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Published 11th January 2008

Vol 49 No 1


Election shockwaves spread

Image courtesy of Panos Pictures

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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.


Kenya moves closer to the edge

Both sides in Kenya’s election stand-off are looking into the abyss and a few politicians are preparing to jump. Without serious efforts now to resolve the impasse between Mwai Kib...


The Indian Ocean swells

Along the axis with Asia, Africa’s Indian Ocean states will all see economic revivals in 2008 although the politics may be bumpy in at least two of them.



BLUE LINES
THE INSIDE VIEW

The failure to launch serious negotiations over the 27 December polls is edging Kenya down the road towards political paralysis and mass violence. Yet there are constructive proposals from civic groups and retired generals that could form the basis of a deal between Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga. In the week after the elections, negotiations mediated by the World Bank’s Country Director, Colin Bruce, produced a draft memorandum of understanding between the two sides on an inquiry led by ‘eminent...
The failure to launch serious negotiations over the 27 December polls is edging Kenya down the road towards political paralysis and mass violence. Yet there are constructive proposals from civic groups and retired generals that could form the basis of a deal between Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga. In the week after the elections, negotiations mediated by the World Bank’s Country Director, Colin Bruce, produced a draft memorandum of understanding between the two sides on an inquiry led by ‘eminent international persons acceptable to all sides to review the conduct of the Electoral Commission of Kenya’ and proposals for an interim government with ministerial portfolios shared between the two sides. The idea was that African Union Chairman John Kufuor would talk to both sides in Nairobi and then witness a signing of the agreement. That possibility evaporated on 10 January when Kibaki refused to sign the MOU, after which Kufuor announced he would return to Ghana and that a mediating team led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan would take over. Meanwhile, Raila Odinga’s ODM called on the World Bank to recall Colin Bruce after the Financial Times published a memo he wrote to Washington, claiming it was ‘the considered view of the UN’ that Kibaki had legitimately won the election. A veteran of UN failures in Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur, Kofi Annan must be entering Kenya’s poisoned arena with a heavy heart.
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