Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Save Kenya

There are only three ways of getting our beloved country through the current crisis, that is, put the General Election behind it and return to normalcy.

We propose that President Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga talk to each other; that they agree to take an active part in stopping the violence gripping the country; and that they find a way to share power.

The nation has argued at length since last week about who won and who did not win; who stole and who did not steal the vote and whether or not the presidential poll should be repeated or not. We are nowhere near an answer. What appears certain is death and destruction will continue. That is why we need to move ahead with a solution that brings the chaos to an end. What, then, are the steps towards the realisation of these three tasks envisaged here?

* All of us, as a people and a country, with the leading parties in the lead, must agree that we are faced with a serious challenge arising out of last week’s fiercely contested -- and since then furiously disputed -- presidential poll.

* President Kibaki addresses the nation, making a strong and heartfelt pitch for reconciliation and patriotism. He should point out clearly that the death and destruction and the heightened political dispute need to be stopped.

* Raila and ODM should follow the President’s gesture by dropping conditions that they want met before such talks can take place, chief among them being that the President resigns and declares that he did not win the presidential poll.

* Employ a reputable international arbiter, NOT to determine who won the presidential poll, but to work out a road-map that will bring Kenya back from the brink and a mutually acceptable proposition of sharing power.

* Convene Parliament urgently, swear-in members and create joint committees created to work on possible mechanisms or legal instruments - constitutional or otherwise - of sharing power.

* These instruments must define additional power-sharing arrangements, including Cabinet posts, to be reserved for the protagonists and set a time limit within which this should be achieved.

Why are we making these proposals? Because we are convinced the situation prevailing in the country makes it impossible for any of the protagonists to govern alone in a winner-take-all format. Here are the facts:

* Notwithstanding the inflation of figures in a number of areas, both ODM and PNU garnered 4 million plus votes in the presidential ballot, meaning the country is split right down the middle.

* The position of President is not vacant. Kibaki was declared President whether or not the presidential ballot was flawed.

* Allegations of irregularities and discrepancies at the vote-tallying stage have been made by both PNU and ODM.

* Supporters of PNU believe their man won the presidential poll fair and square while supporters of ODM believe their man legitimately won the poll and had it stolen from him.

* Tension and political temperatures have been at boiling point and violence has claimed more than 200 lives.

* Most of the people who have lost their lives, especially the aged, sick and children, had absolutely no idea why they were being hunted down and killed.

* Unwarranted and wanton destruction of property continues.

* Thousands have been displaced and thousands face starvation.

* There is no guarantee that the education of Kenya’s children will continue and,

* Kenya remains polarised and is increasingly coming to a standstill.

Seen against this background, it is crystal clear to us that none of our political leaders should make political capital out of this.

If any of them tried, it would only make a bad situation worse and alienate him from the very people he seeks to lead.

This is why we are calling upon the President and Raila to demonstrate humility, care for the citizenry, selflessness and an ability and judgment to place the interest of the country above that of respective ambitions or actualisation.

Therefore, in order to ensure this demonstrated leadership, the two must show courage to free themselves from any vested interests and handlers acting as political advisers or strategists and appeal to their inner conscience to save this country from plunging further into anarchy.

It is absolutely essential that both ODM and PNU know and demonstrate that this is not the time for a show of might or power but for an absolute search for peace, perseverance and non-violence.

We believe leaders must cease making remarks or statements that would inflame passions on both sides of the divide, harden positions and cause protagonists to dig in for more verbal ammunition that only fuels more deaths and destruction.

We ask that every political leader in the land and every political party actively campaign against formation of private militias and other armed bands or gangs. As already demonstrated, once these become entrenched and begin to claim rents, it is increasingly difficult to get rid of them.

Lastly, which could well be first, we are convinced that President Kibaki does not want to go down in history as the leader on whose watch Kenya went the way of Somalia, Chad or other African countries.

Similarly, we do not think Raila wants to be known as the man who, because he believed he was cheated out of a poll victory, helped plunge his motherland into chaos and anarchy.

But over and above all this, we believe the President and Raila must act first and fast to save this our beloved country.


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