News 2008


Making Kenya work

The Leader-Post

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The experience in Kenya today demonstrates that the road to democracy can be a rocky one, if not illusionary, for some developing nations.

Once considered the beacon of stability in an otherwise turbulent continent, Kenya can no longer claim to lead Africa's democratization movement. The Dec. 27 election is now largely discredited by questionable results: more than 100-per-cent voter turnout in some ridings, results being declared before all ballots were counted and missing returning officers. The opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) has every right to question these results.

At the same time, the ODM must take some responsibility for literally fanning the flames of discontent across the country. President Mwai Kibaki and his Party of National Unity (PNU) must also share the blame for resisting an international review of the election results.

To conclude that a political accord can stop the violence in Kenya, though, is a mistake. The election opened a Pandora's box of grievances: tribal divisions among ethnic groups, class struggle between the haves and the have-nots, and a seemingly ineffectual police establishment.

The solution to these many difficulties must be multifaceted.

- First, there needs to be constitutional reform to limit the power of the president and to ensure the independence of the judiciary and human rights commission, which has come under fire for challenging Kibaki during this dispute.

- Second, there needs to be a sharing of power, both politically and tribally. One party-one tribe domination cannot be allowed to continue.

- Third, civil society must be promoted as a means of supporting democratic institutions in difficult times like this and to promote the concept of support for the rule of law.

Finally, foreign countries must redouble their efforts to provide aid to the region. At the heart of Kenya's dispute is the abject poverty that most Africans live in. Civil unrest of the nature we have seen in Kenya will only continue to grow and fester, in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa, so long as people are hungry and live in squalid conditions. Now is time for the West to step up to the plate and share its enormous wealth.

Bill Rafoss

Rafoss is a human rights worker in Saskatoon and part-time sessional lecturer at the University of Saskatchewan Political Studies Department. - Saskatoon -