Post-Election Perspective From A Kenyan Friend

You have all been witness to the headline making activities here in Kenya. I and my family are safe and thank God for life and the good health that so many others have been denied. I am sure by now CNN has managed to make us look like bloodthirsty savages who don’t know what it means to use dialogue as a means to resolve conflict. Politics and democracy in Africa works in a strange way-after all they are relatively new concepts in the continent. However, despite the portrayal of “calm” being beamed all around the world we are literally on the brink of a catastrophe that would put Rwanda to shame. The press both local and foreign are not giving you the half of it. The local media are currently banned from carrying out live broadcasts and stations that try to give some relatively accurate information such as Al Jazeera and the BBC have their signals regularly interfered with. Phones are being tapped and there is heavy screening of text messages. Kenyans know much less than you do right now on how serious the situation is.

This country is at a watershed. Trey is right on the mark when he says these problems have been forty years in the making. There are many, many, unresolved issues that have been swept under the carpet and this election was the last straw. The wounds that have been re-opened will take many years to heal. I am not a historian, but this reminds me of the French revolution.A disenfranchised people have nothing to lose, and consequently think nothing of destroying the ruling class. At the onset the violence was a lashing out at people perceived as being part of or benefiting from the ruling class. That was how the president’s community and those of his supporters came to be targeted. It was “rich versus poor.” The irony is the victims were struggling with life just as much as their murderers. However,there are now groups from these communities striking back at members of the aggressors communities resident in their home turf. In short,it’s now cutting both ways which is much worse because a self-perpetuating cycle of violence is now in existence.

All the anger should have been directed at the electoral commission which failed miserably in maintaining the integrity of the electoral process. They were the ones deserving of such treatment for making a mockery of an inalienable right. The people in the government have and continue to rubbish the right of the citizens to self determination. The controversy surrounding the manner in which Kibaki finds himself in state house has not been resolved. To hear a head of state speak of a free and fair election in which the head of the EU observer mission himself has called for re-tallying of results in light of verified discrepancies offends the sensibilities.The chairman of the electoral commission has himself stated that he does not know who won that election. The very severity of the backlash should have clued in anyone with a conscience, but what do you expect from those whose loved ones live in fortified compounds and can be evacuated at a moments notice? It was also not in the interest of diplomacy when the President announced part of his cabinet (taking all the most influencial portfolios) on the very day the President of the African Union came to try and bridge the impasse. So now that those talks failed, the opposition has restarted a programme of rallies in all major towns starting one day after parliament opens. I come across as being pro-opposition but if the legitimacy of the electoral process cannot be spoken for what is then to be said for an individual claiming to be in office legally based a proclamation by that very body? I am pissed off that we can’t even have our right to vote respected. If Mr. Kibaki was confident in his victory he would have had no qualms about retallying-the attorney general clarified that constitutionally the exercise could be done without the need for a order from the electoral court. It’s a very dodgy attitude for the victor of a ‘closely contested free and fair election’ to have.

Whatever religious leaders, diplomats and foreign governments say, there will be no peace in this country without institutions and systems that have legitimacy in the eyes of the whole population. There is no fence sitting or procrastination, this time there must be definitive solutions. Ignoring the issues raised is simply playing Russian roulette with all chambers loaded. The only variable would not be if but when the final terrible descent into anarchy occurs. Some of the goings on in the country would put a chill in your very bones and do not bear speaking of. The leadership in this country have to make the most important decisions of their lives. The pity is that there are 36 million of us who must bear witness to the consequences.

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