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Ali Mazrui speaks on Kenya …

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Following article is from

The above photo shows Sitakishari Road in Dar es Salaam. We may ask ourselves about the terrible and disturbing crisis currently in Kenya: What is the way forward? To peace? To a total catastrophe? and Don’t we have a role to play to stop whatever is going on there?



Ali Mazrui and David Ohito


In a question and answer letter, Ali Mazrui and David Ohito grapple with the question of whether Kenya is heading toward a civil war.


Dear Prof Mazrui,


The latest wave of violence is threatening the country. In Nakuru the  problem of ethic violence has emerged. Kikuyus are being attacked  over land issues as historical injustices become the new phase of  protest.


Kibaki insists he was duly elected and sworn in and any election dispute should go to court as spelled out in the Constitution.


Raila Odinga insists he is not going to a court full of Kibaki’s appointees. The formula to a peaceful resolution remains elusive.  What is your take on this?


I agree with your predictions that many African Heads of States may have saved their countries from civil war.


In Your opinion how far do you think will the International community wait before serious intervention other than mere statements? Is it good to impose sanctions economic, travel bans to Kenya?


Are there any options the West, US, EU, UK, and even Asia can take to help save Kenya from being a failed state?


Kofi Annan watched and acted too little too late as Rwanda degenerated into genocide. There was little international intervention. He himself later said he acted too slow too late while he was UN Secretary General. Is history repeating itself here? Can Kofi Annan recommend faster options to salvage Kenya?


Would you consider giving your proposals to Kofi Annan for a way forward and what would those options for a solution be?


Give any remarks that would help hold Kenya together without degenerating into genocide or civil strife.


Thank you.


David Ohito


Dear Ndugu Ohito:


In answer to your questions, I have lived long enough to know how civil wars begin in developing countries. I never expected there would be a civil war in Northern Uganda which would last twenty years, and unleash untold suffering and brutality. It has still not

fully ended.


When the Sudanese civil war was ending in the South, who would have predicted another civil war in Darfur? Ethiopia has had a variety of  civil conflicts, the latest involving ethnic Somalis in the Ogaden. The brutalities of the Sierra Leonean civil war took everybody by surprise.


Can such a bloody breakdown happen in Kenya? I am beginning to be truly fearful. What was once unthinkable is no longer inconceivable. While north of the Sahara the triggers of conflict are often  religious, south of the Sahara they tend to combine ethnicity, power 

rivalry and economic deprivation.


As soon as casualties of a conflict reach a thousand dead, several thousand injured and at least a hundred thousand displaced, speedy action is needed to contain the explosion. A mini-civil war could be in the making. Kenyans and the international community cannot afford to be complacent.


Representatives of the African Union, the European Union, the United States, religious bodies, former African Heads of State, and Kofi Annan have approached the two sides of the Kenya conflict in terms of persuasion and the quest for a compromise. We now need more pressure and threats from the international community.


Initially the threats should be targeted at the elite, rather than the general population. Withholding economic aid would hurt the wider population, but suspending Kenya’s membership of the African Union and the Commonwealth would deprive us of credentials to sit at the summit meetings, or meetings of foreign ministers, of such international organizations. Specific members of both the government and the opposition could be deprived of Visas to the western world if they are identified as extremists against the search for solutions.


Many members of the Kenyan elite also have Bank accounts abroad. The international community could threaten to freeze such bank accounts if there is no effort to solve the Kenya crisis.


Normally, the international community does not try to intervene in Africa until the problem is truly catastrophic. That has been the situation in Congo-Kinshasa, in Rwanda, Darfur and in Somalia. Kenya is a situation of trying to prevent a crisis from becoming a catastrophe. There is still time – but not a lot of time to avert an explosion.


Kofi Annan is trying his best, but he needs help in the form of massive political pressure on both sides. If mediation is not working, it may be time to threaten specific international sanctions, beginning with elite-focused threats of consequences.


What is at stake is not just the political stability of Kenya. It is also the economic viability of Eastern Africa as a whole. Kenya’s economy has vibrations of region-wide consequences. How can we avert a region-wide catastrophe?


We are still far from a civil war. But our leaders should start discussing how to secure our borders against gun-running and importation of weapons. The border with Somalia especially needs to be secured, but without keeping out Somali refugees. Our leaders may also have to consider whether or not it is time to seek international help for peacekeeping in the Rift Valley. The situation is grave.  Have we declared a state of emergency in the Rift Valley?


Yours sincerely,

Ali A. Mazrui


* Ali Mazrui is Director, Institute of Global Cultural Studies, Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities, Binghamton University, State University of New York at Binghamton, New York, USA and  Chancellor, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology,  Thika and Nairobi Kenya.


* David Ohito

  is a Senior Reporter


Nairobi, Kenya


Written by simbadeo

January 30, 2008 at 11:45 pm

Posted in Siasa na jamii

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