Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Q & A - Kenya from The Guardian (UK) - 1/29/2008

Click here to access the excellent Q & A from the Guardian newspaper (UK), complete with photos and links to other stories.

Text only below:

Q&A: the Kenya crisis

Xan Rice in Nairobi and Mark Tran
Tuesday January 29, 2008
Guardian Unlimited

What lies behind the violence in Kenya?
The opposition Orange Democratic Movement, led by Raila Odinga, insists that the December 27 presidential election was rigged in favour of the president, Mwai Kibaki, a view shared by most western nations and all local and foreign observer groups.

The subsequent violence, which has seen more than 800 people killed in ethnic attacks and protesters' clashes with police, has brought to the surface long-held tensions over land, the economy and political power, and plunged Kenya into its biggest crisis since independence.

What does Kenya stand to lose from the post-election chaos?
The economy
, one of Kenya's success stories in recent years, is taking a battering. The Nairobi Stock Exchange has slipped sharply, as has the Kenyan shilling. Exports have been hit by the insecurity and blocked roads, and trade with neighbouring countries has been curtailed.

Tourism, the country's biggest single earner, worth £400m a year, has been seriously hit, with hotels and travel agents reporting up to 80% cancellations.

Perhaps the biggest damage, though, which will seriously affect foreign investment and tourism for some time, is to Kenya's reputation. Its image as a place of peace, stability and tolerance has been shattered. Countries such as Uganda and Rwanda, which for years have looked to Kenya with envy, are now looking on with pity.

How widespread is the violence?
Most of Kenya's major cities, including Nairobi, Mombasa, [Eldoret], and Kisumu, have experienced serious violence. [More recently, Nakuru and Naivasha have also been seriously affected.]

In the capital, much of it has taken place within the slum estates such as Kibera and Mathare, with the wealthier suburbs and city centre left largely unscathed thanks to a huge security presence along all the major roads.

In Mombasa, the pattern has been similar, but in Kisumu, on the banks of Lake Victoria, and the strongest area of opposition support in the country, the city centre has been affected.

In other parts of western Kenya, particularly the Rift Valley, rural areas have seen clashes with police and murders, with movement severely restricted over large areas due to anti-government gangs manning [illegal, makeshift] roadblocks. There is a feeling, particularly in government circles, that opposition politicians are deliberately stoking the violence, although there is no firm proof.

Who is being targeted?
Ethnic groups perceived as supporting Kibaki have been subjected to the bulk of the violence.

Kibaki's own Kikuyu community has been worst hit, and it is the poorest people, who live in densely packed slums or multi-ethnic rural areas, that are being killed, robbed and displaced, rather than the wealthy elite close to Kibaki who control a large part of the economy and live in the Central province or smart parts of Nairobi.

The Kisiis, regarded as pro-government, have also been targeted in the Rift Valley province. At informal checkpoints, passengers are being asked to give their identity cards so their ethnicity can be determined.

Reprisals by the Kikuyus, the largest of Kenya's 43 ethnic groups, were inevitable, and there are accounts of revenge attacks. The Mungiki, a much-feared Kikuyu criminal sect, are strongly rumoured to have been deployed in Nairobi's slums to fight back against the mainly Luo [and Luhya, in Naivasha] supporters of Odinga.

What are the demands from the opposition, and the government's response to them?
The Orange Democratic Movement is demanding that Kibaki admit that he lost the election.

This will almost certainly not happen.

Odinga has insisted negotiations with the government will only take place with international mediation - something the government says is not needed.

The ODM has said it will accept a rerun of the presidential election as long as it occurs soon and is presided over by a fully independent electoral commission.

For Kibaki to agree, however, will be to risk showing that the original poll was indeed rigged, as Odinga claims. There is also a strong potential for violence and intimidation ahead of any repeat vote.

Odinga has rejected talk of a power-sharing deal; he believes he won the election fairly and will not serve under Kibaki.

What can the international community do?
Kofi Annan
, the former UN secretary general, has been trying to broker a compromise between Kibaki and Odinga, who finally met each other last week, shaking hands and smiling for the cameras. Annan has asked both men, who are under international pressure to form a coalition government, to name three negotiators each to hold talks.

An earlier attempt by the African Union to help broker a settlement failed when the government told Ghana's president, John Kufuor, that his help was not needed. Uganda, meanwhile, has congratulated Kibaki on his re-election - the first African country to do so.

The hundreds of millions of pounds in international aid is unlikely to be used to pressure Kibaki, as withholding the money will only affect the poorest people.

Western diplomats, who do not trust the official election results, are pushing for a full, independent inquiry into the tallying process. The ODM has agreed to this, but the government has little to gain given that election observers say that most of the irregularities benefited Kibaki.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

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