Kenya political crisis: Kofi Annan to the rescue – again?
A corruption scandal threatens to tear apart the fragile coalition government, prompting fear of a return to the ethnic violence that killed 1,300 and displaced hundreds of thousands after the disputed elections of December 2007.
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This weekend, after both the US and British governments suspended education aid to Kenya because of the scandal, Odinga asked for Mr. Ruto and Mr. Ongeri to resign until the investigations were complete. But President Kibaki overruled Odinga, and reinstated the two ministers, saying that the prime minister did not have the power to fire ministers.Skip to next paragraph
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Bring back Kofi Annan
On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi defended the Prime Minister, and called on former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to return to Kenya to help resolve the crisis. Mr. Annan is in many ways the midwife of the current coalition government, having mediated the violent post-election crisis where both Kibaki and Odinga claimed victory in the Dec. 27, 2007 elections.
Odinga’s stand against corruption – even against members of his own party – puts him in good stead with Kenyans tired of leaders who seek political office merely for personal profit. Recent polls show that Odinga is the most trusted politician in Kenya, with just under 40 percent support from voters. It also plays well for international donors such as the US and the British government, who have increased pressure on the Kenyan government to get its financial house in order, or to risk losing future foreign aid.
“[Odinga] took action. He got the first resignations to happen because of corruption. He forced Kibaki to act,” says Aly-Khan Satchu, a political and economic analyst and owner of Rich Management in Nairobi. “[Odinga] is showing the world, ‘I’m trying to do something about corruption,’ so he’s going to come out smiling.”
Even as he reinstated the two ministers linked to the corruption probes, President Kibaki was quick to note that this should not be seen as an endorsement of corruption. Kenya’s fight against graft “will be successfully fought when we do so in accordance with the Constitution and the due process of law," Mr. Kibaki told reporters.
Yet while Raila Odinga may look good to the international community, his position within his own ODM party is weakened, as former allies within ODM, including the embattled agriculture minister, throw their support behind Kibaki in a new tribal alliance of Kikuyus, Kalenjins, and Kambas. “If you do the tribal math, Raila’s in trouble, because he rode on the back of Ruto and the Kalenjins to get elected,” notes Mr. Satchu.
Yet, if past political crises are a guide, the international community will intervene to push Kibaki and Odinga back to the negotiation table, diplomats and analysts say, a fact that puts tribal politics on the backburner. Says Satchu: “This is a key moment.”
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