Monday, December 31, 2007

Is Kenya Regressing to the Moi Era?

It seems last week's Kenya's elections have gone the way of Ethiopia's botched 2005 elections. The Economist has this to say about the election:
THE electoral commission of Kenya declared a winner in the country's bitterly fought presidential election on Sunday December 30th: the sitting president, Mwai Kibaki, was returned to power. The voting three days earlier had been impressively orderly and peaceful, raising hopes of a brighter future for Kenyan democracy. But the tallying process was a much darker story, with heavy suspicion of vote rigging and subsequent fears that serious violence could strike the country.

No one disputes that the opposition Orange Democratic Movement swept aside government parties in the parliamentary vote. Most of the ministers in the cabinet of Mr Kibaki lost their seats to Oranges, including the vice-president, foreign minister, and defence minister, and a number of previously unassailable and wealthy MPs.

And yet the same disgruntled voters apparently gave 76-year-old Mr Kibaki strong support in the presidential vote. The final tally, according to the electoral commission, handed Mr Kibaki 4.58m voters to 4.35m for the firebrand opposition candidate, Raila Odinga. Mr Odinga's supporters had earlier stated that he had won, suggesting a lead of some 500,000 votes. He claimed that the electoral commission was “being forced to declare wrong results” and called on its leaders to resign rather than plunge the country into chaos. The consequence of failing to recognise a “fair result”, he threatened, could be civil war.

Polls had indicated that the presidential election was going to be close. It was the manner in which Mr Kibaki crept up on Mr Odinga's solid lead that raised suspicions. Why, for instance, were votes from the president's loyal Kikuyu highlands of central Kenya held back to the end of the counting? Why had so many returning officers there gone missing, along with their results? Mr Kibaki, himself a Kikuyu, was expected to have overwhelming support from his kinsmen, but 98% looked excessive.
Sound familiar?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

A thought before the new year…

By Ephrem Madebo

I read a wonderful article written by Dr. Messay Kebede (A plea for honest dialogue). As he always does, Dr. Messay tried to go deep in to the current crisis of Kinjit, and pointed his gun at those whom he thought are pouring gasoline on a fire hard to douse. In his article, Dr. Messay made a call for an honest dialogue.

I can buy Dr. Mesay's call for honest dialogue between the two factions of Kinjit. However, unlike Dr. Mesay, I will blame the Kinjit leadership (leaders of the two factions) for being too vague on the true cause of the split. We have heard a lot of highly worded verbal exchanges between the two groups, but neither the Kinjit leadership that toured North America, nor the other faction lead by Engineer Hailu had the courage to tell us the real cause of the split. Well, as Dr. Mesay and others have indicated, power struggle can be the cause of the split, and it shouldn’t surprise us. The real question is --Is this a personal power struggle between two persons, or ideological power struggle between two groups? In my opinion, the real cause of the split is the latter. There is a clear power struggle between those elements who believe in collective decision making and those who like the individual decision making process. One shouldn’t be a political analyst to sense the nature of the power struggle within Kinjit. As to me, not only the Diaspora, but all Ethiopians (even opponents of Kinjit) should by now be aware of this four months old problem and support what must be supported. Remember, one can support a process without being politically charged. In the current crisis of Kinjit; all we need to see is the process that the party is trying to build and the people behind such an effort. Those who stand for group decision making process need to be supported. Should our effort be to use the current split in the party as a learning process to reach to the next level, or to put together the two warring factions? Well, our effort must be a mix of the two, if there is a complete change of heart within the factions. Yes, in this case we should push the two groups for dialogue, but we shouldn’t try to put together two diametrically opposed ideology backers in the same party. What do U think?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Obama for Change

Earlier this year I opined about the wrong-headed approach the Bush administration has taken on the war against terrorism, particularly as it is being implemented in the Horn of Africa, and the need for the US to change its policy. By making its alliance with the tyrannical regime of Ethiopia the center piece of its policy of the war on terror in the Horn of Africa, the Bush administration has undermined America's long-term security interests in the region, and the administration's support for Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia and the calamity the Ethiopian occupation has caused is a prime example of the failure of the current US policy and a very good reason why it needs to change.

A change of administration in the White House will not guarantee a change of policy. However, the probability of a change from the simplistic policy of the Bush administration to a more holistic one is greater if a Democrat wins the 2008 presidential election, and it will be much greater if the Democrats nominate Barack Obama to represent them in the general election. Why Obama? Well, simply because he is the only major presidential candidate from both parties who is an agent of change and has the credibility to enact a change of policy if elected. Please read this compelling article about Obama by Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic Monthly and find out for yourself why Obama is an agent of change.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Time to Engage with American Foreign Policy Makers

By Fikru Helebo

There was an interesting article earlier this week on the Washington Post which quoted an unnamed Pentagon official who characterized the policy pursued by US Department of State towards Somalia as a
It was dispatched by a correspondent who was traveling with the US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, on his visit to Djibouti and the Middle East. What made the article interesting was that it leveled a categorical criticism of US policy and it was made just a day before a visit to Ethiopia by Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State. The unnamed Pentagon official not only criticized the State Department's policy but also went on to suggest an alternative policy that will shift US support from the Mogadishu based Transitional Federal Government of Somalia to the Hargesa based Republic of Somaliland by giving recognition to the former British colony of Somaliland.

There is nothing new about a
tug of war between the Pentagon and the State Department in setting US foreign policy. In fact, a struggle between the two Departments has been a defining feature of American foreign policy making since the end of World War II, but disagreements between the two Departments are rarely aired in public. This public criticism of the official policy of the State Department on a high profile issue such as this one by the Pentagon indicates to me that there is a serious split among American foreign policy makers on what US policy should be towards Somalia in particular and the volatile Horn of Africa region in general and a change of policy may not be that far off.

Although the suggested alternative solution in the article does not address the fundamental problem with Somali politics, which is clanism, I think t
his recognition of the US policy towards Somalia as being a failed policy should be welcomed by all who have a stake in American foreign policy towards the Horn of Africa region. Even if H.R. 2003 gets through the US Senate, it is not realistic to expect any changes in American foreign towards the Horn of Africa region before 2009, since 2008 is an election year, a year that will be overshadowed by the US Presidential election, and since the lame duck Bush Administration has unwisely invested too much of its political capital on the dictatorial Ethiopian regime and it has very little incentive to change its policy with only 13 months left in the White House.

The good news is that 2009 is not that far away and I believe there will be a change in American foreign policy towards the Horn of Africa region within the next two years regardless of which party takes the White House in the 2008 election. So, now is the time for those of us who want the US to adopt a policy that serves both American
long-term security interests as well as the interests of the citizens of the Horn of Africa nations to double our efforts in lobbying US government officials and influential Americans to effect the right kind of changes in American foreign policy towards the Horn of Africa. H.R. 2003 is certainly a tool that can be used towards this objective, but it should not be seen as an end in itself.