News 2008


Political Crisis in Kenya: Kofi Annan Emphasizes

Tuesday , 12 February 2008

The talks for resolving the current crisis between President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) and Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) have been underway with former Secratary-General Kofi Annan who is acting as a chief mediator. “The current crisis is a big challenge, but it provides an opportunity for Kenyan leaders to steer the country to a new level of stability”, Annan said on Monday at a special session in parliament. “I sincerely hope we will complete our work by early next week”, he continued by implying the real progress made in the negotiations.

The violent crisis had out broke after the presidential elections held at the end of last December when the former President Kibaki was declared by the Kenyan Electoral Commission as the winner. However, the opposition, especially ODM of Odinga, seriously opposed to the results and claimed that he won the presidential poll and it was stolen from him by vote rigging.

While explaining the reasons of the current crisis in the country, many experts have pointed out the ethnicity factor playing as a major role in determining the election results. Among the others, Mukoma Wa Ngugi from Pambazuka News claims that on this bitterly contested election where ethnicity was the deciding factor, victory from either side was bound to spill into violence. This is because of the fact that the politics is played along the ethnic lines in the country. While the president Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, received only a few votes in the Luo areas, Raila Odinga, a Luo, received only a very small percentage of the Kikuyu vote.

This already fragile social environment has been worsened with the recent experiences of the country under the term of Kibaki from 2002 to 2007. In this period, even though Kenya has scored high levels of economic growth (over %6 per year), this did not filter down to the rural poor and the large numbers in the urban ghettos, as experts argue. Within this environment, Kikuyus, the largest tribe in the country, have become the main target of the violence mainly from Luos, the third largest group. In fact, the recent ethnic violence in Kenya has reminded the dramatic crisis of Rwanda emerged in mid-1990s.

As a result of such crisis, the UN officials reported that more than 1.000 people have lost their lives while about 600.000 have been displaced. The displaced have been living in 300 camps under poor living conditions.

From early February, the former Secretary-General Kofi Annan has initiated negotiations between the parties to reach a compromise for “power sharing agreement”. Currently, experts state, there exist three important problems to be resolved in the country: Ending the violence, resolving the humanitarian problems of displaced people and tackling the ‘political issues’. While the former two have been proven to be solved between the two sides, the last one has remained without a comprehensive solution. It is on the question of the results of elections of December 2007.

On the issue, the two sides continue to hold the same views. While Kibaki in the African Union Summit claimed that his victory in the elections was out of question, the opposition leader Odinga argues that he was a victim of vote rigging. Kofi Annan, on the other hand, strongly emphasize the importance of reaching a “power sharing deal” which would mean the strengthening of the opposition vis a vis the party in the power. Otherwise, experts argue, the deadlock would not be resolved by another election because it would simply lead more violence due to the absence of the guarantee for the two sides to accept the results of the elections.