Normal service resumes

But only briefly – holdiay staffing returns tomorrow and there won’t be another early post until Monday. Anyway, what’s around today? Kenya, of course – we’ve had an incredible response to Monday and Tuesday’s programmes, particularly by text message from Africa and Kenya in particular.

Elsewhere a decision is expected in Pakistan on the date for the election that was due on January 8 but will probably be delayed due to the killing of Benazir Bhutto and the violence that followed. And the US primary season gets going in earnest tomorrow as Iowans caucus for their preferred Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.

But let me talk about Kenya a bit first. Hundreds of you have got in touch this week and the vast majority support Raila Odinga over Mwai Kibaki. And on the question of stability vs democracy most Kenyans who go in touch felt that after years of stability with little gain for the common man it was time for democracy whatever the cost. Or words to that effect.

In the rest of Africa (if you’ll allow me to over-generalise) there was a feeling that stability was more important, with people in countries like Sierra Leone especially warning that Kenyans might want to consider the long-term consequences of disorder. In The Independent today Mary Dejevsky suggests Maybe we set too much store by democracy, so that debate rumbles on.

But in trying to draw a theme from the comments you’ve been sending in (apart from huge support for Mr Odinga and calls for Mr Kibaki to step down) a couple of strands emerge: One is a desire for the two men to get together and talk in order to find a way out of the current mess; and the second is a (knee-jerk?) demand for the international community to do something.

On the first, there is some criticism of Mr Odinga, who is refusing to hold talks until his rival “publicly owns up that he was not elected”. One caller I spoke to yesterday said Mr Kibaki should be the “bigger man” and back down first – what do you think? How far should each side move to meet the other? Are Kenyan lives being sacrificed for their leaders’ egos?

On the second, we have had people telling us from the outset that the international community should do something, be it the UN, the AU or the EU. There was much criticism on Monday for America’s decision to welcome Mr Kibaki’s re-election, although Washington has since stepped back from that a bit. And the EU’s election monitors seem to have increased the strength of their comments – which were something that originally disappointed many listeners. But what can the international community do? Abdullahi in Wajir – which has been largely unaffected by the violence – texted to say Kenyans would sort it out themselves in two weeks, although his use of the word “easily” may have been optimistic.

The AU chairman, Ghanaian President John Kufuor, is due in Nairobi today, and reports both from our listeners and news media say Kenyans are taking refuge in Uganda. So it’s already moving beyond being a purely internal matter. So what can the international community do?

Another topic our correspondents are talking about is the lack of local news. Restrictions on domestic media mean that international broadcasters like the BBC, CNN and Al-Jazeera have sometimes been the main source of information. Several callers have spoken of people gathering in small groups in town centres swapping news about what is going on. The blogger Kenyan Pundit is covering the media blackout and reported problems getting on to his own site, which is hosted in the US. At least one person I’ve spoken to wondered why the government had clamped down on the media if the election was fair. So conspiracy theories abound – another caller said Kibaki should open the count up, since if he’s the winner he would be vindicated.

If only it were that simple. Oh, Happy New Year by the way.

8 Responses to “Normal service resumes”

  1. 1 Kebby
    January 2, 2008 at 10:59

    Dear Friends,
    The recent elections in Kenya have shown on how we are deeply divided in Africa.Even in Countries like Zambia and South Africa the voting parttern was more on tribal than having quality leadership to deliver us from the poverty.
    We have to continue encouraging inter marriage amongst our tribes to avoid situations like in Rwanda and Serbia/Bosnia (genocide) Also on the leaders in Africa they should preach and practice democracy not rigging to prolong their stay in power.
    We are disappointed with Mr Odinga for not calming down his supporters to save lives.
    At least in Zambia Mr Sata did something to prevent loss of life.

    Kebby T. Shampongo

  2. 2 M. Itimu
    January 2, 2008 at 11:00

    I feel the World should interven before it becomes a full blown Darfur Crisis Lets not allow Darfur to happen again

    M. Itimu Malawi

  3. 3 Arap Tirop
    January 2, 2008 at 11:01

    If Raila Odinga is announced today as the president all these violence will end.
    Arap Tirop.
    Bomet, Kenya

  4. 4 Anon
    January 2, 2008 at 11:05

    As an American volunteer who has lived in Kenya for the past year, I have been witness to acts of enormous strength, courage, and generosity. It is disheartening now to find the darker side of human nature coming to the surface, and to see ignorance and prejudice directing the behavior of many people. Being a white person in a largely uneducated rural area, I often find myself treated as though I am somehow fundamentally different from those around me; children shout, point, and laugh when I pass, as though I am some kind of strange animal and not a real person. Yet my heart is breaking, not because of what KENYANS are capable of, but because of the evils WE are capable of performing as human beings. The greed and corruption and the inhumanity of the tribalistic violence displayed by all factions in Kenya reflects poorly, not on Kenyans or Africans, but on the human race as a whole.

  5. 5 Peter Okello
    January 2, 2008 at 12:28

    The brutal and trigger happy manner in which the Kenya Police and GSU are killing demostrators shows the primitive ideology that reins in the two forces and their leaderships.

    However, Kibaki and the Police should be very careful in their management of the riots because too much killings by the goverment forces could drive the people to pick up real arms to defend themselves and before we know it Kenya could be on the way of Somalia.

    No goverment force can be stronger than peoples’ power. Those who mismanaged or rigid the elections are soley to blame fot the infermo comsuming Kenya.

    Peter Okello

  6. 6 Ashraf
    January 2, 2008 at 13:28

    I am totally shocked and angered by the cold-booded killing of the American diplomat and his driver in Khartoum, we sudanese used to be very tolerant
    and open-minded(on the popular level of course) because we sudanese are as different to each other as different nations, this terrible incident shows the evil effects
    of our relationships to oil-rich gulf states from which the evil of Islamic terror hit us, I am so afraid that dark clouds in the horiznos will herald a Somalia or Iraq-type of Islamic teror
    Cordial condolences to the families that suffered the loss of their loved ones both here in Sudan and in the US.

  7. 7 steve
    January 2, 2008 at 15:25

    Ashraf, this wasn’t the first time US diplomats have been assasinated in Khartoum. Back in 1973, US Ambassador Cleo Noel was assasinated by Palestinian terrorists (with Arafat’s approval, yet he wins the nobel peace prize).

    Don’t believe me? Check out the state department’s website:


  8. 8 Chernor Jalloh
    January 2, 2008 at 18:47

    Please,please,Mwi Kibaki step down,because the Kenyan population is now fedup with your unfulfilled promises. And,the more you stay as leader,the more you put your people in danger.We africans shouldnot be so power hungry.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: