Stability comes first in a country’s development

People’s Daily

Copyright People’s Daily
14 January 2008
The current situation in Kenya has derailed mediation
efforts by African Union (AU) Chairman and Ghanian
President John Kufuor and US Assistant Secretary of
State Jendayi Frazer,for the crisis following the
disputed elections shows no intention of ceasing. In
order to track down the root cause of Kenya’s turmoil,
we must look deep into the nation’s history. As it
seems, Kenya’s crisis has been years in the making.
Above all, transplanted Western democracy could not
take hold in Africa. The African people have been
living on the continent for generations; have forged
special links among different ethnic groups; and have
cultivated a unique African culture long before
falling victim to Western colonialism. As a matter of
fact, primitive culture already enjoyed democracy with
unique characteristics long ago. Tribal heads called
on all the tribe’s men to make a decision on any
matter, and a consensus from different groups was
sought after. When a disparity arose, they formed a
cabinet consisting of tribal elders.
Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan believes in a
popular saying from his mother country, Ghana: one
head cannot beat collective wisdom. Collective wisdom,
accumulated over years and passed down from generation
to generation, can not be readily replaced by a single
idea, injected from the outside and imposed upon by
the powerful.
The post-election crisis in Kenya is a product of
democracy bequeathed by Western hegemony; and a
manifestation of values clashing when democracy is
transplanted onto disagreeable land.
Secondly, colonialism is the worst offender to fuel
ethnic estrangement and hatred. Early colonizers set
foot onto the African continent to disseminate white
culture using ignoble means- a popular practice
adopted by strong cultures wiping out weaker ones –
utilizing ‘barbaric’ people to subjugate their own
races. This sinister design has triggered persistent
ethnic conflict in Africa.
Kenya has over 70 ethnic groups, ranging in size from
about 7 million Kikuyu to only 500 El Molo. The
largest ethnic group, the Kikuyu, makes up a quarter
of the nation’s total population, and has ruled this
country for decades since its independence, with the
support of former colonial ruler: Great Britain. This
has brought about increasing discontent among other
ethnic groups – especially the opposition groups.
The bipartisan election system, introduced in 1963
when Kenya gained independence, and the multi-party
election, initiated in 1991, did nothing but aggravate
the situation.
Thirdly, the widening gap between the rich and the
poor catalyzes the ethnic clash. Despite the fact that
Kenya’s economic growth has been increasing steadily
in recent years – the growth rate jumped to 6.1
percent in 2006 – there is still a sizeable portion of
the country’s population living in abject poverty.
After all, half of the nation is currently living
below the poverty line – a yardstick established by
the UNDP with a $1 dollar a day average cost of
living.
The opposition group’s Orange Democratic Movement, led
by Chief Raila Odinga, has, as a result, won the great
support and respect from disadvantaged groups. The
strong aspiration of “becoming better-off’ has
prompted more and more poor ethnic groups to side with
them.
Kenya’s post-election crisis has thus far left 486
dead, over a quarter of a million homeless, and caused
as much as 1 billion USD in economic damages.
Fortunately, international mediation seems to be
making progress, as the various political groups have
finally decided to cooperate with the African
Celebrity Panel, spearheaded by former UN secretary-
general Kofi Annan, to find a way to settle
deep-seated problems.
Nevertheless, we still cherish the hope that one day
international mediation will be amply rewarded in the
way of different political groups setting aside
disputes and seeking common ground. Only by preserving
national stability can Kenya gain momentum in
developing its economy and benefit all ethnic groups.
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