We all know the truism that sometimes there simply aren’t two sides to every story; unfortunately parts of the international community have not yet received the memo.
Donald Yamamoto, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US government’s Bureau of African Affairs, is currently in Kenya to try and find a resolution to the stand-off between a president who was democratically and constitutionally elected and a losing presidential candidate who has a perennial history of not accepting election results and frequently using violence to achieve his aims.
Which way now?
That there is a stand-off is indisputable. Nonetheless, that there are two sides to this story is highly debatable, if not complete fiction. Regardless of Mr Yamamoto’s best intentions and efforts to end the dispute, they will only come to fruition if the combative side enunciates the end of its aims.
Disputes and quarrels are usually started by one side and that side has to be the one to put their grievances aside before some sort of resolution can be brought to the table.
It is clear that in the case of Raila Odinga’s antics to be recognized as president, he has not yet reached the point where this dispute ends, largely because he believes his tactics and non-acceptance of democratic norms have paid off in the past and the present.
The fact that a senior ranking American official has traveled all the way to Kenya merely demonstrates to Raila that he remains relevant and his constant threats are making the international community sit up, take notice and become actively involved.
We should welcome any help from outside that we can get, and if it will end this stand-off then it could be invaluable.
For this to happen there needs to be a responsible adult from outside the dispute to simply say enough and no longer be swayed by threats, regardless of their deviousness.
Perhaps we are seeing the first signs of this, as the US has come out and openly condemned Raila’s inauguration ceremony set for next week. A US Embassy statement calls the December 12 ceremony “extra-constitutional” and urges the opposition to work within Kenya’s laws to pursue their aims.
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This should be the first of many steps that the international community has to take to ensure that Raila first gives up his dreams of taking State House by violent or unconstitutional means and then the Kenyan President will perhaps be more amenable to discussion and negotiation.
The international community has an important role to play to ensure that the Kenyan stand-off ends by not emboldening or incentivising the one who started the dispute and ensures its endurance. This can be done by undertaking the following steps.
Conditions for talks
First, those in the international community who wish to play a role in dispute resolution should make an unequivocal statement that it recognizes the electoral and constitutional process, which has led to a clear and undisputed winner in the presidential elections. Uhuru Kenyatta is the undisputed president of Kenya, elected with a clear mandate by the people.
Second, they should only allow Raila to participate in talks when he officially renounces his claims to the presidency and accepts the will of the people. Third, that no talks or negotiations will discuss the possibility of Raila being involved in a presidential power-sharing agreement. This option should not be on the table. President Kenyatta legally and legitimately wields executive power and this should not be compromised
Fourth, that Raila commits himself to a path of non-violence and unequivocally condemns anyone who commits any act of violence or disobedience in his name. Once these conditions are met, then talks can start with oversight from members of the international community, but not before.
If the international community wants to be seen as an honest and legitimate negotiator then this is the way to end the dispute and help Kenya move on beyond the hostage-like situation NASA has created. If not, then unfortunately the situation will only deteriorate, and with it the chances of a peaceful solution.
From afar it may seem like there are two sides to this story, but there simply isn’t. It is difficult, if not impossible, to equate the actions of main protagonists in the electoral contest. One has followed the democratic and constitutional norm, while the other hasn’t. It is as simple as that, and the international community should act accordingly.
Ms Lesuuda is Samburu West MP