News 2008


‘Kenya’s pain is Africa’s pain’


Feb 12, 2008

NAIROBI - Rights activist Graca Machel delivered an emotional plea to Kenyan lawmakers today to help end the crisis sparked by disputed elections, saying they were facing a “historical mission.”

Machel, the wife of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, is helping former United Nations (UN) secretary general Kofi Annan mediate negotiations to resolve the dispute over presidential polls that unleashed violence in which 1,000 people have died.

“This parliament has a historical mission,” Machel told the assembly convened after Annan was making headway toward a deal that he said could be announced by late Thursday.

“It has to help to redefine the common place, the common ground where every Kenyan has a place of belonging.”

Kenya descended into violence after elections on December 27 that President Mwai Kibaki officially won but the opposition claims were rigged. International observers have also found flaws during vote-counting.

“Kenya’s pain is Africa’s pain. Kenya’s success is Africa’s success,” Machel said.

The post-election turmoil has laid bare tribalism as well as simmering resentment over land issues and wealth disparities in Kenya, long considered a model of stability in Africa.

The new parliament, elected also in the December 27 polls, is almost equally divided between Kibaki’s party and its allies and the parties supporting opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Machel, who was also married to late Mozambican president Samora Machel, made the appeal to lawmakers on behalf of “the children who have learnt and discovered that their ethnic identity has become life-threatening.”

”The women who are caught in this crisis,” she said, “they are mothers, they are wives, they are sisters of someone, they are dear, so dear to someone as our own mothers, our wives, our sisters are dear to us.”

“Please do redefine a new sense of citizenship based on what unites Kenyans and not on what divides them.” Machel, 62, is a member along with Annan and former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, another member of the Kenyan mediation team, of the African Union’s panel of eminent Africans.