Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga met for the first time since a disputed December election sparked violence that has killed more than 800 people. The leaders held what mediator Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, described as “very encouraging” talks. (AFP via Google)
What the commentators said
The “crisis grows” every day, said Koigi Wamwere in the Nairobi Nation (via AllAfrica.com). Kibaki is clearly unwilling to concede that he lost the tainted vote, and opposition politicians, many of whom have agreed to take the parliamentary seats they won in December, don’t seem “keen on a repeat election.” It looks like the only path to peace is for Odinga to join a coalition government—but first Kibaki “must invite him.”
“Maybe Kenya will finally break our pattern of dangerously naive infatuation with pretend democracies,” said Stanley Kurtz in National Review Online. “Kenya’s reputation as a bulwark of stability and prosperity on an otherwise fragile continent,” but the violence that followed the election showed that it, too, was plagued with tribal tension. Clearly, “African democracy is far more illusion than reality.”
Chalking up the troubles of Kenya and an entire continent to tribal or ethnic strife is “at minimum a collective anomie and at maximum an embedded racism,” said Richard R. Marcus in the Los Angeles Times (free registration). Most of the violence has been commited by “government troops seeking to ensure that the Odinga's opposition doesn't rise to a social movement that could lead to President Mwai Kibaki's ouster.” There are ethnic differences in Kenya, and “self-serving” politicians have exploited them, but the solution lies in getting Kibaki and Odinga to work together, not in “calming primordial cleavages.”
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