European Press Review: Frustration in Kenya Is Understandable | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 02.01.2008
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European Press Review: Frustration in Kenya Is Understandable

European papers commented on the unrest in Kenya following the announcement that President Mwai Kibaki had won re-election. Some called for sanctions; others noted the feeling of betrayal among the people.

A man running across the road holding a looted gas cylinder from a shop in Mombasa, Kenya, with fire in background

Hundreds of people have been killed in clashes since Sunday's election announcement

Britain's Financial Times took a hard stance toward the announced victory of Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki. "Kibaki must know that his government is illegitimate. If he refuses to accept that, then Western powers should halt aid programs and instead, use the money for emergency aid and provide it as well to the African Union for it to use for a firm intervention. Visas should be denied not only to corrupt civil servants, but also to Kibaki and his entire government team. If Odinga and his circle are caught stoking violence, then the same sanctions must also be applied to them. Whatever occurs, the outside world must prepare for the worst and, at the same time, fervently pray that both sides will come to their senses."

Local residents in front of a church, where 46 people were trapped and killed by unknown attackers on Tuesday

Locals in front of a church where 46 people were trapped and killed Tuesday

Spain's El Pais wrote: "Seldom is something so obtuse and so lucid at the same time. The presidential election in Kenya -- one of Africa's richest and most stable countries -- has set the nation aflame. Hundreds of people have been killed in the clashes between President Kibaki's supporters and those of opposition candidate Raila Odinga. All of the independent sources and reports, including those of a European Union observer mission led by Germany's Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, say very clearly: State powers pulled the necessary votes out of a hat to prevent a victory for Odinga. Kenya has never really been home to a democracy."

Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung commented on how the international community is dealing with the situation. "As many rulers there have learned, in Africa it doesn't matter how election results come about; the primary thing is that they are recognized internationally…That the United States has now -- due to the violent protests in Kenya -- back-pedaled and, along with Great Britain, is demanding an independent investigation into the vote-counting may be embarrassing for President George W. Bush's administration, but it is not yet threatening to Kibaki."

Slum dwellers run waving a flag with peace written on it next to a burning house in a Nairobi slum

Violence also broke out in Nairobi's slums

"But, what is perfectly clear is that the situation is so explosive that the country is now faced with its most crucial test since its independence. Every Western country that seriously believes in democracy for Africa is required to do everything it can to help deescalate the situation. Part of that is creating powerful scare tactics both for Kibaki as well as for Odinga. Any country, however, which recognizes the results of this election is contributing to the escalation," the paper said.

The German daily tageszeitung (taz) examined the context behind the violence in Kenya. "When Kenyans voted for Mwai Kibaki five years ago, he promised to put an end to corruption and the state's arbitrary ways and was celebrated like a pop star as a result. Nowadays, he can't even venture out on the street without fearing for his life… So, one can't really hold it against the Kenyans that they feel betrayed… They wanted to vote him out of office, but were not allowed to do so. Frustration can particularly be felt among young unemployed people, whose last shimmer of hope has been stripped away. While one may not agree with their actions, they're understandable in such a context."

EU election observer head Graf Lambsdorff noted extreme discrepencies in vote-counting

EU election observer head Graf Lambsdorff noted "extreme discrepencies" in vote-counting

Vienna's Der Standard commented that Kibaki, through presumed vote-rigging, wanted to prevent a switch of power to the younger generation. "Kibaki, who during his first election presented himself as a champion of democracy, has dispelled his own powers of enchantment. And he has shown more loyalty to his friends in the so-called 'Mount Kenya mafia' than to his citizens. Kibaki, also a former finance minister and vice president, has been in politics for ages. Now he is trying to prevent the dissolution of his generation, which has anchored itself in the administration and economy since independence in 1963 and unscrupulously enriched itself. But Kenyans wanted the exact opposite, as shown in all the opinion polls before the election. The open criticism of Kibaki testifies to a new confidence in a country which is enjoying five-percent economic growth and a truly free press."

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