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Kenya: Rounding the Corner back to Democracy?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In a country where political intrigue has often substituted for governance, Kenya's two-year-old National Accord offered a pragmatic solution to ending post-election violence and restoring democratic rule. Now the possibility of a new constitution offers fresh hope that Kenya's bumpy road back to democracy might get smoother. But as the country lurches toward constitutional reform, the tradition of "winner-take-all" politics -- as well as the accompanying fears of "loser-lose-all" outcomes -- is proving tough to leave behind. For Kenya, as with too many African countries, democracy is still thwarted by a zero-sum system that encourages bare-knuckle politics as well as social and ethnic destabilization.

In early 2008, more than 1,000 people were killed and tens of thousands displaced in post-election violence that followed Kenya's Dec. 27, 2007, presidential polls. Raila Odinga, opposition leader and head of the Orange Democratic Party (ODM), cried foul after losing by a thin margin to incumbent President Mwai Kibaki of the People's National Union (PNU), with European Union observers also citing significant irregularities. The crisis ended with a power-sharing National Accord brokered by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in which the positions of prime minister and two deputy prime ministers were created, with Odinga subsequently named as prime minister. While the accord was an essential step to ending the violence, the creation of a cabinet that included both Kibaki and Odinga has in time led to governance gridlock. ...

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