Why Kenya needs an inclusive government

Foreign minister Moses Wetang’ula and some key voices in the Party of National Unity, including Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua and Finance minister Amos Kimunya, are clearly out of tune with the suffering people of Kenya on the crisis facing this nation.

Instead of giving the country hope by demonstrating leadership and magnanimity, these leaders choose to approach the Kofi Annan-led mediation talks with brinkmanship, spewing strident rhetoric at every turn, and now accusing “foreigners” of interfering in the affairs of a sovereign state.

They are adamant that they will not accept a settlement to the post-election stand-off, which draws the sides led by Mr Mwai Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga into a power-sharing arrangement in breach of the present Constitution.

Their remarks come at time that the country faces the threat of civil war if the question of acceptable national leadership is not resolved.

Kenya is indeed a sovereign country with its own Constitution.

But is this really the time to invoke pride in our sovereignty when we have more than 300,000 citizens of this country living as refugees in their own motherland in squalid conditions, precisely because the state has been unable to guarantee them security and access to their homes and property?

This is a country that has just lost 1,000 innocent lives in ethnic clashes, and which remains vulnerable to another outbreak of mindless violence, especially if the Kofi Anan-led mediation process collapses.

While the viability of power-sharing must be critically examined within our political realities, to insist that any such deal must be in line with the constitution under circumstances where the legitimacy of government itself is in dispute, is patently absurd.

Everyone surely knows that the outcome of the flawed General Election is at the very heart of the internationally-driven negotiations taking place in Nairobi.

Top of the mediation agenda is whether or not the election rivals should come together in a coalition which would oversee Constitutional changes to usher the country into a new poll, which, hopefully, would deliver national stability and a widely accepted government. On this issue hang elements of our fate as a nation – ethnic reintegration, resettlement of internal refugees, economic revival, electoral, Constitutional and land reforms and resolution of historical injustices.

These are weighty matters which, by common consent, lie at the heart of our tragic experience. We failed to resolve them when we had the time and space and now we are paying the price. The extremists on the PNU side — who have lately taken to speaking out of turn — must appreciate that the international community did not come to Kenya merely to meddle in the country’s affairs.

Principally, the world has turned its attention to us to reduce the chances of the post-election violence slipping into a Rwanda-type disaster, and to manage the crisis before it gives rise to an expensive relief operation.

It does this from a sense of responsibility and out of foresight. With the resources of international humanitarian organisations taxed heavily by other global commitments in places like Burundi and Darfur, handling wide scale violence of the magnitude witnessed recently in Kenya would be unbearable, especially on the governments which mostly fund relief operations.

Furthermore, the crisis in Kenya has major implications for regional security. Because of Kenya’s potential to either set the pace of development in the region or drag the process, helping the country stabilise is a inescapable task for the international community.

And, finally, there is the welfare of the Kenyan people themselves. This is a crisis whose consequences go way beyond this country’s borders.

Admittedly, some remarks made by foreigners - especially by some locally based diplomats - were of the type to offend nationalistic sensibilities. But this is not an excuse for politicians to whip up xenophobia and mobilise their supporters to hold demonstrations against foreign countries.

To argue that international players have neither a right nor a stake in a crisis with such clear regional and international dimensions, is to be politically dishonest.

Today, Kenya is more ripe for fundamental change than any time in its history. This country needs an exceptional leadership arrangement to hold it together and replenish its self-confidence.


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