Why the Kenya talks succeeded

Could this be a blueprint for peace in other African conflicts?

The Kenyan peace process is touted by academics and other observers as a model of international pressure and African-led mediation. It may be a particularly useful blueprint for this continent, since most conflicts here are not between countries, but between political groups within the same country.

What made Kenya's talks a success?

International engagement

"It was absolutely crucial not only to have international engagement, but the most important thing is that engagement was unified," says François Grignon, director of the Kenya office of the International Crisis Group in Nairobi. "This was very rare, where you had all the major players of the West and the African powerhouses all together, speaking to both sides with one voice."

The intervention of outside players, agrees Jackie Klopp, an international affairs expert at Columbia University in New York, "helped speed up a negotiation process that needed to happen for the violence to stop. This is because a great deal of the violence itself was linked to politicians who were encouraging and using it to either hold onto power or gain power at the national level."

Experienced African mediators

Ms. Klopp says that another key factor in bringing peace to Kenya was "the skill of Kofi Annan and other African mediators, such as former Tanzanian President [Benjamin] Mkapa and Graça Machel. In my view, it was very important that Africans took the lead.... Given the history of the continent, it is always easy for any party that wants to derail the effort to blame a US or European intervention as malevolent and discredit it."

Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmentalist and the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner agrees. "It helped that Kofi Annan was African," she says. "It helped the principals [President Kibaki and Raila Odinga] to realize if they were being addressed, it was by one of them. They didn't have to fight over egos. They didn't have to prove that they were the big man, because Kofi Annan was the bigger man."

Supporting cast of local leaders

Some observers have suggested that Kenya's power-sharing agreement holds lessons for the two political parties vying for power in Zimbabwe.

But ingredients that made the Kenyan peace process work aren't yet present in Zimbabwe's case, say analysts. For example, senior influential Kenyans started the peace process themselves, with people like Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat and General Lazaro Sumbeiywo pushing their own leaders to accept outside help. Other mediation efforts, such as the on-again, off-again peace process in Uganda, and the postelection mediation by South African President Thabo Mbeki in Zimbabwe, often stumble when principals on either side refuse to commit to the peace process.

Ambassador Kiplagat, who helped start the process of inviting international mediators to Kenya, says he never doubted a deal would be struck. "There was no moment where I felt it would not work," he says. "I knew deep down in my heart. We will somehow come through it."

Mr. Grignon adds that a key lesson is that conflicts of this scale should have a "full-time mediator, not as a part-time job, but full time, dedicated for at least one month." The Zimbabwe power-sharing talks, for example, don't have a full-time mediator, like Mr. Annan.

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