It has been difficult to give an update on the political situation over the past couple of days because talks between Government and the Opposition are still ongoing under the ever heroic mediation of Kofi Annan.
I wonder how many times the former UN Chief has asked himself:
‘What on earth am I doing here in Kenya?This conflict is really not my problem; I just want to go home.’
He must have been extremely disappointed when the Government rejected Cyril Ramaphosa as an additional mediator in the Kenyan post election crisis.The PNU accused Ramaphosa as being some sort of an associate of Raila Odinga, head of the opposition, so therefore not impartial.The South African government are infuriated by the rejection by Kenya of one of their most experienced statesmen, who has played key roles in negotiations during the South African democratic process as well as the Irish peace process.
Yesterday post election talks were described as ‘hot’ by Annan, as both sides came head to head to begin to tackle the question of the flawed election itself.Each team brought to the table evidence of ballot rigging by their opponents in various areas of the country.Funny that they both accuse one another of the same crime and have hard evidence to back it up.
Meanwhile, the most telling news since the crisis came from a meeting of business leaders yesterday, who clarified and quantified economic losses since the election.Since 2003 Kenya has enjoyed a booming economy, but this month400,000 Kenyans stand to lose their jobs.Tourism has been the industry hardest hit, this is illustrated by the fact that at this time of year there are generally 39,000 tourists enjoying holidays along the Kenyan coast, yet at the moment there are a paltry 1,900 tourists staying there.Over 750 trucks have been burned in post election violence and more than 300 buses destroyed.Road freight across the country has been brought to a standstill thanks to insecurity on the roads (however, security task forces have been posted along main arterial roads to prevent illegal road blocks from being set up by thugs).1,000 people have been killed in post election violence and 300,000 Kenyans are displaced many of whom are reluctant to ever return home.Production in the manufacturing industry has dropped by between 40 and 50 percent since the election.Steve Smith, CEO of Eveready Batteries warned that if the situation is not resolved very soon, the situation is set to worsen and businesses will relocate out of Kenya, which up until now has enjoyed a reputation as a viable environment for trade and production.The projected seven percent economic growth rate anticipated for 2008 is now deemed unrealistic.
It’s all still in the balance, pending the outcome of talks between the Government and Opposition but we doggedly continue to believe that common sense will triumph and a solution will be found.My everyday routine seems normal for now, I am even tempted to stop reading the local newspapers as the whole ordeal has been so emotionally exhausting.
I spent a cheery morning with South Africa friends at a toddler’s birthday party who are very blasé about the situation here:
‘Oh, we have seen it all before, it’s been much worse in South Africa after elections there.At least we are not the target here!A mother and her three month old baby will be murdered inside their home for the sake of a DVD player in South Africa, and it won’t even make the news.People are shot for absolutely nothing down there, it’s horrendous.’