was sworn in just an hour later. Odinga declared the election rigged, sparking a post-election crisis. The pattern of election violence following the 2007 elections occurred in three discernable waves. First, there was spontaneous looting by youths in the slums of Nairobi and Kisumu of government buildings and of the shops and houses of Kikuyu families and Party of National Unity (PNU) supporters after the announcement of the election results. Second, violence organised in part before the election by opposition and tribal leaders as a response in the event of Kibaki’s winning the election. Third, reprisal attacks, organised by government supporters and Kikuyu militias that mainly targeted migrant workers thought to be opposition supporters in parts of the Rift Valley Province, Central Province, and Nairobi slums. The police also were responsible for much of the violence, either by using excessive force to deal with protesters or choosing not to prevent violence.
Over 1,200 people were killed in the election violence and as many as 350,000 people displaced. The violence disrupted crop production and transport, resulted in a sharp economic downturn, an 80% reduction in tourism revenue, and a rise in the price of basic goods. The violence also entrenched social fragmentation between ethnic groups in the areas hardest hit by the violence.
The role of the army and police in the election violence differed considerably. During the post-election violence the generals made it clear to the President that they were not willing to be called out, that they had seen in their peace-keeping work that military involvement could make domestic