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Vol 49 No 1

Published 11th January 2008

Election shockwaves spread

The farce and fiasco that marred Kenya’s election will prove costly and damaging to the whole region

Kenya’s political crisis will cast a long shadow over neighbouring states this year as prospects for its speedy resolution recede (see Box). The confrontation between rival presidential candidates Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, against a backdrop of widespread electoral fraud and communal violence claiming over 500 lives, sends the worst possible signals about accountability and stability in East Africa and beyond. The whole region may pay for this crisis in 2008 as it turns Kenya from regional peacemaker and host of refugees into a contested state from where its hounded citizens flee into neighbouring countries for their own protection. Most immediately, the crisis shatters its neighbours’ economic plans. Finance Minister Amos Kimunya conceded that Kenya may have lost as much as US$1 billion in the post-election violence and business closures. The losses incurred by adjacent countries are mounting, too. The suspension of operations at Mombasa port blocks fuel and basic commodities for delivery beyond Kenya to Rwanda, Burundi, Southern Sudan, Eastern Congo and Uganda. January export earnings will be equally badly hit. Many of the tourists missing from Kenya’s coast and game-parks would have gone on to mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar; cautious tour operators do not distinguish one East African state from another.

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