14 February 2013

Flash back to January 2008 (#3): Update on the Political and Humanitarian Crises in Kenya

As the election date of March 4, 2013 continues to draw closer and closer, here is another in my series of 2008 'flashbacks' from my blog. This update is a repeat of my original post, dated January 11, 2008:

This was a 2007 campaign poster for ODM,
whose presidential candidate was Raila Odinga

The deadlock continues between Mwai Kibaki and his PNU party (Party of National Unity) and Raila Odinga and his ODM party (Orange Democratic Movement). Kibaki still maintains that he was legitimately elected whereas Raila is adamant that he had garnered the majority of votes. ODM insists that fresh presidential elections should be held in three months. Many have called for both Kibaki and the Electoral Commissioner to resign.

The resulting violence that rocked much of Kenya for a week has subsided. Businesses are now open and one could say that a sense of normalcy has returned. However tensions are still quite high. Many Kenyans are disappointed and angry about the turn of events.

It’s now estimated that 600 have been killed in various parts of the country. At least 250,000 have been displaced (most internally in Kenya, but some have fled to neighboring Uganda). Organizations and churches have organized relief operations to feed and cater to these homeless folks. There are thousands that have been injured; hospitals are overwhelmed. The new academic year has been greatly affected, with the opening dates of all schools (primary, secondary, and university) postponed.

Last week, Jendayi Frazier (from the US) arrived to make an attempt at brokering a compromise. Anticipating effective mediation talks, Raila postponed the rallies he wanted to hold around the country. He strongly desired to hold peaceful gatherings in order to allow people to express their frustrations about the controversial tallying of the votes.

John Kufour, president of Ghana and also of the Africa Union, came to Kenya to mediate talks between “President” Kibaki and Raila Odinga, his closest opponent in the recent election. However, he left yesterday after the talks reached an impasse and collapsed. Kofi Annan (former Secretary General of the United Nations) and other prominent African leaders are expected to arrive in the country in order to make a second attempt to resolve the stalemate.

In the meantime, Kibaki has announced his Vice President and most of his cabinet positions. He has also announced that Parliament will open on Tuesday, the 15th. He seems to believe that the more time that passes by, the more Kenyans will accept him as the winner of the disputed election. Many however, question how he expects to lead this nation without a clear mandate of its people. Another interesting factor is that ODM holds the majority of seats in parliament.

Yesterday, a group of 100 women – ODM sympathizers – attempted to hold a peaceful march. Police dispersed them with teargas.

I personally know of many very unfortunate incidents. The stories are unending and it’s all very sad. Collins and Robert joined thousands of Kenyans who were finally able to travel this week, having been stranded by the crisis. Both of them confessed to me that they were quite disturbed by the scenes they saw along the highway – burned homes and cars, homeless people, a heavy police presence, etc.

The atrocities that were committed will leave psychological scars for years. Some have said that the massacres were ethnic cleansing and should be investigated as “crimes against humanity”. There have been random acts of violence committed by hooligans, but by far, most of the tragedy has been targeted towards one ethnic community.

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Please pray for Kenya, that a peaceful and transparent election will take place on March 4th and that there will be a smooth transfer of power this time around!

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