News 2008


Post Election Kenya: No Need to Re-Invent the Wheel

Kenya’s Crisis – A Synopsis

Dr. George B. N. Aytittey , Free Africa Foundation

15. Feb. 2008

1. Africa’s political elites never learn from their own foolish mistakes (Kenya’s own 1992 political violence), nor those of other African countries. The crisis in Kenya is an exact replica of what happened in Cote d’Ivoire in 2000, following a disputed election.

The country is now divided between the Muslim north and the Christian south. Remember that Cote d’Ivoire used to be the most stable country in West Africa.

2. Last December, I urged Kenyans to vote out ossified politicians like Odinga and Kibaki and bring in fresh new faces.

3. Much of the blame for these unnecessary deaths and destruction should be reserved for Odinga and the opposition. I am not an admirer of Kibaki, so forget about him. We all know that EVERY incumbent African president will do everything possible to RIG an election and MANIPULATE the results to return himself to power. We know this; it is a FACT.

So you, an opposition leader, must do your homework and develop effective counter-strategies accordingly. Raila and Kenya’s opposition did not do their homework, had no plan, and no counter-strategies. Even Raila found to his utter dismay that his name was not in the voters’ register!

He had to produce identification before he was allowed to vote!

I am taking a strong stance in this because we have another election coming up in Zimbabwe. Has the opposition there done its homework? It is the height of naivete for any African opposition leader to expect power to be handed over to him by incumbent on a silver platter.

Do your homework, do your homework. We need an intelligent opposition to make democracy work in Africa – not the rah-rah noisy opposition that is only capable of waving placards and chanting “Kibaki Must Go!” and “Mugabe Must Go!”

4. In the case of Kenya, blame at this point would serve no useful purpose. Hundreds have died and thousands are displaced. We must focus on resolving the crisis. The U.S. and other Western countries have suggested direct face-to-face negotiations between Odinga and Kibaki. This Western approach NEVER worked in Africa.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, and AU Chairman, John Kufuor and others have all suggest Government of National Unity (GNU) but that NEVER worked anywhere in Africa – not even South Africa after apartheid was dismantled. It is time for a NEW APPROACH – an African approach.

5. It starts by recognizing that the crisis is now beyond the capabilities of Odinga and Kibaki to resolve. When two elephants, it is the grass that gets hurt, says an African proverb. When two people fight, the entire village is affected, says another. And since it takes a village to raise a child, it must take a village to resolve a crisis.

6. When a crisis erupts in a village, the chief would convene a village meeting and put it before the people. The issue would be discussed until a consensus is reached. Once reached, all, including the chief must abide by it.

7. In recent years, this indigenous African institution was revived by pro-democracy forces and used to defuse political crises and chart a new political dispensation for several African countries: Benin, Cape Verde Islands, Congo (Brazzaville), South Africa and Zambia. It is called the “sovereign national conference.”

8. The crisis in Kenya now is for ALL Kenyans to resolve. A sovereign national conference must be convened with representatives drawn from all sections of Kenyan society: political parties, religious bodies, tribal groups, professional groups, student groups, etc.

Check the composition of South Africa’s Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA). This sovereign national conference must wield “sovereign power,” meaning its decisions must be binding on ALL, including Odinga and Kibaki. It must establish an interim administration, write a new constitution and set a date for fresh elections.

Kenya does not have to re-invent the wheel. The vehicle for resolving its political crisis is already there in Africa.

George Ayittey,
Washington, DC