How can Kenya avoid ethnic war?
Former UN chief Kofi Annan launched formal peace talks Tuesday as a fresh round of reprisal killings swept the country.
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Grignon says that Kibaki and Odinga must realize that they cannot stand alone. While Kibaki has the powers of the presidency, he adds, "the opposition is strong in parliament, and it is difficult for a government to rule the country when they don't have majority in parliament. You need a caretaker government for the interim."Skip to next paragraph
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Little chance for a recount
Early calls for a retallying of the Dec. 27 vote have been dropped, as many of the original tally sheets have been destroyed. Also destroyed is the reputation of the one Kenyan agency that is charged with carrying out any such retally, the Election Commission of Kenya.
Just days after declaring Kibaki the winner, chief election commissioner Samuel Kivuitu admitted that he had come under pressure to announce Kibaki had won. Mr. Kivuitu now says that he has no idea if Kibaki was elected president or not.
Lacking legitimacy, Kibaki will have to agree to fresh elections, says Mr. Kamotho, the Nairobi attorney, although given the current environment, he says it would be advisable to put off elections for at least two years. The political class may reach an "accommodation, whether their members are ready or not," he adds.
"But even if these guys make up today, it will not address the problems in Burnt Forest," he says, referring to one of the towns most affected by ethnic violence in Kenya. If violence crops up every time that Kenya holds an election, he says, then "it would be better to postpone it" until tempers have cooled.
But elections are crucial, Kamotho says. "How do you give hope to the 70 percent of Kenyans who are young and who can't see their stake in Kenya's future? These are the fellows who burn buildings. If we can take that opportunity, this election will be a blip. If we don't, then the government will have lost the moment."
Considering a new Constitution
The next step, human rights activists say, is for the newly elected government to rewrite the Constitution. Human rights and the freedom of expression need to be strengthened, and the power of the presidency – a legacy of the 24-year dictatorship of President Moi – must be reduced.
"We can't afford a winner-take-all mentality; it's not healthy," says Kamotho. "We need to reduce the power of the presidency. If that is the only position that matters, people will be ready to kill for it."
The new Constitution, experts say, must also address Kenya's most contentious issue: land.
"We need new laws to deal with the distribution of wealth – and in an agricultural society like Kenya, wealth is primarily locked up in land," says Njeri Kabeberi, director of the Center for Multiparty Democracy. "If the people of Kibera [a Nairobi slum] were in the middle class, they wouldn't be fighting each other. If they have their own house, they know the pain of losing a house and therefore they won't burn yours."
Ms. Kabeberi and others say that the only way to tackle tribalism is by creating a Constitution that gives a place to each community. Ethnic identity has always been a factor in Kenya's culture – and indeed in developed countries of the West. But the influence of ethnicity will diminish over time, they argue, when Kenyans see that their nation's laws are more fair, that economic opportunities are evenly distributed, that their government is more even-handed and responsive, and that those who commit crimes at election time are prosecuted, no matter what tribe they belong to.
As ethnic attacks continue across Kenya – signs of the pent-up anger over issues of land, and ethnic favoritism, irresponsible hate speech, and the abuse of power – it is clear that Kenyans have a long way to go before reconciliation between ethnic communities and economic classes can begin.
"Some people have created these problems for Kenya in just a matter of days," says Kabeberi. "We Kenyans have to take the next two to five years to clean up. And we must force our leaders to listen."