Tuesday, January 1, 2008

so this is the new year?

Kibaki the lame duck. Political cartoon by Gado, found via Kumekucha.

President Kibaki's apparent refusal to directly address the violence that is continuing throughout the country is becoming untenable. The BBC and Australian news sources have just reported that over 30 people (at least 25 children) were been killed in Eldoret (a city in Western Rift Valley), when a church that they were taking refuge in was burned. Bloggers are reporting that elsewhere the situation remains dire, with paramilitary troops guarding the city morgue in Nairobi (possibly to prevent accurate death counts from being released), shortages of food, water, fuel, cellphone credit, and cash from ATMs (Kenyanpundit). Several reputable blogs have also reported sharp increases of sexual violence. From Thinker's Room:

Nairobi Women’s hospital reports sharply increased incidences of rape, gang rape and sodomy based purely on numbers of people that have accessed their services. Considering the public transport system has ground to a halt I shudder at the thought of the actual numbers on the ground.
(Also Reported by Kenyanpundit )

International pressure on kenya has continued to increase in the last day, with the EU observer mission stating that the election "lacked credibility" (BBC) and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown encouraging Kibaki and Raila to meet to work together for unity (also BBC). Kenyanpundit reports that the international community is pushing for Kibaki to allow a recount that is broadcast live by the media. She also reports that members of the international community are flying in the former president of Sierra Leone to talk with Kibaki (presumably to provide a cautionary tale about the path he is treading).

Also today, several Electoral Commission of Kenya commissioners have publicly joined the side of the opposition ODM party and international observers (The Standard, via All Africa), arguing that there were substantial irregularities in the counting and reporting of votes, and demanding a judicial review of the tallying process.

At the same time that more and more voices inside and outside of Kenya are demanding recount, other Kenyan commentators are also making arguments similar to my comments from yesterday in demanding stronger leadership from the opposition's Raila Odinga. Kenyaimagine, which has been providing some of the most balanced online commentary on the situation, today published an excellent editorial calling on Raila and other ODM leaders to start making available their evidence of rigging. As they argue:

One of the problems of Raila and the ODM's chest-thumping after they [SIC] election is that it only served to whip up emotions without producing any facts.

Writing in the Daily Nation, Macharia Gaitho also highlights the crucial role that Raila and other ODM leaders will play in the resolution of this situation:
Mr Raila Odinga may be rightfully aggrieved at the election outcome. He may be enjoying the paralysis facing the newly-installed president, and salivating at the prospect of an Orange Revolution that will run the president out of town and pave the way for his own triumphant entry into State House.

But this should be the time for statesmanship, not brinkmanship. Mr Odinga may well have been robbed of electoral victory, but this is the time to demonstrate leadership in the interest of the nation.

Nobody right now is better placed than Mr Odinga and his key ODM lieutenants, Mr William Ruto and Mr Musalia Mudavadi, to do what the Government is unable to do – save this country from total destruction, and President Kibaki’s people from the threat of genocide.

The ODM leaders must rise above the political fray and call off their people who have reacted with such anger against what they see as a stolen election. If their intervention can restore a peace the Government is unable to, that will be the real demonstration of who has the people’s mandate.

To respond to Laia's comment from yesterday, I do think that theoretically Kibaki could do a lot to change the situation, by publicly condemning the violence- but doing this would also come close to acknowledging that there might be real grievances behind the violence (as opposed to pure thuggery as government spokesmen are asserting) and that the vote might not be legitimate, both of which would start the movement towards possibly overturning the election results, which his regime doesn't seem anywhere close to doing just yet. As a result, it does seem like Raila is the one who has the strategic space necessary to try to control some of the violence- as actually taking action that reduces violence will only serve to bolster his claim to be the actual president. If his party is the coherent organization that it presents itself as being, they should be able to control militants as well as rank and file- this is the same argument that Stathis Kalyvas made in his article on religious parties in Belgium and Algeria. If the ODM is as incapable (or unwilling) as the Kibaki government in taking concrete actions towards curbing the violence, Kenya's future is dire indeed.


megs92 said...

Was just signing on to make sure you got the news about the church. It is just so horrible. I am feeling so disappointed in this country - I would have never guessed it would get this bad... (~Megan)

MBlinks said...

You be careful out there. No taking on machete-wielding mobs, mmkay?