Monday, January 14, 2008

Kenya: A Post-Election Assessment

Featured Speakers: Calestous Juma (Professor at Harvard University), Maina Kiai (Chairman of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (in Kenya) ), Joel D. Barkan (Senior Associate at the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic International Studies), Stephen N. Ndegwa (visiting scholar, Lead Public Sector Governance Specialist at the World Bank)
Moderator: Ambassador Johnnie Carson (National Intelligence Officer for Africa, former
US ambassador to Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe)

Violence erupted in Kenya after the fraudulent results for the December 27, 2007 elections were released, declaring the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki the winner over Raila Odinga. The consequences have been dire resulting in the deaths of between five and six hundred people, a 550 million dollar blow to the economy (within the first week alone), and a loss of faith in the very institution and possibility of democracy in Kenya by Kenyans.

Joel Barkan, who observed the elections with the International Republican Institute (IRI), noted the fairness and transparency of the campaigns as compared with those in prior elections. He also mentioned the large voter turn-out and fact that the polls opened and closed on time, for the first time in Kenya’s democratic history.

Despite fair campaigns and a well-run election day, the results were falsely reported by the government, who declared Kibaki the winner. However, judging by the vote margins seen throughout the counting process, Odinga was the clear winner.

The panel had different recommendations on what should be the way forward for Kenya. Stephen Ndegwa said that for now Kenyan officials should continue Kenya’s tradition of pact making and create a set of pacts that speak to problems of poverty, ethnic issues and a scaling down of Presidential power. Calestous Juma spoke about Kenya’s need to restructure civil society along business lines as opposed to ethnic lines and to invest in expanding economic opportunities for Kenyans to create social cohesion, as Malaysia did in 1969.

Maina Kiai emphasized the need to create nonviolent avenues for citizens to express how they feel about the current situation. He also discussed the need for some kind of international audit that would result in either an election rerun or a recount of votes. He further pointed to two misconceptions of the situation by the international community that he says are making the situation worse: 1) people are calling it a genocide 2) it has been phrased as an ethnic conflict when in reality it is a political conflict taking place along preexisting ethnic cleavages.

Despite their differences of opinion, all agreed that for true long-term change in Kenya constitutional change would be necessary to reflect what Professor Juma called “the next republic of Kenya.” They also agreed that it was necessary to get the younger generations more involved in the planning of the new republic because they are more globally connected (via Internet) and have fresher ideas than the generation currently running the country.

Sponsor: Center for Strategic and International Studies
Location: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Date: January 10, 2008
Time: 10:00-12:00
Approximate Number of Attendees: 100
Intern Attending: Micaela Klein

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