One of the lighter moments in news coverage was the grazing of the back of CNN Zian Vergee by a tear-gas cannisters ( who a friend of mine has had a crush on for years). Vergee gets to report on her on ordeal in the personality driven media. The scenes did not look to serious but the renewed clashes killed two as the violence which has killed at least 600 continues. The protests may be one way of “pressuring” Kibaki’s otherwise illegitimate government but there are some risks at this. Strategically, the protests cannot be non-violent and sooner or later without any political settlement become increasingly as a law and order problem. Many of the protesters are also looters and not a mass movement of Raila Odinga’s supporters are organised groups of teachers, medical workers or industrial workers. Word is that Odinga for long as been advised by veterans of the color revolutions in Europe ( Ukraine is mentioned).
Vergee on the verge of being a journalist on Kenya’s rowdy streets http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2008/01/16/lklv.verjee.kenya.shot.cnn
The violence and looting will only tip the hat in favor of Kibaki- giving him an opportunity to step in as a protector of individual and property rights. The real victories that ODM can win is through organised and peaceful protests countrywide by teachers and doctors but its strength will be defined by its ability to win on the real issues underlying the violence and its ethnic manifestation.
This includes the marginalization felt by other tribes against the Kikuyu hegemonic hold on power and business. ODM can do this in Parliament by setting an aggressive legislative agenda to address this problems and campaigning for public support for fresh programs including the use of budgetary tools to put money in areas that can spread opportunities to more Kenyans. In doing this ODM will need to remain united but also woo MP’s from other parties including Kibaki’s PNU.
Indeed one of the mistakes that international mediators made was firstly to attempt reconciliation instead of simply rejecting the election result as flawed and immediately investing in Parliament and its capacity to address some of these problems. Indeed the Kenyan democratic quagmire is set to be about Presidential versus Parliamentary power.
With adequate support- Kenya’s elected representatives can help deal with the cleavages in the country, restore hope in government and counterbalance the discredited Executive. The House is additionally less polarising than the Odinga Versus Kibaki contest which is now clothed in ethnic colors. Kibaki will find it more difficult to be a Kenyan as opposed to Kikuyu president while Raila is wounded by his personal loss in the election- making it a mere power contest.
The international community ( that term again) aught to rush to support Kenya’s Parliament, as should Kenyan civil society and media. While seen as a selfish cabal, this is a historic opportunity for the House to redeem itself and set an example for similarly weak legislatures in the Great Lakes.