Tutu in Kenya

2008-01-05 00:00

It is a signal compliment to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu that he should have been asked to mediate in the current Kenyan crisis. Such is his stature that the world has more than once turned to him for guidance in situations such as this, and it is a telling indicator of both his negotiating skill and his moral authority that the contesting Kenyan leaders have already moderated their confrontational stance. It may be too early to expect a complete and amicable resolution of a complex political situation fraught with bitter animosities, but Tutu’s involvement has produced the first signs of constructive movement.

Pride is presumably not a trait which an eminent clergyman would encourage, but South Africans generally may take pride in the honours accorded to one of their most prominent compatriots. As with Nelson Mandela, it was Tutu’s contribution to advancing a peaceful transition to democracy in his own country that made him a deserving Nobel Peace laureate.

At the same time as having a sense of reflected glory from the achievements of these two great and statesmanlike leaders, however, South Africans must realise that both men are growing old. Indeed, Mandela has already effectively retired from active engagement in public affairs, and Desmond Tutu would not deny his mortality. It is a sobering consideration that there are none among the nation’s present leadership with anything like the same reputation for principled and balanced integrity.

It is sobering, too, to realise that South Africa itself may well have need of similar guidance in the not-too-distant future. One of the alarming features of the Kenyan situation is that a state which seemed to have put its colonial and post-colonial struggles well behind it should have unravelled so rapidly. This country, too, faces a difficult year during which political tempers are likely to run high. It has a continuing need for leaders of uncompromised and uncompromising moral authority to shepherd it forward.

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