WHICH WAY KENYA?

The disputed presidential election of 27th Dec has left Kenya in the eye of the storm. Unprecedented violence, murder, looting and displacement have been witnessed. A mediation effort is currently under way in the capital, headed by a group of eminent Africans under Koffi Annan. The success of the talks is not guaranteed, and there are fears that failure will send the country into a downward spin of worse anarchy. The greatest obstacle to the success of the talks is not the intransigence of the parties. The greatest problem is that we the International community, who command reasonable respect across the board in Kenya’s political divide, have not been firm enough. A civilized democratic society is rooted in the rule of law. That applies here in the West, every time, regardless of the circumstances, however heinous the crime. That is the price of democracy, that we must suppress our base instinct for ‘instant justice’ or revenge. Where a protagonist expresses lack of confidence in the legal system, a challenge WITHIN the laws must be mounted, for either non-biased judicial officers to oversee the case, or other impartial personnel from outside the immediate circle. The idea that there can be solutions outside the legal framework must never be encouraged within a democracy, more so a budding one like Kenya. Not even a respected group like that of Annan should be passed off as acceptable in resolving disputes of such nature. The Annan mandate should be limited to ending the violence and no more. The reasons for my argument are as follows. 1)Any solution to a disputed election must be arrived at through an existing legal framework otherwise, the so-called negotiated solutions will themselves wear the cloak of illegality. This opens the ‘solution’ to subsequent challenges. 2)We should not apply double standards to Africa. It is patronizing and fails to help the continent lay a firm foundation for a just future. We should encourage faith and development in their institutions of democracy. Joining the chorus that their courts are inadequate opens a can of worms and sends the wrong message. 3)What we should do is send observers/advisors to help uphold these systems, and not to declare them incompetent. Encouraging a country to lose faith in her judicial system is a recipe for disaster. We will also have set a dangerous precedent for the next elections by legitimizing a situation where the losing party can reject results and cause mayhem then await international solutions. The position adopted by the international community so far has not only been patronizing , it also threatens the youthful fabric of Kenyan democracy and institutions. Had the entire international community come down hard at the outset, asking any aggrieved parties to demonstrate respect for law and follow the correct procedures, we would have averted this catastrophe. Dr. Allan Wright. email: alan.wright43@yahoo.com ( The writer was born in Kenya and is now practising surgery in the UK.)