These are three simultaneous and violent events that have occupied the front pages of the media since the beginning of the week and bear witness to the threats of conflagration hanging over Kenya. On Monday March 27, in the slums of Nairobi, supporters of opponent Raila Odinga were brutally repressed by the police during the second day of mobilization against the rising cost of living. The gatherings, banned by the police, had already killed three people.
At the same time, about thirty kilometers east of the capital, hundreds of looters invaded Northlands, the huge farm of former President Uhuru Kenyatta (2013-2022). The 4,500 hectare property is home to dairies, cattle and a huge eucalyptus forest and was not ransacked by chance. The former head of state, now a supporter of opponent Raila Odinga, has become the target of President William Ruto's camp, who accuses him of secretly financing the protest movement to destabilize the country.
The scene is surreal. At the end of the morning, the bandits deposited along the highway which borders Northlands, step over the fences, enter the woods, cut the trees using chainsaws. Then many come out, laughing, with sheep under their arms, which they install in the back of pick-ups or motorcycles before leaving the scene: 1,400 head of cattle will be stolen in broad daylight. The ransacking lasts all afternoon, without any police force intervening. In the evening, the undergrowth is even set on fire. A humiliation for a man of the stature of Uhuru Kenyatta, son of the first president of Kenyan independence, Jomo Kenyatta.
Third episode: near downtown Nairobi, the premises of the gas cylinder manufacturing company, East Africa Spectre, are attacked. The owner of East Africa Specter is none other than Raila Odinga.
" Declaration of war "
These acts of vandalism, intentionally targeting the properties of Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta, mark a serious escalation in the crisis affecting Kenya. Since last week, the unsuccessful presidential candidate has been mobilizing his supporters every Monday and Thursday to demonstrate against falling purchasing power and electoral irregularities. But, this Monday, the dispute took a very personal turn between the strong men of the country.
The long-time opponent does not mince his words: these events are, according to Raila Odinga, a "declaration of war", "planned attacks". He accuses the "goons" of William Ruto by targeting MP Kimani Ichungwa, majority leader in the National Assembly, who ten days earlier prophesied the invasion of Uhuru Kenyatta's lands, in a barely concealed threat.
"Our country's dark and painful past, when political intolerance, ethnic tensions, the emergence of gangs and banditry were commonplace, is once again rearing its ugly head today," warns Director of Kenya's National Human Rights Commission, Roseline Odede, referring to the violence that punctuated the various elections. By 2007, more than a thousand people had been killed.
"We are on a trajectory that approaches lawlessness, where the police are both ultra-violent in their crackdown on opposition protesters and at the same time do not intervene to protect private property," says Martin Mavenjina, adviser to the Commission on Human Rights.
Use of gangs
The chaos that reigned on Monday resurrects ghosts that Kenya thought were buried forever: those of the gangs, bandits and private militias at the hands of political interests, which had taken control of the country for a few weeks in 2007. "At this rate So what's to stop a clan from employing young men to protect their property when it's clear the government isn't protecting you? Isn't that how private militias are created? asks, for his part, former MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, close to the Kenyattas.
Because it is indeed the use of gangs in question. An investigation by the local daily The Nation reveals that hundreds of vandals were recruited, in exchange for around twenty euros per person, in the neighborhoods surrounding Northlands by teams close to William Ruto in the previous days.
The Kenyattas, the most powerful family in the country, politically and economically, have so far revealed nothing of their intentions. But Raila Odinga's party, Azimio la Umoja, has already called on its supporters to come together this Thursday. Threat or bluff, the party asked on social networks for the addresses and personal information of several relatives of William Ruto for possible reprisals.