Thursday, January 3, 2008

KENYA | Irony of Obama's Win While Kenya Is in Turmoil

On the same day that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in his victory speech after the Iowa Democratic Caucus describes himself as having a "father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas" and seeks to use his campaign to unify the United States, the news is full of widespread unrest in Kenya. Photos of burning vehicles and buildings are tied to a rushed declaration by the incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu tribesman, that he had been reelected over Luo challenger Raila Odinga, despite signs of election irregularities.

The resentment that flared up over the election dates back to expectations at the time of Kenya's independence in 1963.  Kikuyu tribesman and Mau Mau independence movement leader Jomo Kenyatta, respected as the father of independent Kenya, was named head of the Kenya African National Union with the support of Oginga Odinga (father of Raila Odinga), a leader of the mostly Christian Luo tribe, one of the three largest in Kenya. It was widely anticipated that respected Luo trade union leader Tom Mboya would succeed Kenyatta. Unfortunately, Mboya was assassinated in 1969.

This week’s Kenya election was a contest between Kibaki and Odinga, who–in an echo of the role of his father in supporting Kenyatta–again played a part in Kenya's 2002 presidential election, by throwing the support of his Liberal Democratic Party behind Kibaki.