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Last Updated: 03/04/2008
Kenya: The journey is far from over
Wangari Maathai

President Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga have signed a power-sharing agreement, thereby taking an important step toward political stability and peace in the region. As Wangari Maathai points out, however, many issues of justice and reconciliation remain to be addressed, including the human cost of recent violence and the underlying causes of its outbreak in the first place.

The pact between president Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga on power-sharing was as welcome as it was a relief.

Any more death or destruction would only have worsened the already degenerating political and humanitarian crisis. Already, about 1,500 people have died in the post-election violence and over half a million have been displaced.

There are still hundreds who were maimed and may still be recovering in hospitals around the country. Some of these include women and children who were raped and violated.

Rumours circulating suggest that factions supporting each side of the political divide were re-arming for revenge killings had the talks failed. 

The breakthrough, therefore, came not a moment too soon. But as Mr Kofi Annan himself said, “the journey is far from over”.

Kenya, Africa and indeed, the world, owes a debt of gratitude to the African Union’s mediating team led by Mr Annan, Madam Graca Machel, and former President Benjamin Mkapa, as well as the many friends of Kenya who were relentless in their pursuit of a political settlement.

They have all demonstrated exemplary commitment, patience and persistence. In so doing they have prevented the country from descending into horrors such as have been witnessed in many countries within Africa.

It is now the collective responsibility of all sectors of society, including religious leaders, the private sector, politicians, civil society and, indeed, every Kenyan, to ensure that this process continues, is nurtured and protected by all who believe in the common good rather than in personal gain.

If we allow self-seekers to derail this process, we will have only ourselves to blame. We must not be derailed and we must not trivialise the challenge and responsibility before us. Now the work begins and we must all remain engaged.

We must focus, not only on operationalising the immediate political settlement, but also the other instruments that will help us address the long-standing, underlying causes of the crisis.

Foremost among these are issues around land ownership and distribution, and the settlement of the displaced.

It is extremely important that the Government discourages the forced movement of all those that have been displaced in a manner that could balkanise the country along ethnic lines.

All displaced persons must be resettled in an environment that is secure, even if it means providing them with a non-partisan “Peace Force”, created from the Police, the Army or any other branch of the Armed Forces.

Security is paramount to giving those returning to their homes confidence and reducing their fear. With adequate security, it should be possible to provide temporary shelter to the refugees as they await resettlement. 

This type of resettlement would facilitate the closing down of the huge refugee camps which are dehumanising and difficult to manage. 

This process is also likely to hasten the reduction of trauma and to enhance healing and reconciliation. 

There have been other suggestions such as a commission on Truth and Reconciliation, brought forward to deal with the slow process of healing. 

Too many Kenyans have lost homes and loved ones — not only in the latest violence, but also in unresolved conflicts of years past. Their grief and anger needs to be dealt with, once and for all, through a process of justice and healing. Only then can there be reconciliation and a lasting peaceful resolution.

Prof Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace laureate, is the author of Unbowed: A Memoir.