more on politics in kenya

Relative calm has returned to Kenya, the Rift Valley saw nearly 1000 people killed and 170,000 flee to their ancestral homes. Business are reopened, roadblocks removed, and armed police patrol the streets. Those who have fled may not face the violence any longer, but life in the camps is made no less difficult by the recent rains. The taxi service has resume, but access to food and medications is a rising issue. The armed patrols that used to be known for ruthless brutality are now seen as protectors. Kisumu, which saw widespread rioting, is back to calm. Maseno University is still not open because it cannot ensure security to its students. The Nairobi slums have remained mostly calm as the negotiations with Kofi Annan are taking place, however the slums saw the worst of the post-election violence. There are some reports that say the slums are now divided by ethnic lines. Mombasa, contributing 15% of Kenya’s economy through tourism, saw no real trouble except for tourists canceling their vacations. While the calm has returned the hopes of the country seem to teeter on Annan’s ability to forge a coalition government. What cannot be forgotten as these talks begin is the political and colonial history of Kenya (read more here).

Kofi Annan arrived in Kenya to broker a deal to bring together the two opposing sides of most recent election. After selling out to large development interests with the Green Revolution in Africa (Gates, Rockefeller) my trust in Annan to work in the best interest of the Kenyan people is not very high. He is calling for a coalition government where both sides will work towards reform for free and fair elections. However, Annan has angered the Kibaki government side in the negotiations. He has made some statements that are said to have undermined the government’s position in the post-election political conflict. The negotiations are now said to be close to an end deal. Annan has said that the idea for a “broad based” government deal is near final stages. Both sides recognize the need for a political solution. However, I feel the call for a coalition or broad based government is not the answer. Along with others I see this as against new and free elections. What is most troubling is that both Kibaki’s government team and Odinga’s ODM party have tabled proposals for power sharing and Annan speaks as if this is the final deal.

Kibaki ran for President with the promise that the government would pay for tuition fees while parents cover boarding and uniform cost in order to provide free secondary education. With ethnic divides flaring up over recent election scandal, 1000 dead and 600,000 displaced, Kenyans now have access to free secondary education. This program now has minimal impact given the recent violence. The government faces an uphill battle to provide this free education access. Children cannot attend school amid conflict and crisis. In 2002 Kibaki’s government provided universal primary education. The Kenya National Union of Teachers has asked the government to first focus on providing for the safety and security of teachers and students as well as reconstructing schools destroyed by the recent violence.

As the violence has subsided, hundreds of thousands displaced, universal secondary education provided, on top of all of this President Bush has begun a tour of Africa. Bush has stated that he is in support of a power-sharing model. The same power-sharing model rejected by both political parties. Bush is set to highlight success in African countries by speaking on democratic reform, economic and military assistance, and combating HIV/AIDS. All of which are topics that Bush has no real place to talk. The notion of democracy in the US is wrought with hypocrisy, economic and military assistance are centered around gaining power and access to resources in Africa, and the Bush administration’s actions to combat HIV/AIDS have been minimal at best (with an abstinence only policy). Bush is using his tour of Liberia, Ghana, Benin, Rwanda and Tanzania to show a compassionate side of US foreign policy. I would argue that no such side exists in our current political system. Bush is supposedly sending the Secretary of State to Kenya to convey his message in support of power-sharing to solve political crisis. The US seems to not be the only international actor concerned with the situation in Kenya. What may be most important here is not to come to a solution that the international community might like to see, but rather a solution that works for the Kenyan people and creates a long-term solution to the political turmoil rooted in the colonial history of Kenya.

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