Kenya in crisis

2008-01-03 00:00

Hard on the heels of a major pre-election crisis in Pakistan as a result of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, has come a post-election crisis in Kenya where tribalism and charges of rigged voting results have come to the fore.

One of the challenges in post-colonial Africa has been to keep independent countries united despite the rough and tumble of democratic elections, and the impact of tribal and other loyalties.

Kenya managed to hold together during the presidencies of Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Arap-Moi and it emerged as one of the more stable countries in the continent. The end of Arap-Moi’s long rule opened up the possibility of new rivalries. Mwai Kibaki’s presidency has been controversial and his election for a second term has brought about the present eruption of violent protest and conflict.

In a close contest, Kibaki’s rival, Raila Odinga, is insisting that there were irregularities in favour of Kibaki’s party. Ominously, tribal differences have emerged and already over 200 people have died in an upheaval that has included the torching of a church near Eldoret where many had sought refuge. Here is an echo of some of the worst happenings in the Rwanda genocide in 1994.

There are two possible ways forward. One is to have fresh elections and a guaranteed legitimate counting of votes. The other, more arduous route is that of dialogue between the rival political parties with a view to creating a shared government of national unity.

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