Kofi Annan warns Kenya over future poll violence

In parting remarks made after a three-day visit to Kenya late on Wednesday, former UN chief Kofi Annan warned that the country risks returning to ethnic clashes if reforms are not implemented.

Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan

“My conversations with Kenyans during the last three days have underscored that there is a crisis of confidence in Kenya’s political leadership,” Annan said. “Only Kenya’s politicians can solve that crisis. I urge them to listen to the voices of Kenyans.”

Annan said that he had noted some progress on the reform agenda but warned that time was running out.

Politically-fueled ethnic tensions flared up in early 2008 following a disputed presidential election, plunging Kenya into weeks of deadly turmoil.

Flown in to mediate the crisis, Annan led the two sides to a power-sharing agreement that made incumbent candidate Mwai Kibaki president and his rival, Raila Odinga, prime minister. The deal brought an end to the clashes, but has resulted in a bloated coalition government unchallenged by a real political opposition.

As part of the agreement between the two principle rivals, the new government agreed to undergo a far-reaching reform agenda to prevent the tensions from boiling over in the next election. Critics claim that the government has not followed through on its commitments, an accusation the government strongly denies.

“Kenya is already at – or past – the halfway mark between the formation of the Coalition Government and the next electoral cycle. Kenya cannot afford a recurrence of the crisis and violence that engulfed it after the 2007 election. But that is a serious risk if tangible reform is not achieved,” Annan said, warning that the government’s term is already halfway expired and the 2012 elections are quickly approaching.

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