It seems just like yesterday when my mother and I were driving to our home outside of Nairobi barely making the curfew deadline. Our heads were slightly ducked behind the car windscreen as my mother revved the accelerator past the security checkpoint.
In 1982, my family witnessed the devastating effects to a country and its people of a Kenyan coup d’etat attempt, which failed to overthrow President Daniel arap Moi’s government. On August 1, a group of soldiers from the Kenya Air Force took over the local radio station and announced they had overthrown the government. Sending Nairobi into utter chaos, about 145 people were killed and losses from widespread looting and destruction of property amounted to $111 million. My family was forced to hide out at home ‘on rations.’
Some parallels can be made between the ‘Hours of Chaos’ in 1982 and recent events surrounding President Mwai Kibaki’s disputed re-election, violence and deaths.
Of note, the poorest living in the slums of Nairobi and in rural areas, had all too little to lose in the violence and life for Kenyans once again more difficult.
The Kenya Presidential Elections of December 2007, are potentially the most damaging episode to national unity since the assassination of Tom Mboya in July 1969.
While there is celebration among select supporters for President Kibaki, the fear gripping the country is almost unprecedented in its 44 years of independence - as the Government and ODM continue to differ over the way forward for a peaceful settlement to the political crisis.
And, this is such bad timing for Kenya…..
Considered one of the most beautiful and more prosperous regions of Africa, Kenya has an estimated GDP growth of 6.7 percent and its unique landscapes, natural world and wildlife attractions brings in $900 million in tourism a year.
Kenya’s economy has been devastated by the violence and its reputation as a stable haven tarnished in a matter of weeks. As of 1/7, the economy was reported to have lost approximately $1 billion as a result of the post-election violence.
Kenya’s transition from dictatorship to democracy continues to be a tumultuous journey owing to its deeply rooted history in the political economies of colonialism, neocolonialism and neoliberalism. The country is further tainted by ongoing corruption and scandals under the rule of former dictators’ such as President Daniel arap Moi.
The first Kibaki government was elected in 2002 on a strong anti-corruption platform at a time when the country wanted a transparent government, justice brought to former corrupt officials and focus on economic development. While new corruption scandals occurred, the Kibaki administration delivered on the economy – jumping from 0.6% in 2002 to 6.1% in 2006. Despite its economy, Kenya still has some serious social issues and extreme poverty.
In 2006, the government unveiled Kenya Vision 2030, a development blueprint to turn Kenya into a newly industrialized ‘middle income country providing high quality of life for all its citizens by the year 2030.’
Kenya needs fast-track solutions to restore social harmony and aid recovery:
- Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga enter negotiations to find quick resolution to end violence and restore peace to its people
- More British and international intervention to help a humanitarian crisis
- Contending parties agree to a binding independent and monitored investigation of the election results
- Establish stronger anti-corruption platforms, transparent and accountable legal/government systems
- A new parliament should be called into session with the new post of Prime Minister directly answerable to Parliament
- Restore tourism and confidence
- Corporations and NGOs/non-profits should align social, economic and environmental responsibility programs with causes in need
The country’s economy will continue to lose hard-won ground if the political situation is not resolved quickly.