Hosted by – The Royal Africa Society and the SSRC, African Argument Online is a welcome new addition to Africa’s online media. The “Arguments” seem to be weighted towards Kenya but no doubt they will expand their coverage in due time. I’m presently writing on state sponsored violence so this essay on “The Normalisation of Violence” has been useful. [I’m pleased to note the essay is part of a series co-hosted by that other excellent online publication – Pamabazuka News.] Lately, whenever I read about Kenya I think he is either Nigeria’s brother ..
Put simply, Kenyans have become accustomed to endemic social and political violence. In the weeks and months prior to the 2007 elections, significant violence occurred on Mount Elgon and in Molo. Similarly, the state and Mungiki became embroiled in a bitter conflict in Nairobi and its periphery. Yet such incidents were generally treated as localised phenomena and caused little of the more general introspection and alarm that greeted the violence that was to come. In this way, the public reaction to the pre-election violence of 2007 resembled that to the long-running insecurity in the borderlands to the north and west. Incidents of violence there are given barely a second thought by most residents of the more densely populated areas of the country’s highlands. They do, however, worry a good deal, and have reason to, about the high rate of violent crime. In 2004, Kenyans respondents to the Afrobarometer were more fearful of crime than any of their counterparts from 14 other countries. Kenyans (with Zambians) were the most likely to have experienced property theft. Moreover, after Nigerians, Kenyans were the most likely to have experienced physical violence. That violence is often suffered in the home and frequently in the form of sexual violence. According to Kenyan government statistics published in 2003, half of all Kenyan women were thought to have been victims of sexual violence during their adult lives. And violence is clearly visible in other social settings, such as schools, which experienced their most recent bout of recurrent rioting a year ago, and universities.