21 November 2012

Kenya: Why Uhuru Got It Wrong On Annan

Kofi Annan's book, Interventions (London, Allen Lane/Penguin, 2012) is necessary reading for all Kenyans. More so, as we enter the final stages of the period that he played a large part in bringing about.

Will this period be a foundation, albeit imperfect, for a changed Kenya? Or will this period end the way it began, in post-election violence?

The book is a telling of his public life all over the globe, but there is a major section on Kenya recounting in detail the negotiations that brought about the National Accord in 2008.

Annan narrates how he came to be involved in the crisis in Kenya, a 'system built on an immense pile of corruption that crushed the opportunities of ordinary people.'

The Chair of the African Union in January 2008 was President John Kufour of Ghana. As the violence in Kenya continued, Kufour flew to Nairobi to find ways for the AU to end the constitutional deadlock and violence.

After intense consultations, Kufour got Kibaki and Raila to agree to a team of African leaders to broker a solution. Kufour enlisted Graca Machel, Benjamin Mkapa and Kofi Annan.

Annan agreed on condition that they would be the sole team of mediators. He then sought and obtained backing from the AU, the EU, the US, and the UN including its Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon. The team flew out to Nairobi.

Thus Uhuru Kenyatta's current attempts to paint Annan, Machel and Mkapa as an imposed process from outside the Continent, is contrary to the facts.

This was a wholly AU and all-Africa initiative involving five African Presidents and other eminent Africans. Uhuru now demands the AU show African solidarity and support him in avoiding The Hague and bring the ICC process to Nairobi/Arusha.

But he himself refuses to show the same African solidarity with the Panel of Eminent African Personalities and their continuing efforts for a secure future for Kenya and the region.

Annan sets out the methods by which he got the negotiations moving. This book is a lesson in mediation practice. But the clarity of the aim is the more important lesson.

"I had already realized that the problem was not just one of disagreement over an election result: the countrywide violence meant the problem was more fundamental, arising from the makeup of the Kenyan political system.

We needed a process that would address the root causes of Kenya's problems, otherwise any agreement would constitute nothing more than a delay before the next violent crisis.

Our job had to be more than just to move the chairs around on behalf of the political elites. The resolution was going to have to come from an engagement with all of Kenyan society.

Our mediation needed to be the beginning of a true process of political reform."(Page 193). It is this transformation that is the reason for Uhuru's insulting attack on Annan and Mkapa, last month.

There are those entrenched beneficiaries of the former system who do not want any change, much less a transformation. This is why they are against the effective implementation of the new Constitution.

Annan mentions the infamous story of the attempted placing of Kibaki's presidential chair in the centre of the seating arrangements when the negotiations began.

"Uhuru Kenyatta, Kibaki's Minister of Local Government, then chimed in behind Muthaura, 'He never goes anywhere in this country without his chair. And it always sits in the most prominent place.'" (Page 194).

The book recounts the detailed steps taken by Annan that led to the signing of the National Accord of 28th February 2008. This is a book all of us should read, to remember always how close we came to the breakdown of Kenya.

The three Eminent African Personalities were not 'tourists', as Uhuru has disparagingly called them. They were life-saving stretcher bearers in our time of crisis.

Annan and co-author Nader Mousavizadeh's is a beautifully written book, felicitous in expression and thought. Annan narrates events but also carefully distils their enduring factors so that they may serve as a guide for the future too.

Kenyatta's attacks on Kofi Annan and Mkapa are attacks on Africa's reliance on its own powers and resources to progress. This is the present and the future.

Not that past 'golden age' of dysfunctional rulers whose refusal to change was at the expense of their people. Uhuru's anger marks him as an unrepentant mourner for the passing of that era.

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