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African press review 18 June 2014

5 min

There is controversy over who caused two massacres in Kenya, despite the fact that al-Shebab has claimed responsibility.


Al-Shebab - who are they?

What is going on in Kenya?

That question is being asked this morning as far away as Johannesburg. The front page of South Africa's financial paper, BusinessDay, carries a report saying Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has blamed what he called "local political networks" for two recent massacres near the Somali border. This, despite the fact that Somalia’s al-Shebab armed Islamist group insists it is responsible and Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga has described as irresponsible and “absolute nonsense” an earlier claim by Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku that the Mpeketoni massacre was politically motivated.

At least 64 people have been killed in two consecutive nights of carnage in Kenya’s coastal region. More than 50 are missing after the massacres, according to the Red Cross.

Kenya's post-election violence 2007-8

The attacks are the worst on Kenyan soil since last September’s siege of the Westgate shopping centre in the capital Nairobi, also claimed by al-Shebab, in which 67 people were killed.

In a televised address last night, Kenyatta blamed local political networks for the killings, without naming any names.

Kenyatta said the attacks were well planned, politically motivated ethnic violence against a Kenyan community with the intention of evicting them for political reasons.

In Kenya itself the commentary is more direct, with the main headline in this morning's Standard reading "President Uhuru Kenyatta concedes security lapse, blames Raila rallies".

The report says the president blamed the violence in the coastal region on recent political rallies organised by the opposition Coalition for Reform and Democracy, led by Raila Odinga, though the Standard accepts that Kenyatta did not name the opposition party or its leader.

The president accused politicians whom he variously described as reckless and hatemongers of engaging in “ethnic-profiling of one community”.

“The sum total of these campaigns is to portray certain people as less human and therefore less deserving of compassion and consideration, and perhaps, fair game for brutality and abuse,” he said.

Uhuru said the frenzied political rhetoric that has been witnessed in the country in recent weeks would not be tolerated any more.

On its opinion pages the Kenyan Daily Nation carries an article headlined "Mpeketoni attack fits into developing scenario blaming Cord for targeting the Kikuyu".

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The writer says that the president was pointing the finger directly, even without mentioning names, at opposition leader Raila Odinga, who since returning from a three month visit to the United States has led a series of high-profile political rallies to press demands for a national conference on problems afflicting Kenya.

When Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku on Monday alluded to political incitement, the article continues, his statement was largely received with scepticism, as a reckless attempt to divert attention to the political opposition when Kenya is facing serious security challenges.

But now the president has confirmed the official position: the Mpeketoni attacks were not the work of al-Shebab, as initially believed, but are the fault of the opposition leadership.

The president claims that recent rallies set out to demonise certain communities and incite other Kenyans to violence against them.

This, says the Daily Nation, is a clear reference to the president’s own Kikuyu community, who have borne the brunt of attacks at the Cord rallies for allegedly monopolising key positions in the public service, and also refers to the Kalenjin community of Deputy President William Ruto.

The suggestion is that the Mpeketoni attack was not just a random action but one targeted directly at the Kikuyu, the majority population in the settlement scheme established in the 1960 in the Coast region by President Jomo Kenyatta.

The article ends by suggesting that if the Mpeketoni massacre turns out to be part of a developing scenario opposition leaders accused of bearing responsibility might well wonder if the situation bears any resemblance to President Daneil Arap Moi’s warnings in the 1990s that the multi-party campaign would result in violence.

It turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as his regime plotted the infamous Rift Valley ethnic clashes that were a precursor to the last bout of post-election violence that has Kenyatta and his Deputy President William Ruto in the dock at the International Criminal Court.

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