Kenya: corruption, land and too many kids

When I came back from Kenya at the end of October, I said that Moi Kibaki would get between 30% and 35% of the vote in presidential elections.  It now seems clear to all that Kibaki stole the elections using the National Electoral Commission whose members he appointed himself to declare him the winner. What had to happen did in a country where half the population live with less than a dollar a day and where Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe gets more crumbs than the others so that they continue to support the Kleptocracy. 

I had also said the Raille Odinga’s idea of Federalism could have led to ethnic violence as tribes who were dispossessed of their land, mostly by Kikuyus and others linked to the regime, tried to take back what they feel is theirs. 

But with whom lies the responsibility for the present violence and the real risk of civil war in the only African country to have been spared one?  The International Community bears much of the blame.  When Kibaki declared himself the winner, they all knew it was fraud but did not call it.  This was a true example of ignoring reality and hoping things would go on the same as before. 

What was needed was straight talk and swift action but Western powers just flipped-flopped, used soft diplomatic language and tsk-tsked. The result is hundreds of deaths so far and that is nothing compared to the potential.  There are hundreds of thousands of illegal weapons in the region and those weapons are not necessarily in the hands of Kibaki fans. .  Kenya borders Somalia, Sudan and Uganda which all have armed conflict. 

Beyond the rampant corruption (former President Arap Moi for example pocketed an estimated one billion dollars), Kikuyu favoritism (the largest ethnic group but only 22% of the country) and a lack of justice for the dispossessed is the case of Kenya’s population pressure on available land and resources. 

Gunnar Heinsohn, a sociologist with the Raphael Lemkin Institute for Comparative Genocide Research at the University of Bremen says “Kenya is a textbook example of violence driven by a youth bulge”.  He points out that in only 80 years, Kenya’s population grew from 2.9 million to 37 million. 

Had America grown at the same rate since 1928, when it had 120 million people, it would now have 1.56 billion citizens.”  You don’t need to use Malthusian logic to understand that as those at the top grab more for themselves and give the rest to their minority favorites, those at the bottom are going to be squeezed out and soembody has to die. 

This is exactly what happened in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri province in 2003 when Lendu and Hema people began fighting.  The land was already distributed, mostly by corrupt tribal chiefs, and the youth had no future. 

So, even if Odinga’s victory is recognized in the elections, there’s not much hope for peace in the near future.  Today 5.7 million Kenyans are at fighting age (15 to 29) Heinsohn points out, and over the next 15 years another 8.1 million will reach fighting age. 

Political transparency, Justice and Rule of law are all important, but the demographics are the key factor.  The International Community (i.e. industrialized countries) cannot be expected to bear the burden of absurd population growth.  If you are going to reduce child mortality then you also have to reduce the number of children.  This is the only way the youth in countries like Kenya, which is wealthy, can have any chance at an acceptable future.