The political and ethnic crises continues in Kenya, and observers are debating the best solutions to end the violence that has left hundreds dead. Among those following developments is Ken Mutuma of the South Africa Institute of International Affairs.
From Cape Town, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about what needs to be done at this point in Kenya’s political crisis.
“I mean the key thing here is both of the presidential contenders have to soften their stance. They’ve made some progress, but very little, and the president of course has not come out clearly and acknowledged that there have been some irregularities in the way the election was carried out, specifically the counting and the way the electoral commission of Kenya behaved. So, on the other hand, it doesn’t help that the leading opposition figure, Raila Odinga, continued to insist that the president (Mwai Kibaki) must resign and that formation of an interim government is the only possible solution…. I think somewhere between the two, both of the parts have to find some clear middle ground,” he says.
Asked whether Kenya is in the midst of the political or ethnic crisis, Mutuma says, “I think it’s a bit of both when you understand the Kenyan history. It’s connected to historical factors in the way the country has evolved, post-colonial historical factors and it’s also got a bit of issues relating to land, specifically within the areas where the ethnic clashes have been felt. I think there is a lot of bearing the previous president’s style of politics in which he influenced strong ethnic patterns of voting. I’m referring here to President Daniel Arap Moi, the former president. So, I think all these factors must be taken into account. The ethnic contest and the violence that is being experienced at the moment reflects those underlying tensions right from the turn of the independence of the country.”
Mutuma says that there are also long-term structural issues relating to the constitution. “The constitution of Kenya creates a very strong executive presidency, who has at its disposal the right to allocate resources, to create a system of patronage. So, what this has done, the really negative thing for the country, it has created a system where the ethnic communities view the presidency as a prize for taking; and exercising dominance over the other ethnic communities,” he says.”
The analyst says there needs to be constitutional and economic changes to resolved the crisis.