Thursday, January 03, 2008

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Post-election chaos in Kenya and misery in the DRC

Editorial from Kenya's Daily Nation:

"The strength of any economy is its political stability, practice of the rule of law, and its human resources. Unlike most countries that have achieved development equal to that of Kenya, the country does not possess any significant reserves of natural resources.

"Unfortunately, these key pillars of the economy have been shaken profoundly by the current stalemate over the elections. If the issue has eluded chest-thumping politicians, the business environment that has powered the economy to admirable levels in the last five years is about to be rolled back.

"Retail business, a key pillar of growth under existing development blueprints, lies mortally wounded by looters. Employees are marooned by violence and casual workers are starving. Industries are unable to distribute their products.

"Financing deals are being rescheduled, and the country’s political-risk rating may go up. At this rate, it will only be a matter of time before remittances by Kenyans abroad, unhappy with the chaos, dry out and cause more hardship to ordinary Kenyans.

"More alarmingly, a severe oil shortage might ground the economy if the situation is not arrested. The tourism industry, besides being threatened by the unseemly scenes, may soon reverse the gains painstakingly made in the past few years.

"Farther afield, the Great Lakes region, which relies on Kenya for oil supply, has started suffering major shortages. All these things should worry any politician who is not of criminal bent. But the truth is, there is a high number of such people on both sides of the political divide.

"If the anti-poverty platform the protagonists championed across the country was meant to amount to anything at all, political leaders have to urgently contain this situation. Clearly, even as the business community and the average man on the street suffer, there is little they can do about the situation.

"Politicians have to rise above the level of narrow interest and talk to each other for the sake of the economy. After all, this is what defines a statesman. Any other route to resolution would do great injustice to the hapless masses on whose behalf all sides claim to be feuding. We also appeal to Kenyans to refuse to increase their own poverty by engaging in looting and other forms of hooliganism. They owe this to themselves."


13:00 GMT/UTC (InterWorld Radio, Panos Institute)

"An opposition rally due to be held today in Nairobi to protest the re-election of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has been called off following stand-offs with the police. Several hundred protestors tried to attend the banned meeting to express support for the opposition candidate Raila Odinga but were repelled by police who used water cannons and tear gas. Kenya has been hit by a week of violent unrest following the announcement of election results. Opposition supporters accuse President Mwai Kibaki’s party of rigging the vote, and European observers described the election as flawed. Archbishop Desmond Tutu and African Union President, John Kufuor will both attempt to mediate the crisis.

"Increased conflict and lawlessness in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has led to a surge in rape by fighters on all sides. Women have reported an increase in rapes by both rebel and government forces and doctors say civilian attacks also appear to be on the rise. The area is suffering as a result of conflict between the government and troops loyal to renegade Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda. Thousands have fled their homes since Nkunda quit a peace deal with the government in August last year. Local and international human rights organisations say violence against women is a longstanding feature of the region’s conflict."

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