Expected Council Action
Members will follow developments in Kenya closely, but whether this will translate into Council action is unclear. Consultations seem likely if the situation deteriorates further or there is significant progress with political talks.
At press time, it was uncertain whether the Council’s request for Secretariat reporting on Kenya in the 6 February presidential statement would result in a report or an oral briefing, and when this would occur.
Kenya plunged into a political, security and humanitarian crisis following the 27 December elections. An estimated 600,000 people were displaced in weeks as numerous reports of abuses against civilians emerged, including arbitrary killings, rape and arson.
Politically motivated violence quickly evolved into ethnic bloodshed—often with suspicions of orchestration—and laid bare conflicts over wealth and land.
Although the violence seems to have decreased somewhat, tensions persist as political leaders negotiate a power-sharing agreement. There are strong concerns that the situation may turn volatile again if meaningful progress is not made soon.
On 27 December, presidential, parliamentary and local elections were held, with strong competition between the Party of National Unity (PNU) of President Mwai Kibaki and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) of opposition leader and presidential contestant Raila Odinga.
As the tense vote-tallying proceeded, partial results indicated a lead by Odinga that was later reversed. This attracted strong complaints by the opposition of vote-rigging and corruption to benefit Kibaki and the PNU.
The electoral commission announced Kibaki as the winner on 30 December, while the ODM obtained the majority in the parliament.
Demonstrations and violence ensued, reportedly from supporters of both sides targeting civilians from Kibaki’s ethnic Kikuyu community as well as Odinga’s Luo followers. Instability has been concentrated in central, western and coastal Kenya. On 1 January, thirty people were burned alive while sheltering inside a church.
EU observers questioned the credibility of electoral results, citing lack of access to some counting centres in the Central Province as well as evidence of irregularities. Strong international criticism also emerged from the UK, France and the EU.
In early January, a mediation initiative by the then AU Chairman, Ghanaian President John Kufuor, was launched with support from the US, the UK, the EU and the AU.
Odinga’s ODM strongly supported the Kufuor mediation but continued to call for new elections. After some resistance, Kibaki’s PNU acquiesced to international mediation while insisting the election results were valid. It said the ODM should challenge results in Kenyan courts, which the opposition has dismissed as biased.
On 8 January, Kufuor arrived in Kenya, but settlement prospects were diminished by the concurrent nomination of Kibaki supporters for key cabinet posts.
On 10 January, talks broke down. The opposition complained that the PNU had backed off an agreement engendering the possibility of a re-run and an interim government, reportedly because of pressure from some in the PNU. The parties then agreed to mediation by an AU-backed panel of African eminent persons led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
As the violence worsened, international pressure for a negotiated solution increased, including from the AU Peace and Security Council, the US, the EU, and the UK, as well as the Secretary-General during talks at the margins of the AU Summit in late January and in a subsequent visit to Nairobi.
The Security Council was briefed by Under Secretary-General B. Lynn Pascoe on 30 January. He presented an overview of the political, security and humanitarian situation, noting that the Secretariat had been providing support to the mediation team. He also noted difficulties in getting the parties to publicly renounce violence, and concerns with the need for investigations into human rights abuses in Kenya.
After a Belgian proposal, Council members agreed on an oral press statement calling “on Kenya’s leaders to do all that is in their power to bring the violence to an end and to restore calm.”
In a letter dated 29 January, Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula asked to brief the Council. Members appeared divided on the issue. Some saw a need to hear a counterview. Others were uncomfortable with denying a request from a government. At press time, it was unclear if and when the briefing would occur.
Similar concerns emerged during the recent AU Summit. Kibaki’s presence appears to have elicited divisions among AU members, with some apparently supporting him and others strongly concerned with the electoral problems and the ensuing violence.
The AU Assembly then adopted a decision calling for an investigation into human rights violations and urged the parties to commit to a peaceful solution in conformity with rule of law. However, the decision did not mention the conduct of the elections, stressing instead the need for a “collective reflection” on the challenges linked to the tension and disputes that “often characterise electoral processes in Africa.”
The Council adopted a presidential statement on 6 February under agenda item “Peace and Security in Africa” which:
emphasised the need for dialogue, compromise and action to end violence;
recalled the need to avoid impunity;
welcomed the decisions by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide to dispatch missions to Kenya; and
requested the Secretary-General to report on UN support to the mediation and the regional impact of the Kenyan crisis, including on UN operations.
Members did not agree on a proposal to mention the need to address complaints about the presidential election.
Difficult negotiations mediated by the Annan-led panel started in late January. After delays, the parties agreed on a four-point negotiating agenda including an end to the violence, the humanitarian situation, the political crisis, and land and historical injustices (on which agreement is expected only within a year).
The talks have mostly focused on an agreement to end the political crisis. The opposition has apparently accepted power-sharing in lieu of a rerun of the elections, provided a new post of prime minister is created. This would require constitutional changes that some PNU members had resisted.
The parties seem agreed on a power-sharing arrangement, as well as on an independent panel to review the elections (but whose mandate seemingly does not include a final determination of election results).
At press time, talks had stalled on the new prime minister’s powers, cabinet positions and new elections if the coalition government collapses.
On 25 February, Under Secretary-General John Holmes briefed the Council on the humanitarian situation in Kenya and regional implications. Members expressed concern about the humanitarian, reconciliation and socio-economic aspects and the importance of returns, justice and protection of human rights.
requesting interim briefings from the Secretariat on political reconciliation and the humanitarian situation;
inviting the AU, concerned member states and the mediation team to discussions in informal consultations, or perhaps through the Council’s Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention in Africa;
inviting the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide to brief the Council on the results of their fact-finding missions; and
holding an open debate, should the situation deteriorate, and adopting a statement, perhaps in conjunction with the AU Peace and Security Council.
the continuing potential for violence, including fragmentation within the parties;
the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Kenya;
the wider regional effects of the Kenyan crisis, including supply lines for peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan;
questions of justice and accountability for the violence; and
maintaining Council involvement while preserving the AU’s leadership and initiative on the political talks.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The Council is unanimous in acknowledging the gravity of the situation in Kenya and its regional implications and supports the mediation efforts under Kofi Annan. There is also support for ensuring justice and accountability for the violence.
Some members have been critical of the conduct of the election and are concerned that an electoral precedent in Kenya could have an impact elsewhere. Most, however, seem to prefer a more cautious approach and focus on political reconciliation.
African members seem focused on ensuring that Council action is coordinated with the AU and preserves its leadership of the negotiating process.
The wave of violence has severely hurt Kenya’s economy, in particular its important tourism industry, which has ground almost to a standstill. The economic impact of the crisis has a potential for destabilising the country further, and in turn may affect stability in the region.
Selected Presidential Statement
Panel of Eminent African Personalities
Kofi Annan (Ghana)
Kenya in Crisis, International Crisis Group, Africa Report no. 137, 21 February 2008