Kenya in Crisis By Iquo B. Essien, The AFRican Blogger
Published on Sat, Jan 05 2008 by Iquo Essien
(Photo credit: Christophe Calais for NYT)
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki was re-elected to a second term last Sunday despite public outcry over disputed election results against his challenger, opposition leader Raila Odinga. The election has plunged the country into massive rioting and looting, displacing more than 70,000 Kenyans, with the opposition calling for a recount as the death toll rises.
One of my close Kenyan friends from undergrad just went to Nairobi to work in Google's new office there. As far as I can tell, though I haven't heard back from him, he's ok, though everyone has evacuated the capital. Even worse, there has been a ban on live broadcasts, which means the rest of us are having difficulty figuring out what's really going on. In spite of the media gag, this lone journalist (I did not even catch his name) reports on looting in Kisumu, Odinga's turf in Western Kenya, for NTV. Though it's a blessing, I am surprised to see them still reporting -- I would be very scared.
What worries me, is that this is quickly devolving into an ethnic war. But what Kenyans want -- what we all want -- is peace. Some say hundreds of thousands showed up for a rally in Uhuru Park that had previously been banned by the government, which would like to see the opposition and all democracy-loving Kenyans slink silently away as if no injustice has been done. The rally was ultimately cut short by police who fired heavy rounds into the air to intimidate the crowd. This NTV reporter says the cops mistook the rally for a riot, but I'm not buying it. It's documented that police were even using tear gas to prevent Odinga supporters from reaching Uhuru Park.
There needs to be a spotlight on this issue, and multinational support for democracy. Archbishop Desmond Tutu flew to Kenya to meet with Odinga and discuss nonviolent means of resisting the electoral injustice. Since the 72-hour deadline for vote recount has passed, the only solution is a political one, and I do not want to see another war. Check out some blogs that have become virtually the only eye into the storm.