Tuesday, February 19, 2008



By Jerry Okungu

It is true Kenya is in a serious crisis that worsens by the day.
Three weeks since the December elections, we are still reeling from the post-elections aftermath.

Never before have Kenyans rioted, killed, maimed and vandalized for three weeks in a row since independence. This time round, it has been a free for all affair. What is more, it would appear like the rabble has taken over and dictating terms to the political leadership.

We are slowly grinding to a halt and pulling along with us all those states that depend on us for one thing or another. Scarcity has become the order of the day in Kampala, Kigali, Bujumbura, Juba and Kinshasa. Humanitarian aid to Somalia and Sudan together with international aid workers whose bases are normally in Nairobi are either stranded in Nairobi or have been recalled to their base stations until further notice.

Fuel prices are in the range of four dollars a litre in Kisumu and Eldoret while the same fetches as much as seven dollars in the streets of Kampala and beyond. Prices of basic commodities have either doubled or trebled depending on where one is located. Schools in Western Kenya and most of Rift Valley are closed with universities putting off January semesters indefinitely.

As the war rages in Londiani and Kipkeleon areas, where there is intense interethnic violence, Western Kenya is virtually off limits by road except by air from Nairobi.
As the stand-off continues with both sides vowing to stick it out, only God knows what next Kenyans will expect.

However, hope is not lost as the AU tries another round of possible resolution to the crisis.

Yes, John Kufuor and Desmond Tutu came and went with very little achieved. More deaths followed in their wake. This week we have Kofi Annan, Graca Machel and Benjamin Mkapa at it again; not to mention Joachim Chissano of Mozambique and Masire of Botswana who are still in town in search of the elusive peace.

However, real peace will be impossible if Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki do not come to the negotiation table and face each other across the table with their agenda for negotiations.

Right now, signs are that the Government side is not keen on an international settlement. John Michuki, a key minister in the Kibaki administration has said as much. Yet, despite such utterances, President Kibaki has included him on the team to negotiate with ODM. And Michuki is not alone. Other hardliners in the Kibaki team are Martha Karua, George Saitoti, Mutula Kilonzo and Moses Wetangula.

The Raila side says that Kalonzo Musyoka and Mutula Kilonzo have no business being on the table because they are irrelevant to the equation. They belonged to the ODMK party that came a poor third in the elections. They maintain that the dispute is between PNU and ODM and they alone can sort out the mess.

Given this scenario; the most sensible thing to do is to get Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga alone on the negotiation table with the Annan Group. Away from their hard-line supporters and busy bodies hanging around, the two gentlemen can make some sense out of the discussions.

Right now on the political scene; there are individuals out to escalate the chaos and confusion.

These are the people that are adept at thriving in chaos. They will therefore do everything in their powers to perpetuate the status quo in order to remain relevant in the current situation.

I therefore propose in this column that apart from the Annan Group, the AU and the EAC must put pressure on the Kenya Government to halt hostilities and negotiate immediately with the opposition even if it means setting up an international outfit to supervise a re-run of the elections if the option of a shared power is not accepted.

For this to happen, the negotiating teams must be reduced to no more than three on each side, including President Kibaki and Raila Odinga.

Kofi Annan should set up a Secretariat independent of both parties; preferably an AU institution like NEPAD Secretariat that Graca Machel has used before to audit Kenya’s Governance Report

Local Peace Initiatives or groups should be removed from the venue as far as possible because they have been tainted by negative politics in Kenya.
As talks begin, all hardliners should be banned from making press statements, demonstrations suspended and police brutality removed from our streets and prayer centres.

Yes, the AU Heads of State and the EAC Summit must come up with a strong communiqué denouncing violence and force the warring teams to give the Annan team a chance.
Time for sitting on the fence is over.