Monday, January 14, 2008

Prof. Wangari Maathai breaks her silence...

Political impasse will continue in the absence of dialogue
By Wangari Maathai

It is almost three weeks since the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) announced the results of the disputed Presidential Elections and declared President Kibaki the winner. Almost immediately, the country was thrown into the current crisis that refuses to go away.

The ECK may have an argument as to why it got rid of both the local and international press before making the announcement exclusively before the State-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC). THERE MAY ALSO BE REASONS WHY the swearing in ceremony was so hurriedly conducted at State House shortly after the announcement.

However, many people wonder whether ECK had something to hide. The fact that ECK has already admitted to being under tremendous pressure to announce results, even as some commissioners were admitting that there were irregularities, only puts doubt in the credibility of the results. To those who are conversant with political games of intrigue and trickery, this was just another situation in the games politicians in this region play. The only “misfortune” is that someone got caught.

Under “normal circumstances”, leaders in Africa do not lose elections they organise! Such “fixed election games” would go undetected and elections would be declared largely “free and fair”. Political champions will advice that if you are not willing to play such games, you have no business being in politics for you are bound to lose. It is at the altar of our politics that values like transparency, honesty and accountability are often conveniently sacrificed. It is also here that bribery of voters, election officials, government officers as well as theft and manipulation of votes are given the label of “political wisdom”. If you are not caught, you get away with it and may even be called a ‘professor of politics’. Indeed, I am advised that politics is the art of the possible and values count for nothing. This is most unfortunate because it is this kind of politics that is responsible for the inability of this region, and our country for that matter, to move forward.

Many ordinary people, who supported President Kibaki, believe that “God” was on their side and performed a miracle, helping them outmaneouvre ODM. They are largely unaware of the long term implications of being perceived as a community that stole votes and assumed power against the wishes the majority. To these masses, the killing and the displacement of their own from certain regions is the “work of the devil and God will intervene”. The masses are not aware of how their elites use them in their struggle for power.

On the other hand, President Kibaki’s elite colleagues may not believe in divine intervention. But if nothing happens to stop them, they will nevertheless smile all the way to the Cabinet and enjoy the spoils. With all the instruments of power at their disposal, President Kibaki and his advisors can afford to continue engaging others in futile discussions for the longest time, irrespective of the damage the impasse is causing the country because they believe they have nothing to lose. This may be because, many of those who supported President Kibaki are looking for a solution but not one that contemplates President Kibaki losing some of the powers that “God” has now given him. They are praying that Raila will “see the light” and leave the President alone to do the work that “God” has assigned to him. So they too, are not eager for dialogue and concessions.

Unfortunately for the government and the suffering masses, ODM may not relent. The ODM finds it incomprehensible that they are not the ones “wearing the crown”. They want to do everything to have the crown given back to them. THE ODM WILL CONTINUE TO PUT pressure in the hope that the Government will take reconciliatory steps, more so for the sake of the suffering masses.

The unfortunate messy performance by the ECK only serves to give ODM public sympathy and energise their supporters. To date, hundreds of people have been killed, thousands displaced and properties destroyed, especially through burning and looting. Leaders have appealed to those causing mayhem to stop the violence, but few seem to heed that call. The tragedy is that, despite all the suffering, the move towards dialogue is extremely slow. Perhaps more public and international pressure is needed for the leaders to seek a lasting solution.

I appeal to the international community to continue putting pressure on President Kibaki, Raila Odinga and their teams to put the welfare of Kenyans before their own personal ambitions, and dialogue for a political and legal settlement sooner than later.

Prof Maathai is former MP for Tetu and Nobel Peace Laureate for 2004

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