Different kinds of Oranges – By Yilma Bekele

March 2nd, 2008 Print Print Email Email

The news coming out of Kenya is heartwarming. Kenya is celebrating its second independence. It is another evolution in the process of Nation Building. The failed election of December 2007 was the catalyst to the need for change. The post independence period is entering a higher level or maturity. The existing system was failing to accommodate the aspirations of the population. Our Kenyan neighbors were faced with the same dilemma our country faced during our general election in May of 2005. (more…)

The news coming out of Kenya is heartwarming. Kenya is celebrating its second independence. It is another evolution in the process of Nation Building. The failed election of December 2007 was the catalyst to the need for change. The post independence period is entering a higher level or maturity. The existing system was failing to accommodate the aspirations of the population. Our Kenyan neighbors were faced with the same dilemma our country faced during our general election in May of 2005. ODM under Raila Odinga, relying on the strength of the Kenyan people and the Diplomacy of Kofi Annan and eminent African Leaders was able to craft an agreement with Mr. Kibaki and deliver the hopes of a bright future to his people. The two Leaders have planted the seeds of power sharing, compromise, rule of law and accountability.

In any construction endeavor, the foundation is what determines the strength of the structure. A house must sit on a solid footing to survive earthquake, flood, hurricane and other calamities; a car, a plane or a ship design includes a sturdy frame to withstand collusion and accident. Our body is several interconnected bones forming our skeletal system. A government should be built on a solid foundation of Democracy, Rule of law and checks and balances to withstand the many conflicting demands of society.

Signing an agreement is positive. The Kenyan people must feel a sigh of relief not to count Mr. Obama who doesn’t need to worry about civil war and ethnic conflict in the land of his father and grandfather. We thank the two leaders for looking at the big picture. Now comes the hard part of abiding by the agreement. Accommodation is not easy. It is a process that requires good will and trust.

They still have to choose the road they want to travel. The path to follow so to speak.

There are lots of questions to be answered. The recent conflict, which engulfed the whole country, is a wake up call. It has brought up so many questions which were simmering under the guise of a stable democratic Kenya. Thus we wait to see how they resolve all this anger which was vented for two moths.

It is not really rocket science. It is a matter of copying certain generally accepted principles and rules and applying it to a defined geographic area. This is assuming the people in the vicinity have agreed to cohabit as one. It wouldn’t work without this. It is the core. How is the devil in this equation? This is what Seniors Kibaki and Raila have to determine. On the other hand what makes it easy is that the road have already been charted. There is no need to invent a new and improved philosophy, nor economic system. Others have gone this way, and experimented with what works and what doesn’t. Those countries that are classified as the developed world have left us a trail of success and failure. They have paid the price for being our guinea pig. We just learn from their experience and adapt to suit our situation. Some like democracy, respect for human rights, one-person one vote is universal value and it cannot be tampered with while others like monarchy or republic, voting cycle, number of representatives and the role of religion is tailor made for particular situations.

They can follow the South African path. It was the path of mutual self-preservation. What took place was not forgotten. What happened was not condoned. The solution was to build a new future on a solid ground of democracy and the rule of law. Racal divide (Apartheid) and so-called sovereign Home Lands (Bantustans) were replaced by equality and one nation. It has worked admirably since 1993. A solid foundation was laid. The rule of law was supreme in the new South Africa. Everything else follows.

Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga are faced with a difficult question. Should Kenya be one or be divided into sovereign Nations? The aftermath of the election showed signs of inter ethnic animosity. How to view this problem and devise a solution is a one of the key questions. Formation of Kikuyu Nation, Luhia Nation, Luo Nation, Kalenjin Nation and assortments of Nation and Nationalities is one road. Displacing people from their homes and moving them to their ancestors land to build an ethnically pure homeland is another avenue. Encouraging the formation of Political Party based on Ethnic identification is an option. Land is another thorny issue. The British during the era of British East Africa just proclaimed all land belongs to them and took it. After independence land has been privatized. The recent conflict has displaced citizens from all major ethnic groups. Should the government declare all land belongs to the State and rest this issue once and for all? Should the State control all media including telecommunications, radio and TV and Internet?

All these choices are the result of another chapter in the brief history of ‘Orange Revolution or Movement’ that has been waged in the last few years. The leader of the “orange’ phenomena is the ‘Ukrainian Orange Revolution’ of 2004. During the run-off vote of the presidential election the regime used voter intimidation and fraud to change the outcome. This resulted in a nation wide movement of protests and peaceful civil disobedience. General strikes and sit-ins were organized by the opposition to effective end. The Supreme Court annulled the results and ordered a revote. The court system was strong enough to assert the sovereign right of the people and the authorities were gracious enough to accept the rule of law. The Ukrainian Orange Revolution came to a successful and positive end. The Ukrainian people won.

The Ukrainian movement was an inspiration to the opposition parties during the May 2005 general election in Ethiopia. Kinijit, Oromo Democratic Movement and Hebret all accepted the principle of ‘peaceful’ struggle and change by democratic means. As witnessed by election observers of the European Union, Carter Center and independent local monitors the aftermath of the election was marred by fraud and ballot stuffing. The opposition refused to accept the ‘declared’ outcome and called for peaceful protest and civil disobedience. Unfortunately the authorities replied with a massive show of force and the result was state sponsored killings of hundreds of unarmed citizens, the imprisonment of tens of thousands of alleged opposition members and untold migrations of the young and educated out of the country. This attempted ‘orange revolution’ was nipped at its bud. It was not a pleasant time to be an Ethiopian.

The Kenyans have fared well. The first part of their struggle has come to a successful end. The second part is just beginning. Their neighbors north and south east and west all look eagerly and hope and pray for a positive outcome. A stable, democratic Kenya will be a useful ally in our struggle for freedom. It will be an inspiration to Africans in how to resolve conflict and accept the principle of compromise. Mr. Kibaki has shown what a great leader he is by putting the interest of Kenya ahead of all other considerations. His election in 2002 was a turning point in Kenya’s history. It was a peaceful transition from KANU, the ruling party since independence from Britain to Mr. Kibaki’s party. It is a rare event in Africa. The people credit him with bringing in needed reforms to the system, which enabled the opposition to organize and assume the duties entrusted to them. It takes a great leader to listen and do what is right. Kenyans will remember him for the greater good he did when the future of his country fell on his shoulders. Mr. Raila Odinga is a hero to his people for being steadfast in his resolution to assert the will of the people. He is a generous winner. He was wise enough to compromise and accept the promise of a better tomorrow.

President Museveni of Uganda addressing the East African legislative assembly said “ In the pre-colonial Uganda there was a joke about one of the clans whose members built a hut but did not leave space for the doorway only to discover the mistake when the house was complete. The recent problems in Kenya, tragic as they were, nevertheless, illustrated the point of short sighted political architecture.” He was telling Kenyans and all those who listen a way out should be part of a smart design. The Kenyans were wise enough to pay attention. As Ethiopia’s own Tamagne said ‘mechahcal yechalal’. We Ethiopians are paying attention. We are politely reminding those in power what goes up will come down, it is the law of physics. We just hope for a soft landing.

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