By Nick Wadhams
With a booming economy and tourist trade, Kenya had been considered a bright spot in East Africa. But its Dec. 27 election, which was supposed to be the pride of African democracy, sparked a spiral of violence after candidate Raila Odinga and his supporters accused incumbent President Mwai Kibaki of rigging the results.
What started as political protest quickly turned into something much more dangerous: ethnic conflict. That's because the election was also a competition between the country's two largest ethnic groups--the Luo, who support Odinga, and the Kikuyu, who back Kibaki. The two groups have been wary of each other since Kenya achieved independence from Britain in 1963, and the Luo have never held the presidency.
With their candidate leading in early polls, the Luo were poised to celebrate a historic victory. Instead, Odinga's nearly 1 million-vote lead vanished amid reports of improbably high voter turnout in Kibaki strongholds. Kibaki was hastily sworn in and promptly banned live TV as the violence surged in the streets. (At the height of the crisis, a broadcaster aired children's shows in which smiling kids sang, "Patty-cake, patty-cake.") On Jan. 1, a church in Kiambaa where Kikuyu had sought refuge was burned by an angry mob. At least 50 people, many of them women and children, died in the attack. In the midst of the violence, analysts say, it will be difficult to get the results nullified, but Odinga remains defiant. "If you want to do any kind of negotiations, that must be the starting point--that I won the election and Kibaki lost it," Odinga said. "If Kibaki accepts that position, then we can negotiate ... Without that, there is no basis for dialogue."
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