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Inside Kenya

Aired February 28, 2009 - 19:30:00   ET


ISHA SESAY, HOST: Hello, I'm Isha Sesay. You're watching INSIDE AFRICA. This week, we go inside Kenya, one year after the formation of a unity government ended a shocking and violent chapter in Kenya's history. Over the next half-hour, David McKenzie will measure the government's effectiveness in restoring Kenya's reputation and its own people's faith. Here he is now with a report from the Kenyan capital.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Isha. And hello from Nairobi.

Just a year ago, this once vibrant part of Haruma slum was reduced to ashes. A disputed presidential election in Kenya resulted in weeks of violence, often ethnically motivated. Thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands were pushed from their homes.

President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga set up a unity government to try and put a lid on the violence. They've been trying to repair the damage ever since.


CAROLINE MUTOKO, RADIO D.J.: This is Kiss 100, Nairobi's number one hit music station. I've got a question for you. How do you feel about this country a year later? We went to the brink of madness last year.

MCKENZIE: Kenya's top shock talk is a woman. And Caroline Mutoko has been getting an earful lately.

(on camera): What is the assessment that Kenyans have that are calling to your show about the country?

MUTOKO: Hey, wow! You know, I would have thought a year later would have bigger smiles, would feel -- yeah, time to get, you know, Kenya back on track. What are we hearing? We're disappointed.

Kiss 100, hello! Yes, how are we doing a year later?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kenya can do better than it is doing right now. We need to do more than what they say.

MCKENZIE (voice over): The mood was different a year ago. When Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga put pen to paper, Kenya was jubilant, because the alternative was too horrific to contemplate.


MCKENZIE: In the aftermath of a botched election, the country descended into sectarian bloodletting. Kenyans cried out for peace. What they got was compromise.

MICHAEL CHEGE, POLITICAL ANALYST: Physically, it was a shotgun wedding. None of the parties wanted it. The international community and Kenyans themselves first and foremost claimed we have enough bloodshed, it's enough killing, you people have got to get together, we don't care how you share power. But please, do something to stop all this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time has come for us to stand for justice and the rule of law.

MCKENZIE: Kenyans got their peace, but at what cost? Scandal after scandal has rocked the unwieldy parliament. Food scandals while Kenyans go hungry, fuel scandals while the economy suffers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order! Order, order!

FRANCOIS GRIGNON, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: The recent corruption scandals, you know, for which the country has gone through -- shows that you have a great tendency with the coalition government to have, in fact, two political formations going for the grabs, going for the whatever resources they can get in the short period that probably this coalition would stand.

MCKENZIE: Allegations of government corruption are nothing new in Kenya. But Kenya's peace deal promised sweeping reforms and justice. But efforts to launch a special tribunal to punish those responsible for the post-election violence have been stymied by bickering.

CHEGE: Implicitly, the agreement between them is the following -- we need peace. If to bring justice, to bring some of us to court and some of us to account will have to compromise peace, let us forget justice, and let's keep the peace. But don't go deep into who was behind this, because that might overturn the apple cart and nobody wants that to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It bounces back to Club 222, you see?

MUTOKO: Club 222 never went hungry. They never -- they never didn't have a house, they never lived in a tent. They never waited for rations to eat.

We have 222 members of parliament. It's a club. They're not there to represent our interests, and that's what parliament is there for.

Last year this time, I didn't know whether we're going to make it.

MCKENZIE: Despite hearing from angry Kenyans every morning, Caroline Mutoko believes the country has so much promise, but deserves better.

MUTOKO: Kenya is on the brink of greatness. We want leadership, a leadership that's interested and committed to change.

MCKENZIE: So much damage to repair. We'll have much more of the challenges facing Kenya after the break.



MCKENZIE: What is it like to live in a tent?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very difficult because it's very cold.


MCKENZIE: Welcome back to INSIDE AFRICA. I'm David McKenzie, right on the edge of the Rift Valley in Kenya. It may look picturesque, but last year it was a major flashpoint of the political violence. During that time when I was reporting from the region, I met a farmer who'd managed to escape with just his family and a few meager belongings. This year, he's back on his farm, but his life has never been the same.


MCKENZIE: When I found Kennedy Imboki (ph) a year ago, his life had become a battle for survival, reduced to living in a tent with his family. Once a proud and relatively prosperous farmer, he'd become a bitter man.

In the wake of Kenya's botched elections, rival tribal gangs tore his house apart, forced his family to flee for their lives. They looted his foodstock, burned his maize field, and destroyed his livelihood.

A year later, a new crop, the same result. Kennedy hoped for more when he moved back. But this field of local maize will only yield two bags, not even enough to feed his family for two months. The Kenyan government had pledged displaced farmers around $400 compensation, fertilizer and hybrid seed. Kennedy says he's received nothing.

KENNEDY: They have not paid us anything. They have not given us anything for the start of our lives. They have abandoned us, actually. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to solve it (inaudible).

MCKENZIE: Farmers were promised a lot. In May last year, officials tried to convince the displaced to leave their camps and return home. Leave first, they were told, you'll get compensation later.

Later never came for Kennedy and hundreds like him. Rather than producing for their families and the country, these farmers now depend on handouts from aid agencies. They don't expect help anytime soon.

KENNEDY: Before the crisis, I never used to beg anybody, because actually I was very much able to support my family, and I keep the surplus. I'm now a beggar. I have been reduced to a beggar. They are trying to cover up this issue of paying us or giving us the money to start our life, because we're very much willing and we're very much able to sustain ourselves.

MCKENZIE: But for now, Kennedy must carry the burden of charity. This region is known as the breadbasket of Kenya. Without help for its farmers, it could become a basket base.

The Kenyan government denies any corruption in the compensation of displaced farmers, but they did admit to CNN that there are some discrepancies in the registration books that they're looking into.

Farming is an industry that was hit badly by the post-election violence, but so is tourism. The curio shops on the edge of the Rift Valley have been struggling all year because there are just no tourists. This industry employs thousands in Kenya. After the violence, people just didn't come to this country. The country slowly managed to build its brand up, but then the credit crunch hit.

An African wedding. Not here comes the bride, but a chanting escort of Maasai warriors in an altar by the river.

Anna (ph) and Lyndon (ph) trekked all the way from the U.K. to the savanna to tie the knot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really my choice, wasn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was your choice, I gave you the choice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Because I like it here so much, I thought it would be the ideal place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He asked me to marry him, which I didn't think he would do. Therefore, he had the choice where we come.

Yeah, I was -- I have to say I was a little bit concerned, because Lyndon loves it so much, I was concerned if I didn't like it, then we will be (inaudible) for holidays for the rest of our married life.

MCKENZIE: They say they'll be back. The African bush has a unique draw. Tourists return time and again.

The Masai Mara is Kenya's trump card, with unspoiled vistas and world-class game. Tourism accounts for more than 10 percent of Kenya's GDP and thousands of jobs. But now the industry is struggling to stay afloat.

GEORGE MURRAY, MANAGER, LITTLE GOVERNORS: Nothing quite beats, you know, the romance of coming across in a boat.

MCKENZIE: After last year's political clashes, tourism dried up, with many countries issuing travel warnings for Kenya. In 2008, Kenya suffered a 30 percent drop in visitors.

MURRAY: This is it. Welcome to Little Governors.

MCKENZIE: Thank you.

MURRAY: In the first half of the year, due to the problems, was -- the business was terrible. But then again, in the last half, it picked up again.

MCKENZIE: But just as business began to recover, along came the global credit crunch.

DOMINIC GRAMMATICAS, CFO, LITTLE GOVERNORS: We took a second -- second blow, if you like, with the international financial crisis.

MCKENZIE: So, Governors and other tourist operators are slashing prices to attract visitors, capturing tourists with sweet deals. For a family-owned business like Governors, the responsibility isn't just to the bottom line, but to communities outside the park. A falling profit has a very personal knock-on effect here. Governors' camp has helped this Maasai village with biogas installations and a pay-to-visit structure. Right now, there aren't many people paying to visit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no people coming in, so no -- no revenue being collected, and a few things had to -- to be (inaudible).

MCKENZIE: Revenue from tourism helps the village pay for school fees and for medical bills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a risk that if tourist numbers come down, that community support might dwindle. But one thing that we're finding is that a lot of people are saying that one thing they don't want to cut back on too much is their one big annual holiday.

MCKENZIE: A gloom that tour operators in Kenya hope their uniquely spectacular locations will illuminate. And at least they're optimistic that even in this notoriously fickle industry, as sure as profits fall, so will they rise again.

Kenyans leaders certainly face some daunting challenges. Prime Minister Raila Odinga tells us how he's tackling them after the break.


MCKENZIE: Welcome back to INSIDE AFRICA. From Nairobi, Kenya, I'm David McKenzie. Most of the Kenyans we've spoken too have expressed disappointment in the grand coalition government. After a year on the job, Prime Minister Raila Odinga admits they've had problems, but insists they've made progress.


MCKENZIE: Prime Minister, a year ago you signed this historic deal in Kenya, and there was a lot of optimism in the country. But people we've spoken to, just ordinary Kenyans seem quite despondent about Kenya. Do you think the coalition government has achieved what it set out to achieve this first year?

RAILA ODINGA, KENYAN PRIME MINISTER: You need to understand the circumstances under which this coalition government was formed. It was out of a conflict, which devastated the country. The economy itself was utterly destroyed. If you look at the performance of the coalition, by and large I think we've delivered (inaudible) in terms of reform agenda. But we're running a coalition government, a grand coalition government at that, and the progress is not always very fast.

MCKENZIE: One thing that is taking long is this tribunal to try and stop impunity which reined during the post-election violence. The partisan bickering seems to be, you know, the order of the day.

ODINGA: You need the tribunal to try the perpetrators of violence, which includes those who were involved in planning the rigging of the last elections. But you know, this is a much more problematic area, because some members of parliament themselves suspect that they're on that list, second (ph) list of suspects. The general fear is that unless this issue of the parties is addressed, this situation will be worse than what we witnessed last time, because without proper reforms, you cannot have elections next time. People will not go to vote if they know that there will be a repeat of what they saw in 2007.

MCKENZIE: What is being done or what are some of the difficulties that Kenya is facing on the economic front, given the difficulties you already had last year?

ODINGA: Well, first, last year was politically a very bad year. The time that we had (inaudible), that is the time when most people prepare the land for planting, the farmers, and so that was lost. On top of this then came the global crisis, which had, as you know, hit Kenya very hard as well. So this combined together is the cause of the current unrest in the country. My view is that it is not so much because of the performance or not of the part of the coalition government, but people who are hungry are always angry.

MCKENZIE: But all of these difficult scenarios in Kenya, where is the hope for the country moving forward towards the next election?

ODINGA: I think that we must continue to have confidence in our ability to pull out of this kind of crisis. This is not the end of Kenya. I have confidence in the ability of the Kenyan people to rise on the ashes and to reconstruct their country, to make it the strongest economy in this region.


MCKENZIE: Ever optimistic, Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Well, forgiveness can be the key to getting past pain and anger. I'll introduce you to some extraordinary Kenyans from rival tribes who are setting the example, after the break.


MCKENZIE: Welcome back to INSIDE AFRICA. I'm David McKenzie, reporting from Kenya. The Rift Valley has seen years of political violence, but we heard of a group in the town of Ramaruti (ph), which is finding reconciliation, and they're living proof that different tribes can live together and live in peace.

Meet Mama Amani. Twice a week, they gather to sing. Nothing remarkable in that. What is remarkable, they're from different, often competing tribes, and they're singing each other's traditional songs. The group is the brainchild of Maximilla Okello. She saw the poison of ethnic hatred after the election.

MAXIMILLA OKELLO, "MAMA AMANI": Deep down, hatred is penetrating people. The way we're talking to each other, the way we are acting towards each other, it shows the moment there's something to spark up, violence would come up again.

MCKENZIE: To end the cycle, the women don't just sing, they talk, recounting harrowing stories of the conflict where their tribes where both victims and perpetrators.

At first, 67-year old Cecilia Wangui (ph) was unsure about joining Mama Amani. Cecilia was chased out of her farm last year, and now lives in a shack in the town of Rumaruti. She saved only her bicycle from the attackers and survives by running a small store.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, all the Kikuyus left the area.

MCKENZIE: Cecilia showed us how life was before the election, before she had to flee her home. She had settled here after a previous bout of violence in '92. In March last year, a group of youth bent on revenge stormed the settlement with guns and machetes and chased them out.

CECILIA (through translator): This was the kitchen. This was the bedroom. That was the store. I am said because I don't have anything to eat and I used to be on a farm, and I used to plant maize. Now I have nothing.

MCKENZIE: Tribal clashes ruined her, but she needed reconciliation to find peace.

CECILIA: I didn't know what to do, so I decided to join this group of women to see if my heart would settle. It has helped me because now I am no longer shaken. I don't hear gunshots. I don't hear screams. So I see it as a good thing, because now I am going on with my life.

MCKENZIE: Cecilia has forgiven her neighbors, but what of her attackers, that tore down her house and stole her animals?

CECILIA: If one person now has something and the other person is left with nothing, how can they forgive each other?

MCKENZIE: Cecilia has taken the first big step. She's ready to seek harmony where not so long ago there was discord, and help bring peace to the north Rift Valley.

As you can see from the women of Rumaruti, many ordinary Kenyans are committed to getting past the violence of last year, and the deep-seeded tensions in the country. That may be the biggest asset of this country, this spirit of forgiveness in these uncertain times.

That's it for this special edition of INSIDE AFRICA in Kenya. I'm David McKenzie. Now back to Isha Sesay at the CNN Center.


SESAY: Well, forgiveness -- an inspiring note to end on. Many thanks to David.

Before we go, this reminder for you. You can watch INSIDE AFRICA online by going to our web page, I'll be back next week with a brand new show on African design, including architecture, decor and fashion. Take care and thanks for watching.