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Peacemakers Unfit for Peace

By Njoroge Wachai

Amid the ongoing post-election bloodbath in Kenya, peace troubleshooters have descended on Nairobi. They’re from all walks of life: sitting and former presidents, career diplomats and religious leaders. They all have one mission: to bring President Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to talk to each other and to encourage them to stop the spiral of violence, which a recent Associated Press report claims has killed close to 800 people and left some parts of the country in ruins.

The Kenyan crisis is of monumental magnitude, necessitating outside mediation, but I detest the free-for-all diplomatic theatric that’s slowly unraveling in Nairobi. Even Libya’s strongman, Muammar Gaddafi, a tyrant dictator to the core, has, according to the Office of Kenya’s government spokesman, dispatched his minister for African Union Affairs, Ali Tirku, to encourage President Kibaki and Mr. Odinga to share power. How can a dictator who grabbed power by the barrel of a gun 39 years ago, and has since never shared it with anybody, encourage others to do so? Libya has never held a democratic election. Until two years ago, it was a pariah state for its support of terrorism and abuse of human rights. A campaign strategy document for Mr. Odinga’s Orange Democratic Party (ODM) (which Human Rights Watch accused last week of systematic killing of members of one ethnic tribe in Western Kenya) shows that Saif al-Islam al-Gadaffi, Gaddafi’s son, offered material support to the opposition. In light of these reports, it’s preposterous for Libya to think it can mediate in the current crisis.

Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, another authoritarian leader and a perpetrator of the violence in Darfur that has killed close to 200,000 people, also wants to chip in. Mr. al-Bashir is a cruel, petty dictator whom Kenya must shun.

Then there are Presidents Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) former Tanzanian head Benjamin Mkapa. Their governance credentials disqualify them from sitting at a mediation table. There are well-documented records of their suppression of human rights and electoral rigging of bigger magnitude than what happened in Kenya.

Memories are still fresh of how Mr. Mkapa, for instance, in January 2001, violently suppressed demonstrations in Zanzibar and Pemba, organized by the opposition party Civic United Front (CUF), to protest his party’s, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) alleged rigging of the 2000 presidential election.

I was in Dar-es-Salaam then, and I recall watching the CUF chairman, Ibrahim Lipumba, and fifteen other members of his party being beaten up and then dragged into court, where they were charged with trumped-up charges of illegal assembly. Isn’t that what’s happening in Kenya?

Tanzanian police, according to a Human Rights Watch report, allegedly used helicopters to attack boats full of CUF supporters fleeing to Kenya. It’s estimated that 30 people, mainly opposition supporters, died from police brutality. With all this blood in his hands, Mr. Mkapa, virtually, has nothing to offer a peace negotiation. What can Mr. Mkapa tell Mr. Odinga, whose supporters’ rights to assembly and expression have been severely inhibited? I see Mkapa egging on President Kibaki to sustain his ruthless clampdown of opposition gatherings to the chagrin of Mr. Odinga.

If, indeed, it’s true President Kibaki is the “typical African dictator,” keen to deny citizens the enjoyment of constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms, then Uganda’s President Museveni epitomizes something yet worse, as experiences in two past multi-party elections in his country attest.

Museveni’s intolerance to political competition first emerged after the country’s first multiparty election in 2001. Soon after Museveni was declared the winner, Dr. Kizza Besigye, his main opponent, contested the election results. Instead of allowing courts to do their work, President Museveni embarked on a campaign to harass Dr. Besigye. His movements were closely monitored and his family subjected to all forms of intimidation. Unable to withstand the pressure, Besigye went into exile in South Africa where he lived until 2005.

Besigye’s attempts to challenge Museveni’s stranglehold on power during the 2006 election were similarly thwarted through trumped-up charges of treason and adultery. Wary of independent-minded judges, Museveni hauled Dr. Besigye to Kangaroo military courts.

Museveni, through his military police and armed militias, thwarted every effort by Besigye’s supporters to protest mistreatment of their leader. Museveni’s mediation efforts in Nairobi are, therefore, phony.

Museveni doesn’t believe in political reconciliation. He has never invited Dr. Besigye to Nakasero State House for even a cup of tea. By purporting to help Kenya come out of the political imbroglio it’s in, Museveni is shamelessly preaching milk while he continues to drink wine.

The Musevenis, al-Bashirs, Gadaffis and Mkapa of this world have no business being in Nairobi. This mediation mission should be left to Mr. Annan, who’s a well-respected diplomat. Mr. Annan and Graca Machel, the wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela, are up to the job. They don’t require help from folks with dubious governance records.

The writer is a former Kenyan journalist currently based in the United States.


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Comments (11)

Mohamed MALLECK, Swift Current, Canada:

I shall tell you only one thing Mr. Wachai. You write " Even Libya’s strongman, Muammar Gaddafi, a tyrant dictator to the core, has, according to the Office of Kenya’s government spokesman, dispatched his minister for African Union Affairs, Ali Tirku, to encourage President Kibaki and Mr. Odinga to share power".

Take it from somebdoy who put his job and the sustenance of his family on the line to make a contribution that he himself can believe in
(nobody else needs, even now, to believe that he made that significant contribution, because, in a collective effort, attribution is difficult) so as to get President Museveni to agree that Dr. Besigye be allowed to return from exile and contest the 2005 elections.

I told a former colleague of mine at the African Development Bank yesterday that I hope that nobody will put the blame for what's happening in Kenya on me, on Alassane Ouattara, or on Muammar Gaddhafi.

But yes, western media propaganda can be very powerful.

I only hope for you that at no point did you buy the story line that Cuba was pushing communist insurgency in Namibia at the time that Wouter Basson was dumping the bodies of SWAPO resistance fighters from a helicopter into the Atlantic and the US was supporting Jonas Savinmbi and acusing Muammar Gaddhafi of sponsor of terrorism in Southern Africa.

There are aaspects of Gaddhafi that I don't like, but, for God's sake and in the name of African dignity, pull yourself together, Mr. Wachai!

Joseph Okech :

Well said Wachai

James Opiko:

Politicians are liars and thieves without conscience -- almost all of them.

So who will mediate peace .....Bush? A certified election thief himself.

With the Kenyan post-election fight down to ‘Bows & Poisoned Arrows,’ Kibaki ought to do the honorable thing -- step down and let a caretaker government oversee fresh 'UN monitored' elections.

This election has awakened a '44 year old demon' that will not be exorcised easily.

There has to be a 'perception of fairness,' failure of which will just mask the problem temporarily...only to witness it flare up again and again: http://www.politicalarticles.net/blog/2008/01/26/the-kenyan-post-election-fight-down-to-bows-poisoned-arrows/

Jay:

A well written article and, frankly, it is time for the African leaders to get their act together. None of the mediators are fit to be involved in the mediating process, and the only solution to is to have a rerun that is just and fair. I, for one, fear for the future of the continent because the cronies are there to benefit themselves and their associates and, just as important, have no respect for the rule of law.

Mwangi wa Njau:

The tallies were done by the ELECTION COMMISSION in Nairobi, and they are the pnes who fudged data from the constituencies inflate voter totals MAINLY in the PNU strongholds and occasionally inflating Raila's totals too in some constituencies as a cynical trick to "implicate" him

Matiba honestly never WON an election. The mighty Gema vote was split between him and Kibaki who then was a spoiler, planted by Moi. As we saw, Moi came out in 2007 to support him and repay that debt.

Napoleon Williams:

Today's article by Njoroge Wachai in the Washington Post, entitled "Peacemakers Unfit for Peace" does a good job of identifying specific human rights abuses of democracy committed by some of the African leaders trying to mediate in Kenya's current crisis. However, Wachai draws the distressing conclusion that these abuses disqualify them from mediation. He also concludes that only Kofi Annan and Graca Machel can qualify as mediators. Clearly, on the surface and the merits, there is something in what he says that rings true.

But what Wachai doesn't delineate enough is that the crisis in Kenya is two-fold: ending widespread collective violence; and resolving widely supported allegations of a stolen presidential election. With respect to the former, ending violence, I would think getting help from whatever quarter one can get to stop the killings and rampages, is helpful and essential. The point here is to have mediators who can effectively influence political leaders and the public to help put an end to the fighting. One ought not to apply a "clean hands" test in identifying people who can help to stem the violence.

As for the second matter, resolving the claims of a stolen election, the issue is more complex, and perhaps intractable. But here, too, mediation from otherwise unsavory officials ought not be deemed illegitimate per se, particularly when both sides agree to the mediation or if the mediation has a high potential for being successful. It's hard to know in the abstract what will work. If holding a high governmental office is essential for having sufficient clout to aid the parties in resolving the political crisis, then mediation by Annan and Machel is likely to be problematical. In principle, the ideal modes of resolution would be (1) invocation of an impartial judicial tribunal of Kenya, (3) a sensible compromise between the legislative and executive branches of government, and (3) having African leaders mediate under a set of principles approved and supervised by the African Union or an appropriate committee of the African Union.

kangethe charles:

The issues discussed are not a true reflection of the situation.We are made to believe by mike copper that president kibaki is in power illegally.i think we should treat that as a personal view coz i live in kenya & we saw what was happeninig on the ground.the opposition had a voter turn out of 95% while some areas over 100%(bondo 116%,eldoret north 120%)but when pnu stronghold register a 80% voter turnout no one wants to accept that.We have seen a double sided view from most of western powers(EU) where they talk of police killing demontrators,but no one has commented on burning alive of 55 children & women in a church.There seems to be no true picture of the views given,the opposition is simply hungry for power no matter the cost.During the 1997 elections Matiba(a kikuyu)was robbed of victory but there was no violence or destruction of private property he simply went to court,the same should have been done by the ODM leaders.The current deadlock cannot be solved by power-sharing reason being if kibaki accends to this deal his supporters will also go to the streets and same scenario will happen again.Secondly due to the mass killings of kikuyus the president isnt going to give away power and let his people be exterminated.The solution lies in the opposition accepting results,contesting the outcome in court or voting a vote of no confidence against government in parliament afterall they are the majority.
What is currently scarly is the fact that we are drifting slowly but surely to a civil war coz the recent violence is the kikuyus avenging the killings of their own,they are fed up and are starting to chase away opposition sympatherisers from their dominated areas,we need all political leaders to go and talk to their own at constiquency level otherwise annan and group will be holed up in hotels but killings will continue.
as am writting this violence has erupted again in nairobi due to murdering of a member of parliament from the opposition.
we need peace and only our own solution will work

Mike Cooper:

It is hard-rending crisis unfolding in Kenya, and indeed it is obvious that most peace-keeping efforts made so far have been self-serving. Tin-pot African dictators who once attempted to establish their pan-African credentials by railing against neocolonialism now do so by trying to project a image of 'African peacemaker'. Most of these efforts are doomed to fail simply because they are not meant to succeed.

But if they could succeed, should they? If the UN or any group had the power to impose a peace, should it? For the time being I would have to argue not. Any practical agreement that would be possible today would have to include power-sharing between Odinga and Kibaki, that is, between the winner of an election and the loser. Between the true president of Kenya and a thief. Such an agreement would buy peace in the present, a valuable commodity in Africa perhaps, but at the price of the future.

Let us pretend in 2000 that it had been proven that President Bush won the presidency over Albert Gore through massive conspiracy and fraud. Would America today be at peace? Would a power-sharing deal had been struck between Bush and Gore that allowed Bush to stay in power? No. America would be embroiled in civil conflict which, for all its sickening cruelities and horrors, is the natural state of a society when democracy and justice is denied.

The ethnic component in Kenyan society complicates the above hypothetical enormously. But it also makes the institution of democracy that much more critcal to the long-term health of Kenyan society. History has shown consistently that while authoritarian government may achieve ethnic peace by imposition, it aggravates ethnic tensions beneath the surface. It is a holocaust delayed, not avoided. Only democracy allows the political flexibility to offer hope of permanent civil society to ethnically-divided nations.

As horrible as the present destruction of Kenya is, we must resist the urge to seek peace at any price. Kibaki was an effective and valuable leader in many ways. Today he is a clear and present traitor to democracy. Odinga has many faults some of which have become more obvious in recent days. He is no saint. But he won the election. If democracy is to grow roots in Kenya that must be the only condition for power.

The outside world should not be looking for Kenyan peace if continued power for Kibaki is the price. We should be doing what we can discourage the ethnic dimension of the conflict while encouraging the unity of democratic forces against an unjust dictatorship. Any peace we could acheive now would be temporary. True allies of democracy should be more ambituous and visionary than the representatives of Bashir and Gaddafi who are in Kenya right now and pleading for peace right now.

Mohamed Hussein:

Well said Njoroge Wachai. I would only add you forgot two other "leaders" from the region. Somalia's "democratic" President who was himself installed by Mr. Kibaki amongst others was the one of two African Presidents to congratulate Mr. Kibaki on "becoming" Kenya's President once again.

However, Ethiopia's Meles Zenawi was the best; he said 'To impose democracy from outside is inherently undemocratic'. "The threat of western sanctions as a response to the current crisis in Kenya is very, very misguided," Meles said. "If it is presumed that the Kenyans will democratise in order to eat the peanuts of development assistance from the European Union, for example, it would be a big mistake."

David Amakobe:

The PNU hunted have started having names and faces:
The family of Mr. Reuben Sechele Nyangweso would like to ask all people of good will in Kenya and worldwide, to pray for them and particularly Mr. Reuben Nyangweso who is currently as of 2pm US Eastern Standard Time being hunted like an animal by PNU operatives lead by Mr. Libondo and others from Lurambi constituency. Reuben was a contestant in the ODM nomination for Lurambi. He was not nominated but then was appointed as Mr. Raila’s Election coordinator. There lies his mistake, whereas the original riots were spontaneous anger driven – Now the PNU operatives with help from the security officers in Western are singling out ODM members cutting them with machetes so that the world may not know that it was the government. Mr. Libondo is the contestant who lost to Mr. Raila Oginga in Kibera, he comes from Western Province
We the family of Mr. Nyangweso in Kenya, Delaware USA, Kansas USA and Ottawa Canada would like to let the world know that we hold the PNU operatives in Kakamega, in Nairobi and the Kibaki government responsible for the safety and good health of Mr. Reuben Nyangweso and all other ODM members.
Mr. Nyangweso should be guaranteed safe passage without let or hindrance. When we last talked to him we could hear stones pounding his car as he courageous drove through road blocks set up around his home by the PNU Lurambi operatives. We have to desist from talking to him on his cell phone, because someone was using it to track his movement. Only the Police have access to cell phone tracking technology in Kenya. The PNU, the Police, Safaricom and the Kibaki government therefore stands responsible for the safety of the person or Mr. Reuben Nyangweso and all those ODM members in the Western province countryside.
We do not understand how it can be that the PNU, would want to hunt, mime and Kill Kenyan who hold a different view just to stay in power. We would like to pray that this situation be resolved without setting the stage for long term challenges for the country and the generations to come. We would like to ask all investors in the country to take a long term view of their investments in Kenya. It is very discouraging when press releases from tour operators and governments state that only Kenyans are being targeted and tourists are safe OR that company operations are going on as usual except a 800 or mor Kenyans have been killed by ethnic mobs. These are real people, and the PNU should be held accountable.

David Amakobe:

The PNU hunted have started having names and faces:
The family of Mr. Reuben Sechele Nyangweso would like to ask all people of good will in Kenya and worldwide, to pray for them and particularly Mr. Reuben Nyangweso who is currently as of 2pm US Eastern Standard Time being hunted like an animal by PNU operatives lead by Mr. Libondo and others from Lurambi constituency. Reuben was a contestant in the ODM nomination for Lurambi. He was not nominated but then was appointed as Mr. Raila’s Election coordinator. There lies his mistake, whereas the original riots were spontaneous anger driven – Now the PNU operatives with help from the security officers in Western are singling out ODM members cutting them with machetes so that the world may not know that it was the government. Mr. Libondo is the contestant who lost to Mr. Raila Oginga in Kibera, he comes from Western Province
We the family of Mr. Nyangweso in Kenya, Delaware USA, Kansas USA and Ottawa Canada would like to let the world know that we hold the PNU operatives in Kakamega, in Nairobi and the Kibaki government responsible for the safety and good health of Mr. Reuben Nyangweso and all other ODM members.
Mr. Nyangweso should be guaranteed safe passage without let or hindrance. When we last talked to him we could hear stones pounding his car as he courageous drove through road blocks set up around his home by the PNU Lurambi operatives. We have to desist from talking to him on his cell phone, because someone was using it to track his movement. Only the Police have access to cell phone tracking technology in Kenya. The PNU, the Police, Safaricom and the Kibaki government therefore stands responsible for the safety of the person or Mr. Reuben Nyangweso and all those ODM members in the Western province countryside.
We do not understand how it can be that the PNU, would want to hunt, mime and Kill Kenyan who hold a different view just to stay in power. We would like to pray that this situation be resolved without setting the stage for long term challenges for the country and the generations to come. We would like to ask all investors in the country to take a long term view of their investments in Kenya. It is very discouraging when press releases from tour operators and governments state that only Kenyans are being targeted and tourists are safe OR that company operations are going on as usual except a 800 or mor Kenyans have been killed by ethnic mobs. These are real people, and the PNU should be held accountable.

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