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Editorial

No Peace, No Sound Nutrition

Already in Kenya, famine is predicted. There are more than 300,000 Kenyans still in camps for the internally displaced persons (local refugees so to speak). Most of these IDP’s as they re popularly known are in the Rift valley, which is Kenya’s food basket, producing maize, wheat and milk.

It is exactly three months since Kenya was thrown into a state of emergency following disputed Presidential results of the December 27, 2007 elections.  There were immediate loud and vicious cries of NO, NO, NO and theft, theft, theft.  For the first time we had opinion polls.  Most Kenyans have no idea how opinion polls are conducted. As we went to elections, it was anybody’s guess as to who would emerge the winner although earlier poll results had consistently shown Raila the then opposition contender in the lead.  For many Kenyans, including the semi literate, the poll results were like something coming out of a Bible.  They believed it completely.

A lot of money changed hands during campaign time. Poverty is a bad thing. We normally talk of over 70% of Kenyans living on less than a dollar a day. Money that the candidates dished out constituted the income for the month of December for many Kenyans. When someone can be happy with Kshs. 20 (¼ of a dollar) then many people in Kenya are extremely poor.

At election time, the last opinion poll showed Kibaki and Raila neck to neck.  It means, therefore, that it did not matter who had been announced the winner- the other side would have cried foul.  We have of course had rigging at previous elections. But this one was different. The campaign had been hyped, emotional and sometimes outright nasty. The adrenaline levels were running fast and high as people on either side awaited the results.  There were those who were ready to take up certain posts they had reserved for themselves if their candidate won. The thought of losing just was not an option.

But then, what have we seen in the past 3 months?  We have witnessed what Kenyans, or anybody else never imagined before. The months of January and February were particularly bad. Kenyans died, without the government protecting them adequately and died brutally, in Rwanda-like style; Kenyans lost their property through break-ins, burning, all forms of destruction and looting.  Kenyans have lost their loved ones, in many instances as they looked on; Kenyans have been traumatized through all this and through rape as well; Kenyans now know what it means to be refugees in their own home but yet cannot be treated as refugees and are now referred to as IDPs (internally displaced persons); Kenyans have prayed more than they have ever done before.  Kenyans have resorted to prophet tellings, and started to believe that the devil had descended on us, and that in fact we have sinned to God.  I am a believer and one of those who have believed that we have sinned before the Almighty and that we truly needed to repent.

I was in Nigeria recently, for the first time outside the country this year and Nigerians were extremely sympathetic. They said, “Well, it has been your turn”. “We had ours in 1968 during the Biafra war and do not wish to go that direction just over election irregularities” Some would say “look, Kenya is the epic of tourism, the beacon of peace on this continent. Now all that is dashed for Africa”. Kenyans have been surprised by the amount of interest in our country, with some senior politicians in the Government saying “do not push us, do not dictate to us, we shall not yield to pressure, we are a sovereign state, we can only follow the constitution”. Clearly, many of these think Kenya is a household where a father comes home drunk, beats up the wife and children and says “I can do whatever I like with these ones because they are my property”. These senior politicians do not understand international politics, that we now have a globalized world, and with the United Nations, and others with its International Criminal Court looking over us.  They do not understand that Kenya does not belong to Kenyans only, and not only that, an isolated Kenya cannot survive. An isolated Kenya will starve to death in the short and medium term.

So, the amount of diplomacy, of international visitors jetting into Kenya, many offering help, sympathy and both financial and material assistance, while others offer threats, has been unprecedented.  Why? Surely they all care for Kenya for different reasons, be they selfish or not.  But who cares, so long as their interventions would virtually bring us peace!  For the first time, we witnessed a threatening statement from the US state department, supported by virtually all Embassies and High Commissions in Nairobi.  So Kenyans are saying “wow, you mean Kenya is this important!!”. Representatives from both the diplomatic corp have visited the camps, and witnessed the conditions there, they have donated foodstuffs and other essential materials and have spoken out against the violence something most diplomats try to stay clear of. We have witnessed through the media, people fight for food but not yet pictures of starving children. What is feared now is a disease outbreak as the long rains start and inside of the tents gets flooded.

But of course the quarrel has been more than just stolen votes; it is also possible both sides realized the Electoral Commission of Kenya had failed us all.  The votes were just there, for anybody and all to steal.  Kenyans were violated, so insisting on recounting or retallying was only going to expose the many irregularities all political divides are guilty of.  And who would supervise such anyway!! As far as I am concerned, the current ECK (Electoral Commission of Kenya) needs to be deleted from the books if not held totally accountable for all the anomalies of the election and subsequent violence. They have been a total disgrace to this country.  But then what would we expect anyway? Quite a number of them were hand-picked without being subjected to any scrutiny. We cannot even vouch for their past records.  We doubt whether they can stand up to be counted. Outside mediators had to come in. You take a top international diplomat, and present him with individuals who have no idea how the word “diplomacy” is spelt. With impunity, one or two of them begin to use language which is not acceptable even to Kenyans, they abuse the arbitrators, peacemakers right here in our own house which is on fire, when those arbitrators have come to help us put the fire out!!

So who will apologize? Is that how bad it was, that the thought of losing any amount of power was driving some Kenyans crazy! Is individual power more important than people who have suffered and died for no good reason?  People who exercised their constitutional right by going to vote for candidates of their choice? So finally, here we are.  The final hand shake, and finally a DEAL, on 28th February, 2008, exactly two months after it all started.

Both sides conceded quite a bit. ODM from “Kibaki must step down because he stole votes” and PNU from “we won and ODM should go to court for recourse”.  Now, it is up to Parliament to ensure the agreement to have a coalition government, with President and vice President, Prime Minister with powers and 2 deputies one from either side, and share cabinet posts, is put on place. This is really sharing the spoils.  So, where is the opposition, come to think of it everyone is going to be in government? Well, from the celebrations around, it clearly is the ODM side which has gained most. Finally the Presidency is ceding power; the overpowered, “imperial” presidency will have to consult before making certain appointments or decisions and in fact if this arrangement works, it is a constitutional arrangement that shares power in a way that we never had in the Bomas draft, which we came up with after a protracted review of the constitution some 2 years ago, but which was rejected by the people since what was presented was not what was agreed on.

The test will now be in how the power is regionally distributed.  Clearly, a formula has to be worked out that takes the geographical and tribal map of Kenya into account.  Surely, I do not envy those who will have to go through this.  But, that cannot be worse than what we have all gone through and witnessed over the past 3 months.  May God forgive us, and may we THANK HIM. This is now end of March as I write this, and still the cabinet has not been named; there is a stalemate. There is talk of asking Kofi Annan to come back.

It is like a marriage that cannot work unless a counselor is on stand-by. The stalemate has arisen partly because even before the negotiations were on the table led by the Kofi Annan group, our President went ahead and filled half the cabinet positions with his own supporters. The position filled are said to be the prime ones. Now the ODM (previously opposition before the Grand Coalition) are crying foul and say they are prepared to go back to the streets. Can you blame them, and on the other hand is that the answer? A total of 44 cabinet posts are also suggested with a view to try and accommodate everybody. I can assure you that still, there will be those who will not be satisfied. Why not keep it lean and more affordable? The economy is truly struggling, supported by the taxes of the very poor who can barely afford a daily decent meal! A leadership that does not consider what the majority eat and thinks only of the positions enjoyed by those at the top is not a good leadership either way Kenyans deserve better.Only good govenance can guarantee good nutrition for the majority.

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