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Monday, December 31, 2007

Post Kenyan Election Round Up

I initially got interested in the story of the Kenyan elections because of a long and fairly well done article in my hometown newspaper, the Chicago Tribune.

Security guard John Nakitere, 30, said he is voting for Odinga because he is frustrated by stagnant salaries, inflation and unemployment. But Nakitere also has his eye on the 2012 election. "If Odinga doesn't do any better, we'll use the same knife to remove him from power in five years.

"The campaign has been punctuated by isolated instances of violence, chiefly involving local races, and a few allegations of schemes to buy votes or tamper with ballots. One candidate for parliament was shot to death this month in a possible election-related assassination.But most leaders, Western diplomats and voters expressed optimism that the vote will pass freely and peacefully."

Do not hate your neighbor because he is supporting another party," Kibaki recently urged Kenyans. "Do not assault him. Vote for the one you like. We shall be friends even after the elections."

The upcoming ballot pits two of Kenya's best-known career politicians against one another. Both Kibaki and Odinga served stints inside the government and outside as opposition leaders. At times they've been political allies, other times rivals.

There was several things that were fascinating in the article. Several of the voters interviewed spoke about their choices with the sort of explanation that almost reminded me of our own political situation. While we can all be quite cynical about our own politics, I think it is a huge step when I read folks in Africa approaching politics in a similar fashion. Throughout the article it was indicated that things would be run relatively fairly in this election and the incumbent even had a legitimate shot of losing. That is quite rare in the part of the world. It was combined with the sort of gritty, back room, corrupt politics that I expect there...

After his release in the 1990s, Odinga surprised everyone by joining sides with his jailer in a political alliance. But he quit when it became clear that Moi would not name Odinga as his successor.

In 2002, Odinga and Kibaki joined forces. Odinga agreed to set aside his own ambitions and supported Kibaki at the top of the ticket. But Kibaki allegedly agreed in secret to repay Odinga by backing his bid to become prime minister.

After the election, the partnership fell apart when, according to Odinga, Kibaki reneged on the agreement. Kibaki denied the deal existed.

All of this combined to make for an interesting and very important story. I firmly believe that the evil and chaos that goes on in the continent of Africa will eventually spill over and the rest of the world will have to deal with it at some point. This is the sort of story that gives hope that maybe a new day will dawn.

Well, it appears that the early optimism may just have been overblown.

Police fired tear gas and bullets Monday as they struggled to contain tens of thousands of opposition supporters accusing President Mwai Kibaki of stealing his re-election. The death toll in the demonstrations and ethnic clashes rose to at least 125 people, police and witnesses said.

Three police officers said they had orders to shoot to kill, while opposition supporters said they would risk death to protest what they called a stolen election.

The vote ignited smoldering resentment between Kenya's two largest tribes, with supporters of Raila Odinga, a Luo who officially came in second, clashing with members of Kibaki's Kikuyu. The head of Kenya's Red Cross said many of the dead were killed in ethnic violence across the country.

The Kikuyu comprise the largest ethnic group in Kenya, and are frequently accused by other tribes of monopolizing business and political power.

Here is another view.

Kenya's government has suspended all live television broadcasts as violence engulfed Nairobi following the re-election of incumbent president Mwai Kibaki.

Opposition supporters march at the entrance to the Mathare slum in Nairobi on Sunday.

A senior official from the Kenyan Television Network said it had been ordered to stop live broadcasts as rioters went on the rampage.

Kenyan television had earlier broadcast an address from the chairman of the electoral commission announcing that Kibaki had narrowly defeated Raila Odinga, of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, winning by slightly more than 231,000 votes of the more than 8.9 million votes cast.

A top media executive said on condition of anonymity that the decision to suspend broadcasts had "taken back democratic process by 15 years."

About 100 people have been killed across Kenya in violence blamed on the disputed presidential election.

A BBC reporter at a mortuary in the opposition stronghold of Kisumu saw about 40 bodies with gunshot wounds. A witness said police had opened fire.

There were running battles in Nairobi slums, and violence was reported in the coastal town of Mombasa.

Mwai Kibaki was officially re-elected president while Raila Odinga says he was robbed of victory by voting fraud.

I will stay on this as this is an important and developing story.

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