Our economies are in shambles; regional leaders need to be firm

Before the meeting was rescheduled, East African Heads of State were to meet in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, yesterday to try to resolve the standoff between President Mwai Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga regarding disputed presidential election results, that has culminated in violence between their supporters and led to deaths of an estimated 1000 people.

Before the meeting was rescheduled, East African Heads of State were to meet in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, yesterday to try to resolve the standoff between President Mwai Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga regarding disputed presidential election results, that has culminated in violence between their supporters and led to deaths of an estimated 1000 people.

Many observers including the former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, have condemned the violence, which they have blamed on other issues other than just flawed elections, such as power and wealth, which have largely been concentrated in the hands of a few ethnic groups that have ruled Kenya since independence.

It is good that at long last the region is getting a chance to decide the destiny of its own affairs. This is a great test that the region’s leaders are undergoing, the success of which will go a long way to boost the success of their other dreams, like the setting up of a successful political federation.

Talking straight to a fellow leader for any political shortcomings is considered taboo in diplomatic circles. Africa is so strong on its culture of respecting elders that it is difficult to blame one, even when a case is so obvious that it merits such attention. But as in the common saying that extreme situations need extreme measures, the violence in Kenya needs special measures to be taken in order to stop it, and everyone hopes that the regional leaders will not come away empty handed as other leaders before them.

The meeting of the regional Heads of State (when they do) will have a further advantage of it being a collective effort to resolve the crisis. Group efforts have a mantle of objectivity, and cannot be said to be biased, especially if the reason for meeting is to seek consensus for peace to prevail not only in Kenya, but in the region as a whole.

Another added advantage will be the most obvious need for the regional leaders to straighten Kenya’s politics, if there is any hope for their continued existence economically, because Kenya is essentially the lifeline of our economies, straddling as it does the roads to the sea. The region knows this, and brutal as the fact is, there is yet another – that if not for itself, Kenya must stabilise at least for its neighbours’ sake.

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