Friday, February 08, 2008

Kenya News Bulletin: Ray of Hope in Mediation Efforts; Land Question At Root; Democracy in Africa; Ramaphosa Blunder

Ray of hope as mediation team clears major hurdles

Kenya Daily Nation
Publication Date: 2/9/2008

The team negotiating Kenya’s political crisis Friday cleared major hurdles, paving the way for a possible power sharing formula between the government and opposition.

As part of the deal, the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) will no longer insist on President Kibaki’s resignation and an immediate election re-run, sources familiar with the talks said.

Instead, ODM will agree on a power-sharing deal incorporating the government Party of National Unity (PNU) together with its affiliate parties including Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka’s ODM Kenya.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who is leading the talks, emerged from a meeting with President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga, and announced:

“We have reached far on the political issues but wait for the details early next week.”

As part of the signs that the talks were making progress, Mr Annan announced that a Speaker’s Kamukunji, an informal gathering of MPs, will be convened early next week for the team to brief lawmakers of the progress.

There was indication that the teams were making progress when Mr Odinga emerged from the meeting with President Kibaki and Mr Annan at the Office of the President.

It was a moment of relief as dignitaries, mediators and the media watched Mr Odinga move to the PNU side and shake hands warmly with people perceived to be his adversaries. He exchanged pleasantries and a hearty laugh with Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua and Mbooni MP Mutula Kilonzo, both members of President Kibaki’s team to the negotiations.

The mood, captured live on national televisions, was a manifestation of what the country was waiting to see to restore hope.

Pentagon House

Moments later, Mr Annan and his team moved to the Serena Hotel, where he addressed a news conference as President Kibaki and his team remained at Harambee House while Mr Odinga moved to the Pentagon House with his side.

Mr Annan said details of a political settlement would be arrived at early next week and urged patience.

He said a political settlement his team envisaged was one that would establish institutions that would ensure there was no recurrence of the sort of incidents witnessed in the country recently.

“We have agreed that a political settlement is necessary and we are discussing the details which will be made public early next week. We are making progress and we are asking for a little patience,” he said at the media briefing.

He said the mood among the negotiators were “swinging” all the time and urged Kenyans to treat with caution any rumours about the talks.

Expressing optimism

Mrs Graca Machel and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa addressed the media, expressing optimism in the negotiation process.

Mr Annan said he had recommended to President Kibaki and Mr Odinga in an earlier meeting the need to have an informal session for parliamentarians to be briefed on the mediation process.

“Kenyan leaders owe it to the people of this nation because they were never elected to live in the current situation where farmers cannot sell their produce while employees are losing their jobs,” Mr Annan said.

The lead-up to the announcement was preceded by two days of anxiety as PNU and ODM leaders refused to cede ground on the important issue of resolving the Presidential election dispute which is at the heart of the crisis. At least 1,000 people have died in the violence which erupted after President Kibaki was declared winner and ODM disputed the results saying there had been rigging.

It is expected that the two teams will use the weekend to thrash out the finer details of the agreement to be announced next week. Yesterday’s events were preceded by heavy international pressure on PNU and ODM leaders to reach a negotiated settlement.

The European Union, US, Canada and the UN, exerted pressure pointing out that any party that will undermine the Annan effort would pay for it.

The UN Security Council had asked President Kibaki and Mr Odinga to reach a compromise.

The US and Canada warned that they were watching the situation and any individuals who sabotaged the talks would be targeted for visa restrictions. The restrictions would also apply to members of their families, according to letters sent out to 10 people by the US embassy in Nairobi.

There have also been threats of an aid freeze to the country and diplomatic isolation.

The National Dialogue and Reconciliation Committee which Mr Annan chairs agreed that the Presidential votes would neither be re-tallied nor recounted while the floated proposal of holding fresh elections in a period of six months was also edged out.

Political settlement

Sources at the meeting said the mediation team will from next week focus on the nature of a political settlement that would bring together the Government and ODM sides in a regime whose task would be to enact far-reaching constitutional, legal and institutional reforms in a period of three years.

The reforms would be preceded by the establishment of a truth, justice and reconciliation commission that would be used to heal the wounds inflicted by the violence, unite Kenyans and give the way forward.

The resolutions of the dialogue committee which is made up of four representatives from the two sides came a day after the international community, through the UN and EU, which have been closely monitoring events in the country since the elections results were announced on December 30 last year, vowed that Kenya would not be allowed to go the Somalia and Rwanda way.

And the first signs of international pressure were seen through the announcement by the United States embassy in Nairobi it had written letters to 10 people—MPs and businessmen—indicating that they could be denied US visas. Canada and the United Kingdom indicated that they would follow suit.

The latest development comes a day after members of the two sides engaged each other in a heated exchange over the demands that had been placed on the table by ODM and the Government for debate. Those close to the meeting on Thursday, as they were dealing with third item on the agenda, said that it was stormy with some of the members swearing at each other. The issue in question was how to overcome the disputed Presidential elections.

Solution to crisis

However, the Government team of Cabinet ministers Martha Karua, Moses Wetang’ula, Sam Ongeri and Mbooni MP Mutula Kilonzo expressed optimism that a solution to the crisis would be reached.

Said Mr Wetang’ula as he left the Serena Hotel at 1 pm: “We are here to seek a solution and that is why we come here daily. There would be no reason for us to come here if we were not making progress.”

Mr Kilonzo is the one who came close to stating what they had struck. “We have narrowed the options to one after eliminating others. The true picture will come through a press briefing by the chairman of the Panel of Eminent Persons—Kofi Annan later in the day,” he said.

They spoke as they left to brief President Kibaki of the developments in the meeting while their ODM counterparts, MPs Musalia Mudavadi, William Ruto, Sally Kosgei and James Orengo updated their leader, Mr Odinga by the Serena Hotel’s pool side.

Additional reporting by Jeff Otieno and Julius Bosire

How State land policy shaped conflict

Kenya Daily Nation
Publication Date: 2/9/2008

Relentless violence in the Rift Valley seems to have been sparked by more than last year’s disputed presidential election, according to interviews by a cross section of local people.

Judging by the form the violence has assumed in recent days, it appears evident that the poll outcome explosion was just but a cover for animosity by communities in the region against one another.

Interviews by the Saturday Nation revealed that the increased population in the region had put pressure on available land, forcing some of the indigenous people to seek ways of recovering land that was “irregularly” allocated to non-indigenous communities.

“Yes, we were unhappy about the election outcome,” says Mr Paul Yego, a resident of Uasin Gishu. “But more importantly, the presidential election result presented us with a good chance to ‘right’ some of the historical wrongs committed against us as a community.”

Topping the list of these “injustices” is the emotive issue of land ownership in the cosmopolitan Uasin Gishu District.

Ten years ago, the Justice Akilano Akiwumi-led Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Tribal Clashes during the 1992 and 1997 general elections said that land disputes fuelled the violence in Rift Valley.

And like this year, Uasin Gishu District was hit hard during those clashes. Other areas included Molo and Nakuru’s sorrounding areas.

In Uasin Gishu, the area that experienced the worst violence in the latest ethnic attacks, the land issue spans the two major phases of Kenya’s history: the colonial and the post-colonial eras of Presidents Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi.

Upon arriving in the country, the British sent Africans into reserves to find huge tracts of land, which they transformed into estates and plantations for cash crops like tea and coffee as well as food crops such as maize and wheat.

Due to their suitability, Central province and parts of Rift Valley province such as Uasin Gishu, Nakuru, Trans Mara, Trans Nzoia, Kericho and Nandi were greatly affected by this uprooting.

Consequently, what used to be the open grazing and farming lands of the Kalenjin and Kikuyu were transformed into coffee, tea, wheat and maize plantations.

“Instead of restoring our lands that we lost to the white settlers, a few individuals benefited, relegating the majority of us to squatters even with the attainment of independence,” says Peter Kaburu, a settler in Uasin Gishu.

To deal with the new problem, the government resettled the new squatters in trust lands in far off places such as Rift Valley and the Coast province.

“We were unhappy when the government plucked us from our ancestral homes,” says Mzee Simon Kamenya, whose family settled in Uasin Gishu in 1967. “But who were we to challenge Kenyatta’s government? And since we had no lands of our own, we had little choice but to do as the government said,” he adds.

A number of people from Central province were given the opportunity to buy land in the Rift Valley through land-buying companies.

Because of this, the Kikuyu in particular, found themselves owning land in the heart of Kalenjinland which they renamed after the villages and towns they had come from. That is how villages such as Rironi, Kiambaa, Munyaka, ya Mumbi, Kimumu, Gatonye and many others came to be in Uasin Gishu.

This did not go down well with some of the indigenous people as they perceived this as an act of dispossession.

“Independence did not do justice to us,” says Alfred Kiptum. “Instead of giving us back our lands, the government went ahead and handed them over to foreigners,” he says.

When Moi became president in 1978, the community had hoped that he would reverse what they perceived to be an injustice perpetrated against them by the Kenyatta regime.

“Disappointingly, President Moi did nothing. Instead he went ahead to carry on from where his predecessor left,” says Mr Kiptum.

On taking office, President Moi had made it clear that he was going to follow in the footsteps of the Founding Father. “With this edict, President Moi not only protected the migrant community, he went ahead to dish out the lands for which our fathers had fought and died to his friends in government,” says Mr Jonah Kimaiyo.

The community alleges that Mr Moi sidelined the villagers to whom the land originally belonged.

The community often cites the disposal of the East Africa Tanning and Extract Company (Eatec) land in 2001 as an example of the injustices that continue to be perpetrated against them. “The rich people of this country benefited from the Eatec land. We got nothing,” says Mr Kimaiyo.

The community says that the 80,000-hectare Eatec land should have been given back to them since it was their ancestral land. “And if it were to be sold, this should have been at reduced prices and we should have been given priority,” said Thomas Koross, a resident of Turbo.

However, the company and the government rejected both proposals. They stipulated that the land would be sold to any willing buyer and the price of an acre was set at Sh50,000.

The local community saw this as a calculated move to sideline them since most of them could not afford the price.

“Where were we going to get that kind of money considering that period was a difficult one for the community economically?” asks Mr Koross.

Mere spectators

“We became mere spectators as our land was partitioned to people from other areas,” says Mr Koross.

During the collapse of major industries in the area, including the once vibrant Kenya Cooperative Creameries, the economic fortunes of the local people went down drastically.

Price of maize and wheat slumped in the wake of an influx of cheap imports.

Thus the majority resorted to selling parcels of their land from time to time to meet the cost of basic needs. And since most people in the community were impoverished and could not afford to buy this land, it was simply sold to anyone who could buy irrespective of their origins. It was also in this way that other communities including those from Central and Kisii came to own parcels of land in Uasin Gishu.

Whereas it can rightly be argued that these deals were legal since they were done on a willing-buyer willing-seller basis, a majority of the indigenous people argue that they were forced by external forces to do so.

“We sold our lands to educate our children in the hope that they would get good jobs and buy back these lands. But look at them; most of them are vagabonds, living far worse than we did. There is little to show for the lands we sold,” says Mzee Richard arap Mosbey.


Nothing wrong with Ramaphosa, only somebody made a blunder

Story by PETER MWAURA | Fair Play
Publication Date: 2/9/2008

South Africa’s legendary negotiator and mediator Cyril Ramaphosa was made a sacrificial lamb, killed to disarm or appease President Kibaki’s PNU and keep the mediation process going smoothly.

Mr Ramaphosa was the best and most experienced chief mediator Kenya was probably ever going to get.

Within 48 hours of his arrival in Nairobi, PNU had him ejected from its mediation talks with opposition leader Raila Odinga’s ODM on the disputed presidential election results.

PNU claimed he was biased, arguing that he had business links with Mr Odinga and funded his presidential campaign, claims which both Mr Odinga and Mr Ramaphosa denied.

PNU did not provide any evidence for the claims, but it may know something that we don’t. But ejecting Mr Ramaphosa from the talks so unceremoniously was a blunder.

Team leader and former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan also goofed by bringing in Mr Ramaphosa as chief mediator without preparing the ground for his acceptance by all the parties.

After all, the talks are about mediation, not arbitration, and mediators must be acceptable to all the parties.

MR ANNAN SHOULD ALSO HAVE Remembered that while ODM’s strategy is to escalate the political crisis by internationalising it, that of PNU is to keep it domestic even as it loses out on that front.

Yet the failed introduction of Mr Ramaphosa must be seen in the context of the nature of mediation as a form of dispute resolution.

Mediation is assisted negotiation. A third party is brought in to help the parties develop a solution to which they both can agree. While the third party should be neutral, impartial, objective and trustworthy, he is not the decision-maker.

It is up to the parties to agree on a solution that meets their needs. The mediator is only there to guide the process and to keep the parties talking, not fighting.

The responsibility and authority for coming to an agreement remains with the parties. In practical terms, PNU gained nothing substantive by dismissing Mr Ramaphosa out of hand.

In fact, what the party thought it had gained, the Government lost on the diplomatic front. South Africa has now become the first government in Africa to say publicly that it does not recognise President Kibaki.

Kenya needed Mr Ramaphosa more than he needed Kenya. Actually, Mr Ramaphosa did not need Kenya at all. At 55 years, he is a self-actualised, extremely wealthy politician- turned-businessman and a potential president. He is one of the most influential South Africans.

As chairman of the Shanduka Group, whose shares are valued at $66.87 million (about Sh45 billion), he has everything.

He controls access to the banks and insurance companies and his political friends and media links are legion. He has interests in three of South Africa’s most influential newspapers — the Sunday Times, Business Day and The Sowetan.

Apart from trying to help Kenya out of its political crisis he spends his spare time with his doctor wife Tshepo in the fight against HIV and Aids. I believe he was genuine, and I find it difficult to believe that he would compromise his reputation for the sake of an individual politician in Kenya. A former trade union leader and apartheid-era politician-cum-negotiator, Mr Ramaphosa had something to offer Kenya.

He is a specialist mediator in the field of political disputes and an expert dispute resolver. He is not new to gamesmanship and high-risk politics.

Mr Ramaphosa practised, and understands, the politics of brinkmanship, which seems to characterise the Kenyan crisis.

He has a reputation for pushing to achieve the most advantageous outcome and bringing a sense of appreciation of the big picture, which is probably what Kenya needs right now.

BY SAYING NO TO HIM, THE Government looked mean-minded. It even provoked bad blood with South Africa. Shortly after he returned home, Mr Ramaphosa’s government unleashed a scalding attack on Kenya.

Deputy Foreign minister Aziz Pahad said his government
“rejected with the contempt it deserves” the claims by PNU that Ramaphosa could not be an honest broker.

These sentiments were shared elsewhere. As US ambassador Michael Ranneberger said, it is unfortunate that Mr Ramaphosa was ejected from the talks, as “he is a good and effective negotiator”. However, the envoy observed correctly that “it is important that any mediator is acceptable to both parties for talks to succeed”.

Even as many people regret Mr Ramaphosa’s rejection, we should ask another question: Who is paying for the mediation costs — the Americans or the British?

Or is it the European Union, the United Nations or the African Union?

It would be a smart idea if ODM and PNU paid for the costs shared equally between them and charged by the hour. The longer it takes to reach a settlement the more they would pay.

Kenya's crisis and challenges of democracy in Africa

Publication Date: 2/9/2008

Africa’s democratic honeymoon is fast coming to an end, and Kenya’s sudden drift into chaos is a wake-up call across the continent for a more concerted investment in governance programmes. After a decade of democratic gains, Africa now finds itself in a marshland, and Nigeria, Kenya and even South Africa are in a defining moment. The next five years will mark a watershed in the continent’s democratic consolidation.

The violence in Kenya due to political discontent brings into sharp focus the challenges of democracy in Africa and the need for heterodoxity in political governance among African governments and institutions working “to promote democracy” in Africa.

The situation in Kenya exposes the fragile nature of the country’s democracy and points to the role the international community should play in developing African politics which, like its music, moves in sweeping waves.

The 1960s brought independence, and the ‘90s democratic transition and the vanquishing of strongmen. In the 2000s, Africa is going through another defining period – a moment of democratic disillusionment. Between 2004 and 2009 many African states should be commemorating a period of democratisation. Following the defeat, death or overthrow of many “strongmen” in the 1990s, African countries have had a decade of fairly good participatory democracies — South Africa since 1994, Kenya since 1992, Cote d’Ivoire (1993), Zambia (1991), Malawi (1994) and Nigeria (1999).

In the 2000s, however, Africans are questioning the functional utility of democracy beyond participation. There is simmering frustration over the value of democracy, particularly in spurring economic growth and mending the continent’s ethnic rifts.

Several issues plague democracy in Africa. For instance, African political parties lack a distinct policy orientation. In the 1990s a lot of development cooperation funds from international organisations, foundations and development agencies went into funding opposition parties with the myopic intention of deposing African dictators.

The emerging leaders were intoxicated by the virtues of multiparty democracy. Yet upon the exit of the “strongmen” the parties have not evolved mature, clear and distinct cleavages in matters of policy and ideology. As a result ethnocentricism has become the clearest cleavage. Beyond the acquisition of government the parties lack any binding and unifying vision.

African leaders have been slow in recognising the changing relationship between democratic expansion and economic growth. In the 1990s liberal democracy and neoclassical economics were cited as the ultimate and inseparable solution to socio-economic development.

While African economies are growing, largely propelled by rising commodity prices, its politics is shaky, stymied by low socio-economic development and rampant unemployment. It is worth noting that three of Africa’s small and economically progressive countries — Uganda, Gabon and Rwanda — are ruled by soft authoritarian regimes.

Africa’s democratic march has been unresponsive to the exigencies of economic growth and those countries whose leaders have appreciated the trade-offs between economic growth and democratic consolidation are doing better.

Africa faces a huge challenge in the reconciliation of national identities and ethnic identities; national interests and ethnic interests. Unlike such homogenous countries as South Korea or Japan, African states are multi-ethnic with weak and fluid national identities. Genuine ethnic interests are difficult to tell and irrational ethnic loyalties difficult to break. Presidential elections tend to raffle these ethnic grievances.

Thus, the democratic disillusionment has produced two major trends in African politics, which will complicate the continent’s democratic development in the next decade — the ethnic and the socialist appeals.

These trends reflect responses to a sense of economic exclusion where ordinary people feel that the political institutions are not aptly responsive to their problems.

The trends are best demonstrated by events in the three African “pillar” countries — South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. The recent elections in Kenya and Nigeria highlight an ethnic appeal.

Mr Munyi is a development researcher for the Seoul-based Consulting and Research Institute.

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