The public watchdog
Kenya’s moment of truth hinges on mediation talks
Published on February 5, 2008, 12:00 am
As a country and a people, we face a defining moment.
This moment of truth hinges on mediation and negotiations to end the political stalemate. In the meantime, we are counting losses in terms of the economic and social consequences of the political impasse to our nation.
In just more than a month of politically related turmoil, the country has lost billions of shillings due to economic and social devastation.
This must certainly be a moment of reckoning to many of the post-independence generation, which accounts for more than 60 per cent of the population and registered voters.
What constitutes our moment of truth? Firstly, the re-emergence of tribalism has seen polarisation among communities and rekindling of tribal hatred among neighbours who have co-existed for decades.
We have also, unfortunately, undermined a young generation of what was emerging as a truly future national generation of leaders.
It is this generation that the Public Watchdog is concerned about given their upbringing, education and social interaction and networking. The regeneration of tribalism has cast a serious threat to a critical and pivotal component of a generation that now seems deluged by the socio-political environment.
Many parents are inundated with questions such as: Which tribe hates us? Why were we born in a particular tribe? Which tribe has a right to rule Kenya? What will happen to us? Is it okay and safe to play with so and so? How can I know — from physical appearance — which person comes from which tribe?
Indeed, these are soul searching, complex and compelling questions inflicted on the country by the sustained impasse.
Secondly, let us come to terms with the reality that we are facing a momentous challenge that could, for better or worse, change the destiny of our nation. It is crucial to note that it matters little who comes to our aid in bringing the country back to mutual coexistence.
Every peace-loving Kenyan must support the efforts of Mr Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary-general, to bring the two sides of the political divide to a negotiated settlement.
The international community must also sustain pressure on both sides to engage and conclusively arrive to a workable settlement. The mediation efforts are already defusing tension in most parts of the country.
There are reduced instances of violence. The relative calm demonstrates the confidence of the people in dialogue and mediation.
However, some rhetoric emerging as sideshows are compounding the problem and unhelpful to the negotiations. The leadership on both sides must exercise maximum restraint.
The report of the rejection of a South African mediator, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, is certainly ill advised. In an environment of volatility, everyone’s genuine effort is welcome.
It would have been more tactical to request for an additional than to reject a person who had sacrificed his time to try and help. Such an action only serves to undermine the climate of negotiation.
Thirdly, it might appear that it is becoming business as usual, but therein lies the threat to peace, which hinges on a negotiated settlement.
In the prevailing situation — where conflicting statements keep emerging — the people’s trust and confidence rest on Annan’s mediation.
The level of trust further hinges on a perceived resolution since Kenyans are not anticipating failure. In retrospect, we now know that raising people’s expectation could prove a volatile time bomb if the anticipated outcome fails to come to pass.
It is emerging that this week could become our defining moment — based on the agreed time frame. But this could be ill advised.
While urgent resolution of the impasse is imperative, a realistic period of negotiation is equally important given the weighty matters involved and the extent of vested interests at play.
The Public Watchdog’s advice to the negotiating team is to give priority to the issues that can be agreed on quickly, then cultivate and demonstrate genuine progress towards their resolution.
Finally, the weighty issues of power-sharing demand methodical mechanism and legal instruments to facilitate a workable governance structure.
The main challenge is a balancing act to accommodate competing and vested interests. The compelling interests must, however, remain public interests — the security and stability of the people.
This demands a demonstration of gumption, political will and hard choices as well as sacrifices from both sides.
The security of each member of the political leadership is now more paramount than ever before. Their insecurity is a threat to the country’s stability, given the current mistrust and political intrigues.
This is a matter of great public interest!
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