Lessons from Kenya

2008-01-21 00:00

A democratic and prosperous country laid low by tribalism. This has been the misleading subtext to some of the reporting on Kenya’s post-election violence. But its society is riven by extreme poverty, for a decade it was officially a one-party state and for years it was ruled by the autocratic Daniel arap Moi.

There is no doubt the election was rigged. Faulty registers, unbelievably high turnout in key areas and, crucially, a huge discrepancy in presidential and parliamentary voting all point to this conclusion. But the resultant violence that has left hundreds of people dead and a quarter of a million displaced has its real roots in socio-economic factors, not ethnicity.

Corruption and patronage mean that Kenyans have been denied the full fruits of democracy and live with acute inequality. Nairobi contains some of the wealthiest suburbs and worst slums in Africa. High hopes were hanging on these elections, now seen as an irrelevant farce. It is but a short step from extreme poverty and frustrated politics to ethnic vengeance let loose on those seen as representing privileged manipulators. As always, it is the poor who suffer.

Kenya’s best known writer, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, accuses the political elite of indifference to ordinary people. Indeed, he goes further, seeing in the Eldoret church massacre the seeds of genocide orchestrated by hidden hands and reminiscent of Rwanda. He has called for a United Nations investigation. Whether or not he is correct about ethnic cleansing, the threat to Kenya and the region is clear.

Neither President Mwai Kibaki nor his main challenger, Raila Odinga, has behaved in a statesmanlike manner. Kibaki seems happy to benefit from electoral fraud, oblivious to the carnage around him. Odinga has been provocative, threatening to assume the presidency and condoning potentially violent protest before exhausting legal process.

Both Kenya and the African continent have a surfeit of politicians, but a notable shortage of leaders. This can be fatal to countries with shaky democratic foundations, a lesson important to South Africa. Yet another is the fact that in countries with a highly inequitable distribution of resources, democracy must be seen to work for everyone.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/Sport

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.