Patrice Riemens on Mon, 7 Jan 2008 16:28:56 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Victoria Brittain: Kibaki must back down (Kenya)

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Kibaki must back down
Victoria Brittain (2008-01-03)

Desmond Tutu was absolutely right to fly into Kenya and throw his
moral authority behind efforts to resolve the dramatic crisis that
other outsiders are misjudging so badly. British foreign secretary
David Miliband, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, secretary
general of the Commonwealth Don McKinnon and President John Kufuor
of Ghana, president of the African Union (AU), all missed the chance
to denounce the rapid swearing-in of a man who did not win the
presidential election.

This lit the touchpaper for the appalling violence of the last
few days. All of these powerful people knew from the European and
other observers on the ground how grotesque and open was the ballot
rigging which allowed Mwai Kibaki to claim victory. The parliamentary
elections in which President Kibaki's party was trounced, getting
a mere one third of the seats obtained by Raila Odinga's Orange
Democratic Movement (ODM), and with 20 cabinet ministers losing
their seats, underlined the true balance of democratic forces in the

Tutu knows mass anger as a response to political humiliation. Kenyans
in the street will listen to him as South Africans did, and still do
when he speaks fearlessly to the powerful at home as well as abroad.
Perhaps Kibaki, who has rebuffed the overtures from the AU and insists
that Kenya's problem is an internal one, will meet the Archbishop. If
so, he will hear hard truths, but also, perhaps, a face-saving way to
step back from the folly encouraged by his close advisers who dared
not face his defeat and the political reckoning that would come with

It is a myth that Kenya has been a haven of stability in East Africa
for decades, just as it was a myth that Ivory Coast was in the west -
until it exploded. Kenya has been a key strategic ally for the west
since independence, and the kleptocratic and repressive governments of
Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki have been supported unconditionally for that

Since the launch of the "war on terror" in late 2001, the importance
of Kenya to the Americans has increased even further. The west
chose not to see a country where more than half the population
of 31 million live on $2 a day, where unemployment is rising,
landlessness is chronic and increasing. The tourist paradise for
European holidaymakers had become a bitter, lawless and cynical place
for its own citizens.

Raila Odinga made a political alliance with Kibaki in 2002,
calculating that together they could attack corruption, bring down an
elite which had been above the law for too long, and give ordinary
Kenyans the modest prosperity that had eluded too many of them since
independence. (Kibaki too had been in the wilderness during the Moi

But Kibaki was captured by the old elite once he came into power, and
since 2005 Odinga has built a new nationalist alliance across the
country, which owes as much to his own drive, as to the old magic of
his father's name - Oginga Odinga. In the years after independence,
when Kenyatta became a key British ally and froze Odinga out, as a
socialist, and as a Luo from the poor west of Kenya, Odinga's was
the name with which the Kenyan masses most identified. In the 21st
century the freeze won't work on the son. The election has to be rerun
with a credible independent electoral commission. Odinga's offer of
negotiations under international auspices must be accepted by Kibaki.

*Victoria Brittain, a former associate foreign editor of the Guardian,
is a journalist and a research associate at the London School of

*Please send comments to editor@pambazuka 
or comment online at

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