Yesterday I said that Kenya had been very quiet on the issue of Zimbabwe's elections, especially in light of the fact that they so recently experienced their own troubled and bloody election. Today I stand corrected as I hear that Prime Minister Raila Odinga (increasingly the international spokesperson for Kenya, in place of Kibaki), has spoken out to lend Kenya's support to the African Union in any decision they make following an appeal by Morgan Tsvangirai to postpone Friday's run off election and for international help in the crisis. Raila suggested that the AU go in to negotiate and even went so far as to suggest that the AU send a peace keeping force of troops to Zimbabwe.
Following Mr Tsvangirai's appeals for foreign help to end the crisis, Nelson Mandela spoke of the 'tragic failure' of Mugabe's leadership at his 90th birthday lunch yesterday; the Queen is said to be stripping Mugabe of his knighthood (a little overdue perhaps?!? I wonder if he will be much bothered about that). The US say that if Friday's election goes ahead, it will not recognise Mugabe as re elected leader, as the voting process will not have been free and fair. Leader who are members of SADC (Southern African Development Community) have called for the run-off to be postponed.
Mugabe said that Friday's vote will go ahead, then afterwards he will consider negotiation. Tsvangirai said poignantly that if the vote goes ahead and Mugabe inevitably declares himself re elected leader, then there will be no negotiation, stating; 'I will not talk to an illegitimate President.'
These words must sound all too scarily familiar to Kenyans. It seems that the next 48 hours will be critical for Zimbabwe, as international condemnation finally gains momentum, after a somewhat appalling delay. I wonder, will other African countries be able to pull themselves together in time to make a difference for Zimbabwe?
Following Kenya's December 2007 election, we learned that each day and even each hour became crucial as events took over. Also, ultimately it was international intervention that won the day, Desmond Tutu's arrival diffused tension on the first day of mass action, the AU chairman John Kufour flew over for a few days and hope was restored by the extended visit of former UN head and unofficial saint, Kofi Annan who led peace negotiations over rocky weeks.
In spite of all this effort, the situation reached stalemate until a pivotal point when Condi Rice arrived from the States and held face to face meetings with Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki, going above the heads of the 'dialogue team for truth and reconciliation'. We will probably never know the details of their discussion (there has been lots of speculation!), but whatever she did (and I wish I had been a fly on the wall!), she pulled it off and her arrival signalled a return to peace for Kenya after weeks of volatile negotiation, more bloodshed and a frustrating lack of progress on a solution to the crisis. Miraculously, after weeks of sticking firmly to their guns, Odinga and Kibaki agreed to a Coalition Government and power sharing. I know that the situation is very different in Zimbabwe, but I perhaps naively keep my fingers crossed that there is a small chance for a form of democracy to win out, especially if other countries do their damnedest to get involved.