Kenya’s embattled President Mwai Kibaki is appealing for calm after announcing his readiness to hold talks with Raila Odinga of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) to end the escalating violence. Kibaki’s announcement followed calls by some concerned citizens and the Kenyan media to end the ongoing political crisis after last week’s disputed elections. But Raila Odinga has dismissed Kibaki’s call saying he would only join an interim government, which would oversee a re-run of the presidential election.
Paul Mbatia is a Kenyan political science professor at the University of Nairobi. He talks to reporter Peter Clottey from the capital about the latest development in the ongoing political tension in the country.
“The situation has not improved. Our two political leaders have not yet come together to start talking. Both parties claim they are winners. President Mwai Kibaki has not talked to Honorable Raila Odinga, and Honorable Raila Odinga and his party continue agitating that they think they were rigged in the 2007 elections. There is a lot of violence, especially at Kisumu, Eldoret and some other parts of Rift valley including the coast,” Mbatia pointed out.
He said the police Thursday thwarted a scheduled rally of opposition partisans to protest last Thursday’s general elections.
“ODM had called for a public meeting at Uhuru Park, which was cancelled by the police, but the ODM supporters still marched towards Uhuru Park. But they were later dispersed by the police who had to use tear gas to disperse the ODM supporters. So, if you came to Nairobi this morning, you would have seen quite some violence, which escalated to the slums. Some houses have been burnt, especially in the slums, some people have been killed during the violence, and the situation has not improved,” he said.
Mbatia said several well-meaning Kenyans have attempted to get both President Kibaki and opposition leader Odinga to help resolve the ongoing political crisis.
“There are lots of peace initiatives, especially through the churches, but nonetheless the two leaders have still not started to dialogue,” Mbatia said.
He said attempts to end the ongoing violence have not succeeded because of the entrenched positions taken by both President Kibaki and Raila Odinga.
“The bone of contention is that this was a closely contested presidential election where the difference between the winner and the loser in whichever way was to be very thin, the margin was to be very small. So, each side still thinks it won the election. In whichever you look at it we have two competing parties, which apparently think that they won the election. The reason why they have not come together is no party wants to believe that they lost. So the two gentlemen are still not talking. President Kibaki continues as the president because he was sworn in and according to the law and Honorable Raila Odinga and his party continues to agitate that the elections were rigged,” he noted.
Mbatia said Kenyans should be allowed to solve the ongoing political crisis themselves.
“One way of trying to resolve the conflict is to actually turn down the international influence. We would prefer, some of us if the two political leaders were to resolve the Kenyan problem internally. I think the more we open up for international actors to come in to give us their views, I think the more we are going to complicate the situation. If for example no President Museveni (Uganda’s President) congratulates President Kibaki, that is one way of making President Kibaki a legitimate president in the eyes of the ODM. And of course they have now taken Uganda as the enemy. So, I would wish if we can resolve the situation internally, with no help from outsiders who as we have seen in other countries have their own agenda and interests. So we are hoping and praying that our two political leaders can sit and talk, and we also have a lot of resourceful people within who can mediate between the two political leaders,” Mbatia pointed out.