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Putting the Genie Back into the Bottle?

Henriette von Kaltenborn-Stachau's picture

The ethnic clashes that broke out after the announcement of Kenya’s Presidential election results have reportedly resulted in over 500 deaths and caused some 250.000 people to leave their homes and seek refuge in tribal homelands; some 3000 Kenyans crossed into neighboring Uganda looking for safety. Violence around contested elections is not new to Kenya; clashes along ethnic lines led to some 1500 dead in 1992, and 200 died around the polling in 1997; and though generally considered more peaceful, also the 2002 elections were marred by incidences of violence.

Such repetition of ethnic violence over time leads to questions what the state can do to generate a level of public trust in its institutions that would ensure that Kenya won’t face the same violent eruption next time it opens its polling stations.

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is heading a team of Eminent African Personalities to mediate in the conflict.  A challenging task; even if his team manages succeeds in securing the political will to end the violence, how, in wake of atrocities committed and livelihoods destroyed, will Kenya’s society bury the current inter-ethnic suspicion and return to the principle of peaceful co-existence; what will it take to reassure the IDPs and refugees that it is safe to return to their homes and former neighbors?  Will media-images of the two opponents shaking hands be really enough to put the genie of ethnic tension back into the bottle?


Submitted by Catherine on
It is unfortunate that my neighbours Kenya (I am from Uganda) are going through such rough times. This shows that Kenyans have been waiting for the right time to engage in tribal clashes on grounds that a certain tribe is very rich than the other tribes. So the reportedly election rigging was a gateway to this tribal clashes. It also shows how a country's Electoral Commission has a big role and ability to avert such incidences. The fact that Kenya's EC boss indicated that he is not sure who the winner is.....that was a blunder. What is in Kenya is a man made crisis which can be averted.

Submitted by Henriette on
Dear Catherine, I very much agree with you that Kenya's crisis is man-made one that could have been averted. It seems that in Kenya a governance policy of social and political exclusion had created a powder keg over time that was just waiting for a spark to explode. Professional and impartial institutions - and I agree with the importance of a country's electoral commission - are crucial for governance in any society, and become even more relevant in a multi-ethnic context. I much hope that the current crisis will not only end soon, but also be the impetus for Kenya to define an inclusive policy-agenda and to put decisive political will behind its implementation. Restoring public trust in its institutions will be an important step part of preventing similar clashes in the future.

Submitted by Hayatuddeen Tanimu on
What happened in Kenya is so sad. We hope similar incidence will not happen not only in Kenya, but across Africa and the world at large. I want to remind you that elections have been brutally manipulated in Nigeria but the public avoid incidence like that of Kenya. Nigerians are the most patient human beings on earth. Take for instance; a former military president annulled the so called most free and fair election Nigeria has ever had (June 12 election). 2003, 2007 elections were all manipulated. We saw different techniques of malpractices from those in control and securities as well. What happened? So incidences worse than that of Kenya has happen in Nigerian politics. But Nigerians are still patient. So Kenyans should emulate from their Nigerian brothers. Kenyan crises is a fight between two power fighters. Most of those involved in the crises are hopeless youth whose minds have been exploited by the selfish ideologies of corrupt leaders. My words seems harsh, I feel terrified when I watch clips of African crises in BBC, CNN and Aljazeera. When are we going to have focus in Africa? Look at Darfur and Chad. Human life is vandalized by selfish individuals. People are made refuges in their own mother land. The greatest institution on earth (family) are destroyed. And yet the international communities are watching. If it is fight for energy or the so called terrorism they will be the front liners. I critically examine crises happening in Africa. Most are caused by selfish individuals who want to remain in power for ever. They don’t have respect for democracy and human right. African leaders are the most selfish people on earth. Most of them know they are not doing the right thing but they keep on denying. Why cant African leaders have respect for rule of law so we can have peace in our continent and the world at large? We have good constitutions, but they are just used as reference materials.

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