It is yet to be conclusively decided if the next general election in Kenya will be held this year or early next year. Indeed in the past few months, debate in the national assembly has been heated, with the backbench seeking clarification from the front bench on the official government position concerning date of the elections. The Executive, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the Judiciary have all given different interpretations of what the new constitution, enacted on 4th August, 2008, says about elections date.
Dates aside, the fundamental concern is that in many respects, this will be a different election exercise. It comes against a backdrop of the post election civil anarchy experienced after the contested general elections of December 2007. Over 1300 people lost their lives in the skirmishes, and hundreds of thousands were displaced from their homes and some have had to spend over 4 years in tented shacks erected on public grounds. The international criminal court sitting at The Hague, has since taken up the cases of those that are suspected to have borne the greatest responsibility in the violence.
Locally, there have been voices agitating for the trial of the other ‘smaller’ contributors to the violence through the Kenyan judicial system. The process has begun in earnest and on 11th June 2012, a Mr Paul Kipkemboi Ruto was jailed for life for murdering his neighbour during the violence.
"A 24-year-old man accused of killing another during Post Election Violence has been sentenced to life imprisonment by the High Court in Nakuru. In the ruling, Justice Roselyn Wendoh convicted Paul Kipkemboi Ruto alias Saitoti over the murder of Kimani Thiongo in Kamura area in Timboroa on January 1, 2008" read an article in a leading local daily.
Mr Kipkemboi may have been acting under the cover of mob psychology. He perhaps thought he was insulated from the long arm of the law because he together with his accomplices, had been given instructions by ‘’untouchable’’ people. Maybe he was fresh from a den of illicit brew, having spent the whole night there, or maybe he had his wallet recently stashed with wards of notes to go do the job.
Whatever the case, the conviction illuminates the principles of individual versus collective responsibility in criminal proceedings. The case also puts onto the fore the devastating truth that youth were extensively used by ‘bandit’ politicians to commit crimes during that period. The unfortunate part is that when it comes to matters law, every person must carry his or her own cross individually.
Although the media referred to Mr Kipkemboi as a MAN, it is instructive that the crime was committed when he was a teenager four years ago, at the age of 19. Yet even at the age of 24, he is still very much youth. This case might have escaped the attention of many, but it sends a powerful message to goons for hire and those who take the electioneering period as an opportunity for murder and looting.
As Kenya once again approaches a general election, Kenya YMCA finds the concept of S2C handy at such a time. Most of the violence, death and destruction in the 2008 post election violence happened in the Rift Valley province; the same province where Mr Kipkemboi comes from. This is also the province where Nakuru branch of Kenya YMCA is found.
Through collaboration with the Catholic Peace and Justice Commission of Nakuru Diocese, and local administration police, efforts have been mooted to educate youth in the province on how to be full and proper citizens. Emphasis is being put on peaceful campaigns, elections and voter education. The youth are also being educated on devolution and opportunities for growth in the new constitutional dispensation. All this has been done in the frame work of S2C. The campaign which started early this year, also targets former gang members, youth engaged in menial jobs, and the unemployed.
Meetings are being held every month at the Nakuru branch, as well as in other social places in an effort to reach as more youth as possible. They are set to continue up to December 2012. It is projected that 10,000 youth will be reached with the peace messages, and hopefully, brother will never turn against brother again in Kenya, because of an election.
By: Anthony Mwangi, Deputy National General Secretary: Kenya Y.M.C.A