Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Any "cooler heads" in Kenya?

A week ago Kenya's Justice Minister, Martha Karua (right), predicted the political crisis that's roiled her country in the weeks following a disputed Presidential election would settle down. Karua told the BBC she expected that "cooler heads" would prevail: "We expect that eventually everybody will come to their senses, realise that we've got to learn to live with each other."
Sadly, her prediction's proved premature.
Here's the latest news from Nairobi: "Nine people were hacked or burned to death in new violence linked to Kenya's political crisis on Tuesday, as former UN secretary general Kofi Annan arrived to revive mediation efforts."
Since violence erupted in the wake of the December 27, 2007, balloting, more than 700 Kenyans have been killed. Another 250,000 have fled their homes.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga's called it a "constitutional crisis," a contention that our colleague Mary Dudziak, author of a forthcoming book on Thurgood Marshall's role in drafting the Kenya Constitution, has analyzed here.
Odinga and his rival, incumbent President Mwai Kibaki, came together in the same room last week for the 1st time since the election, to vote on who'd become Speaker of Parliament. Though Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement won, the vote was close, and the victory did not stop the turmoil.
Indeed, yesterday an Odinga spokesman said the movement had "sent a formal complaint to the International Criminal Court in The Hague notifying the panel about the charges that authorities committed crimes against humanity during the crackdown on demonstrations" -- a charge the government met by saying it'd be complaining to the ICC that the oppostion was "involved in planning 'mass genocide.'"
Annan, a 2001 Nobel Peace laureate (right), was to have arrived in Nairobi to launch mediation talks a week ago but delayed on account of flu. Now that he's there, he's got his work cut out for him.


Diane Marie Amann said...

On the problems Uganda's having handling cross-border refugees from Kenya, see

Mary L. Dudziak said...

The headline in The Nation (Nairobi) today is "Kenya: Hope at Last."

For those wishing to follow the story of Kenya's election crisis, the Kenya page at is a great source:
For news sources outside of Africa, BBC is so much better on this than the NY Times or other American papers I'm aware of:
A very helpful NPR radio interview with Buffalo Interim Dean Makau Mutua is here:
And another superb program, featuring Angeliquie Haugerud, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University and Beth Whitaker, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, is here (scroll down to Wednesday, Jan. 16):
Both programs would be well worth your time.

The Kenya crisis is not just about "tribalism." It is a clash about democracy and politics, with ethnicity deployed in the process.

Diane Marie Amann said...

Thanks so much for this update, Mary. Your last paragraph --

"The Kenya crisis is not just about "tribalism." It is a clash about democracy and politics, with ethnicity deployed in the process."

-- is one that applies in so many of the crises given the superficial brand of "tribal conflict." It's the responsibility of all to remember this, to resist oversimplification and otherization of conflicts.