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Monday, January 7, 2008

Kikuyu press Kibaki for talks

Mwai Kibaki is facing growing dissent from within his own Kikuyu community over the way Kenya's election was conducted and his refusal to accept talks with the opposition under international mediation.

Wealthy Kikuyu businesspeople, who control much of the economy, have seen their companies' value nosedive over the past week and are trying to persuade Kibaki to soften his stance. Many Kikuyu businesspeople, including Jimnah Mbaru, chairman of Nairobi Stock Exchange, openly campaigned for Kibaki and funded his campaign. Gitau Githongo, a Kikuyu managemant consultant, said the Kikuyu elite are pressing Kibaki to "rethink his position." Younger Kikuyu professionals, however, are accusing Kibaki and his advisors of turning the rest of the country against their ethnic group. "Kikuyus are a mercantilist group and this is the last thing they wanted," said Robert Shaw, and economic analyst in Nairobi. "We are seeing massive intransigence and arrogance by the government, but it's false bravado. The pressures on Kibaki from his constituency are immense."

Mutahi Ngunyi, a political scientist and Kibaki advisor, said there was a generational split among the Kikuyu, because they voted for Kibaki as a block, but there is increasing dissatisfaction with him. "Much of the pressure on Kibaki is coming from younger professionals," Ngunyi said. "Their argument is that Kibaki and his advisors have driven Kenya into an ethnic war. Privately, they are trying to distance themselves from the government, saying that, if the election was rigged, it was done by a group of incompetent old men."

Meanwhile, government spokesman Alfred Nganga Mutua has said Kibaki would accept a re-run of the ill-fated elections if the court ordered it. Is the ECK capable of organising a new poll, after its chairman said he did not know if Kibaki won fairly? The burning question, of course, is the credibility of another poll, given the laughing stock the ECK has become. It is a divided, compromised and discordant house, propped up by a mix of ethnic and old ties.

"The most logical thing for the government to do after the ECK chairman and some of his commissioners admitted that the process was flawed is to resign," said Muga K'Olale, chairman of the Universities Academic Staff Union.

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