There's no question about it: The devastating unrest in Kenya following the elections is a harsh setback for democracy in Kenya and for the African continent as a whole.
Though it is located in a politically sensitive region, Kenya has been considered a model of economic progress and reform and has been an important and abiding ally of the US in the war on terror.
The international community doesn't want to lose an ally and model country. Maybe that's why the US hastily applauded Kenya for holding free elections. The US, however, has since revoked its congratulations and joined the UN and EU in demanding a peaceful solution to the conflict.
The majority of Kenya's neighbors, on the other hand, have remained strangely silent -- the African Union won't mediate after all and Uganda's long-time ruler Yoveri Museveni has even congratulated the disputed winner Mwai Kibaki. Both cases are fatal reminders of the powerlessness of the African nations, which haven't stood up to Zimbabwe's despot Robert Mugabe either.
Independent probe needed
The international community is nevertheless right to demand a public and independent re-evaluation of the election results. This should happen with the involvement of the African Union as soon as possible. We can only hope that the visit by the chairman of the African Union, Ghanaian President John Kufuor, won't be postponed for too long.
The international community has to make it clear to Kibaki that he cannot legally govern the country after a manipulated election.
Some politicians have called for mediation from China -- which, like Europe, sees Africa as a deliverer of natural resources -- but this is beside the point.
There is significant concern that the unrest will spread to other eastern African nations that rely on Kenya as a coastal transit country. Many neighboring countries are dependent on Kenya, the most industrialized in the region, for essential imports like vegetable oil, salt and flour. Landlocked countries in eastern Africa like Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and East Congo also get their gasoline via Kenya.
Supplies have already become scarce.
A dead-end situation
Kibaki has gotten himself into a dead-end situation and has irreversibly lost his credibility. The schisms between the many ethnic groups in Kenya have to be bridged as soon as possible so that the country doesn't sink into chaos.
The international community should turn up the pressure on Kibaki to force him into having the election results publicly and independently re-evaluated and holding new elections if necessary.
Nor evertything, however, is bleak these days. The results of the parliamentary elections, held parallel to the presidential election, give hope for Kenya's further development. Using democratic means, the Kenyans showed the old guard of politicians that they'd had enough of their power abuse, cronyism and corruption by voting them out.
Andrea Schmidt directs DW-RADIO's Kiswahili program. (kjb)