Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Great Rift Valley

You may or may not have noted the elections in Kenya over the weekend. The election run up was about as nasty as the Iowa caucus previews, perhaps even more so. The aftermath has been nothing but horrid.

The incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki, won a vote that's been hotly contested by his rival, Raila Odinga, who accused Kibaki of vote fraud and vote suppression:
NAIROBI (Reuters) - President Mwai Kibaki's government accused rival Raila Odinga's party of unleashing "genocide" in Kenya on Wednesday as the death toll from tribal violence over a disputed election passed 300.

"It is becoming clear that these well-organized acts of genocide and ethnic-cleansing were well-planned, financed and rehearsed by Orange Democratic Movement leaders prior to the general elections," the statement read by Lands Minister Kivutha Kibwana on behalf of his colleagues said.

ODM had no immediate reaction to the accusation. Odinga's supporters, drawn mainly from his Luo tribe, have blamed the violence on Kibaki for "stealing" the December 27 presidential vote. Many clashes have pitted the Luo against Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe.
First irony: The US initially supported Kibaki's re-election.

The second irony:
"There are independent reports of serious irregularities in the counting process," said British Foreign Minister David Miliband and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a joint statement. They called for an end to violence and "an intensive political and legal process" to end the crisis.
(emphasis added)


This election has implications that go far beyond the borders of Kenya, a country right smack in the middle of some of the most contentious real estate in the world, bordered by Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Kenya has been a stable democratic regime since 1963 (when it declared independence from England), and until global warming hit the country with a severe drought in 2000, was a beacon economic engine in Africa, despite severe governmental corruption.

Now, however, the only real growth industries are as transit points for sex slaves and heroin.

Moreover, there are other democratic elections coming up in the next 18 months is less stable places like Angola, Ghana and Malawi, places that aren't as sophisticated as Kenya, and more prone to turmoil and trouble.

Kenya seems to be at an impasse: Kibaki has offered to negotiate a settlement with Odinga, but Odinga insists that Kibaki give up his Presidency before any talks can commence.

Meanwhile, the blood spills.