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Victims of Political Violence Want More Than Handshake From Kenyan Leaders

Mr. Kenyatta won the August presidential vote, but in a historic ruling the Supreme Court nullified the result, citing irregularities, and ordered a second election.

Mr. Odinga withdrew from the second vote, which was held in October, saying the process was unfair, and Mr. Kenyatta handily won re-election.

But Mr. Odinga’s public appearances continued to draw thousands of supporters, and the police responded with tear gas, water cannons and gunfire. Officials denied that live ammunition was used.

In January, when Mr. Odinga inaugurated himself as “the people’s president,” the government jailed opposition politicians, deported an opposition lawyer and took Kenya’s three biggest television stations off the air for 10 days. An economy already slowed by electoral uncertainty seemed to stall, owners of small businesses said.

So when Mr. Odinga and Mr. Kenyatta met last Friday, after secret negotiations, much of the country heaved a sigh of relief.


President Uhuru Kenyatta, left, with Mr. Odinga in Nairobi last week. Credit Brian Inganga/Associated Press

Mr. Odinga abandoned his attacks on Mr. Kenyatta’s legitimacy as president, and Mr. Kenyatta acknowledged that he needed to engage the opposition. The two released a seven-page plan for national unity, focused on inclusivity, broad electoral reforms and efforts to fight corruption.

But neither the men nor their unity plan acknowledged the suffering of people like Ms. Buluma, whose family members were injured or killed in election-related violence.

“The country needs to have a dialogue, but the voice of the ordinary people hasn’t been raised,” said Rachael Mwikali of the National Coalition of Grassroots Human Rights Defenders. “Sometimes, I feel when they’re calling for reconciliation, it’s only about their interests. And these are two men who are supposed to be looking after the country.”

Because neither leader acknowledged the deaths caused by the political fight, Ms. Buluma said, the healing is much harder. And her family has lost so much.

After Ms. Buluma’s son Victor died, she and her surviving son pooled their day-laborers’ wages — he was a driver, she washes clothes — so they could bribe Nairobi’s city morgue to keep Victor’s body in good condition until the family could afford to bury him in their ancestral home, in western Kenya.

Her surviving son soon lost his job, and now, Ms. Buluma’s $ 2 in daily wages keeps her family — including Victor’s widow and 2-year-old daughter — sheltered but not always fed.

Their neighbor, whose husband was also shot by the police, couldn’t keep up with the $ 25 monthly rent and was evicted, Ms. Buluma said. No one knows what has happened to her.

Senior government and police officials have consistently characterized those killed or injured by the police during the unrest as criminals. Charles Owino, a spokesman for the National Police Service, said in an interview on Monday that opposition gatherings styled as democratic protests often involved looting and lawbreaking.

Source: NYT > World

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