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?