Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year, Ethnic Tensions Spiraling Out of Control as New Challenges for Democracy in Kenya Arise

As the new year unfolds political turmoil in Kenya is making this relatively prosperous and peaceful African nation the scene of mounting violence that has left at least 120 dead in the wake of the recent presidential elections that many international observers are calling questionable and some nations including the US are calling bogus.

Pictured above: Opposition candidate Raila Odinga, left and incumbent president Mwai Kibaki at right

The story is getting wide coverage across the media spectrum, it was featured on the major network broadcast news, NPR, WCBS, The News Hour on Thirteen - and of course the BBC seems to be providing the most thorough and exhaustive coverage I've seen.

Of immediate concern are the violent clashes that are taking place between supporters of the incumbent who was declared president Mwai Kibaki - mostly members of the Kikuyu tribe; and backers of the main opposition candidate Raila Odinga who is backed by members of the Luo tribe.

While the election results have already undermined the authority of the Kenyan government, the rising ethnic tensions divided precariously along political lines are raising serious security concerns for this nation known for a stable, productive economy and a healthy tourism industry worth $1.5 Billion (US) by some estimates.

The African Union already has it's hands full with the situation in Darfur as well as regions such as Ethiopia and Somalia where Al Qaeda-backed Muslim Extremists are still major concerns. The situation in Kenya is in many ways, the first test of 2008 for the governments that are going to have to cooperate to instill at least a sense of legitimacy to the African Union.

African leaders as well as the international community must combine efforts and available resources to ensure that racial and ethnic violence between the Kikuyu and Luo tribe members does not spin out of control and threaten stability in the region.

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