Rally attack highlights division over Kenya charter


Grenade attacks at a Kenyan rally may have been carried out by those seeking to block the passage in August of a proposed constitution to protect their personal interests, analysts say.

The “No” campaign rejected any accusations of involvement after at least six people were killed and more than 100 were injured in blasts at Sunday’s prayer meeting organised by church leaders who are also opposing the proposed law.

Analysts said compatriots in the “No” camp, some of whom had benefitted from years of corrupt government to amass large tracts of land illegally, could be to blame.
“The biggest losers are the land barons, if there is anyone to suspect, they will be first on the list,” said political analyst Mutahi Ngunyi.

The new constitution, if implemented, will require those who grabbed public land to hand it back. The vote will be Kenya’s biggest political test since post-election violence in 2008.

Some Christian leaders are opposed to the proposed charter, with their strongest objection being against clauses which will enshrine Muslim Kadhi courts into the constitution and legalise abortion under certain circumstances, such as the mother’s health being endangered by a pregnancy.

They are backed by politicians who are against the proposed land reforms. The leading politician in the group is the minister for higher education, William Ruto, a former key ally of Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
“Those people who are giving these theories should tell us more. If they advance these theories we might get to the bottom of what happened,” Ruto said yesterday, when pressed on charges the “No” campaign had orchestrated the attacks to seek sympathy.

Kiema Kilonzo, another member of the “No” campaign, accused the government of failing to provide enough security at the meeting. Kilonzo also complained that the US government was meddling in Kenyan politics by seeking to push through the constitution after Vice President Joe Biden’s visited last week.

Pointing to land

Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki are leading the campaign for the adoption of the draft, which several opinion polls have shown is likely to sail through at the Aug. 4 referendum.

Political analyst Amboka Andere said it was unlikely that either Muslims or Christians were behind the attack. The Islamic community has generally endorsed the charter.
“One is thinking about the whole question of land and the culture of stealing, hanging on to public land and that sort of thing. That is more likely where this points to,” he said.

Odinga has called for an end to accusations.

Although a certain measure of violence is usually associated with electoral cycles in Kenya, which is East Africa’s biggest economy, an explosion at a rally is unprecedented.

At least 1300 Kenyans were killed during post-election violence following elections in Dec. 2007. Analysts say a new constitution, part of a deal agreed on by politicians to end the violence, could prevent such bloodletting in future.

The Kenya shilling dipped marginally against the dollar on Monday in reaction to the deaths but one stock market trader said equities had shrugged off the blasts.

Pic: Kenyan Prime Minister-Raila Odinga

Source: www.af.reuters.com