Local Kenyans denounce violence


Many in Kenya and the international community are questioning Mwai Kibaki’s brisk inauguration as Kenya’s President despite massive protests from the main opposition led by Raila Odinga and foreign election observers. The results of elections have been described as fraudulent, unfair, and not descriptive of the will of the Kenyan people. Kibaki’s swearing in for a second term has sparked riots and violence that has seen a death toll of over 300, and at least 180,000 people displaced due to the growing violence.

While calls for a re-run of the presidential elections continue to stream in, Mr. Kibaki has remained adamant and headstrong, insisting that his re-election was done in the most of democratic ways. This is still left to be proven. The post election violence is seen as rare for Kenya, which for the most part is regarded as one of the most stable and peaceful countries in East Africa.

Poll results prior to Kibaki being proclaimed winner had projected Odinga as leading. It was no surprise therefore that many cried foul play after considerable delay before the final tally was announced. According to the Elections Chief, Samuel Kivuitu, who announced the results, Kibaki gained 231,728 more votes than Odinga. However, his admission that there were problems with the count, and allegations that some supporters of Kibaki ran away with some ballot boxes caused the questioning of the results.

An independent inquiry of the elections has been called for by the European Union, the United States and some top officials of Kenya’s election commission. The U.S. has sent a top diplomat to mediate between Kibaki and Odinga so as to resolve and put an end to the violence that has rocked the country. Odinga’s call for a re-run of the elections has been rejected by Kibaki’s government, but it’s hoped that the mounting pressure from the international community and the Kenyan opposition might cause Kibaki to give in to a re-run.

Offer of a Unity Government

Faced with the rising tensions, and mounting demands for him to step down, Kibaki offered a unity government as a compromise. After meeting with U.S. diplomat Jendayi Frazer, President Kibaki announced that he was “ready to form a government of national unity that would not only unite Kenyans but would also help in the healing and reconciliation process”.

Reacting to this, Raila Odinga rejected the offer, saying he would not be part of a government that has failed the Kenyan people and does not respect the will of the people. According to him, any talks with the government can only be held if Kibaki steps down and new elections are held.

Odinga and his opposition party are pushing for a transitional government that will adopt a constitution that adheres to the will of the people, and protects minority communities. Odinga feels that power should be decentralized, and dissolved among all ethnic groups in Kenya, an area where the government of Kibaki has held of on.

In 2002, Odinga and Kibaki formed a coalition that ushered Kibaki into power. However, the coalition between the two did not last long, as both Kibaki and members of the coalition could not come to terms on the powers of the executive.

With this, a possible unity government between the two could be far fetched. Kibaki is a fervent advocate of consolidating central power of the government, and for a unity government to be successful; there must be a conscious effort by both sides to overcome the mutual suspicions. If both Kibaki and Odinga can not come to terms so as to end the growing post elections violence, then a lot of what Kenya has achieved over the years is at stake.

There needs to be a political plan that will inaugurate the country’s democratic process. It will be sad if Kenya, which has been praised as a model of African political advancement, turns to a country of shambles and political mismanagement due to the ego-centricness of her leadership.

Both Odinga and Kibaki should find a common ground, or compromise to ensure that the post election violence, which has seen the unwarranted deaths of hundreds, and the displacement of thousands, as well cost the Kenyan people millions in property damage, investments, and revenue generation comes to an end.

International pressure is increasing on both candidates and their supporters to come up with some kind of compromise. The African Union leader-Ghana’s Kufour is currently in Kenya to mediate between the two leaders as was Desmond Tutu,Jendaye Frazer from the U.S. State Department. A European Union representative is expected in Nairobi.

Kenya like no other country in East Africa hosts many African refugees from some of the sorrounding nations and everyone, Kenyans & non-Kenyans are hoping things to workout for the better. Already, many U.N. agencies are reporting close to a quarter of million Kenyans are in temprory shelters such as churches, and getting food rations. Expectations are for the numbers to at least double if the things stay the same.

Apart from the refugee crisis, the situation is affecting the local economies of many central African countries who use Kenyan ports as their main link to the outside world.