By Janet Tinsley, CFCA international project director for Africa
After the disputed presidential elections of December 2007 that were marred by allegations of corruption, the president-elect, Mwai Kibaki, and opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, formed the Grand Coalition Government in an attempt to quell the violence that erupted in January 2008. However, since its inception, the coalition has been tenuous at best, with many worrying that any disagreement between the parties could send Kenya into another violent tailspin.
During the year following the post-election violence, which resulted in more than 1,000 deaths and more than 350,000 internally displaced persons, people wishing to heal and move on have largely been forced to take reconciliation efforts into their own hands. In a demonstration of their perseverance, communities around the country have formed ad-hoc, cross-tribal support groups with the common goal of gradually bringing peace back to their community. Coming to terms with what happened last year is taking time, but gradually, people have returned to their communities and begun the arduous task of putting their lives and communities back together.
The government, however, has been relatively silent with regard to reconciliation and national healing following last yearís violence. It wasnít until November that legislation was passed to form a commission on election violence, and commissioners have yet to be appointed. As a result, very few of those who instigated the violence have been tried or prosecuted, and many Kenyans fear that the main perpetrators will go unpunished.
Post-election violence contributed to a significant slowdown in agricultural production and tourism during the first half of 2008, which had a major impact on Kenyaís already struggling economy. Kenya was also impacted by skyrocketing fuel and food costs as well as the global economic slowdown. Exceedingly high food prices, food shortages, and several thousands of internally displaced persons in the aftermath of the elections made 2008 a very difficult year for Kenyans.
Nevertheless, Kenyans are resilient and optimistic. The economy is already showing signs of starting to bounce back, and peace is returning for most of the population. While most were ready to put 2008 behind them, it seems that people are hopeful that 2009 will be a better year.