Feature

Kenya’s wrong turn

Fifty Kenyans were killed after a mob set fire to a church where they were taking refuge from post-election violence. The violent backlash was "indefensible," said The Washington Post, but President Mwai Kibaki caused the chaos with the "el

What happenedFifty Kenyans were killed Tuesday after a mob set fire to a church where they were taking refuge from post-election violence. “We never expected the savagery to go so far,” said police spokesman Eric Kiraithe. (New York Daily News)

What the commentators saidKenya was “close” to turning a corner over the weekend, said The Washington Post in an editorial (free registration). For the first time, free elections were going to force an incumbent president out of office, but “eleventh-hour manipulations by President Mwai Kibaki “robbed the vote of credibility and plunged the country into near-chaos.” The violent backlash was “indefensible,” but the blame falls squarely on Kibaki’s shoulders.

The violence threatens “an island of stability in the otherwise volatile horn of Africa,” said Sarah Childress in The Wall Street Journal. At least 260 people have been killed since the results were announced over the weekend, and reports of irregularities circulated. And Kenyans won’t be the only ones to suffer, as this travesty doesn’t bode well for Kenya’s continued cooperation with U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the region.

For a glimpse of how bad things could get, said William Wallis and Barney Jopson in the Financial Times, take a look at the Ivory Coast. Like Kenya, it had “a record for relative stability in a region otherwise peppered with failing states and conflict”—until civil war broke out in 2002. Ivory Coast's war was caused by a potent blend of economic crisis and the manipulation of ethnic and regional identity by politicians,” but the “spark” was “a flawed election, which split the loyalties of the army and ultimately the country in two.”

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