Mitigating violence in Kenya’s 2013 elections

Joel Barkan has a CFR contingency planning memorandum on the Kenyan elections in which he notes that:

The United States and others may have limited leverage over Kenya’s domestic politics, but they are not without options that would significantly improve the prospects for acceptable elections and help avert a major crisis. However, with little more than two months before the elections, Washington must intensify its engagement or forsake its opportunity to make a difference.

But the window might be closing fast on the international community to help Kenya avoid a repeat of 2007-08, when 1300 died and 300,000 were displaced after a bungled election. According to a report by the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security (yours truly was a research assistant for the commission), evidence suggests that international interventions to encourage reasonably free and fair and peaceful elections are most effective when done well in advance to the polling day. In the Kenyan case, the structural causes of previous rounds of electoral violence were never addressed, and may yet lead to the loss of life this election cycle.

What can now be done to avoid large scale organized violence is to credibly convince the politicians and those who finance youth militia (chinkororo, taliban, mungiki, jeshi la mzee, baghdad boys, etc) that they will be held accountable. So far, as is evident in Tana River and the informal settlements within Nairobi, the lords of violence appear to be operating like it is business as usual.

Urban Poverty

This is the kind of story that makes you sick in the stomach. The story is about the plight of women in Nairobi’s slums and focuses on one Ms Kambura:

In 2006, she was gang-raped by four men who infected her with the Aids virus, hardy 100 metres from her one-room home. She had gone to the “toilet” in Athara, one of the open fields that residents of this informal settlement run to for lack of sanitary facilities. It was 8pm, but for residents here, that is late enough to be mugged, raped, even killed by gangs that roam the slums.

Kenyan urban poverty is a tinderbox waiting for a lighter, especially in light of the ever rising income disparities in major towns and cities.

In related news, the business pages of the Nation report that despite the downturn in the housing markets in the developed world home markets in places like Kenya, and Nairobi in particular, are still lucrative.

Currently, the rental market in Kenya is facing an upward pressure as a result of a rising middle class.The demand is believed to be higher than the supply of housing units. Statistics from the government and private sector players indicate that the annual demand for housing in Kenya stands at 150,000 units.This demand far outstrips the supply, which is estimated at about 35,000 units a year. The index shows that investing in Kenya’s housing industry has better returns than in the United States and the United Kingdom.

I wonder if the people at the city councils of Nairobi and other cities ever think of how they could exploit this huge gap between demand and supply to provide housing for their residents and make profits while at it – profits that they can then steal 20% of (if they REALLY have to) instead of resorting to rent-seeking practices like inflating the cost of cemeteries.