Thursday, January 3, 2008

Kenya is burning

Last week, Kenya held a national election tainted with vote-tampering that ended in a claim of victory for incumbent President Mwai Kibaki. His opponent Raila Odinga, who led the polls, has called for nationwide protests. Violence has broken out across the country, with roving gangs of machete-wielding youth terrorizing the population -- the early stages of what could become civil war, even genocide have begun.

We must not sit back and watch this nightmarish scenario unfold, and we need to act fast. World diplomats are calling for negotiations between Kibaki and Odinga, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu has flown into Nairobi to help broker a power-sharing agreement while election results are reviewed. But if talks are to succeed, it is critical that foreign governments do not prematurely recognize the fraudulently elected government and lock in their power. That's where we come in.

Please send a note to your foreign minister today, asking them to withhold recognition of any Kenyan government until agreement is brokered and the election results are independently reviewed – you can do so using our simple online tool at the link below (and when you're done, please forward this email to friends and family):

The election commissioner who declared victory for President Kibaki now says he was pressured into it, and does not know who truly won. Even Kibaki's own attorney-general has just called for an independent review of the results.

The situation in Kenya has great significance throughout the African continent and around the world -- with the largest economy in the region, it was till now viewed as an emerging model of democracy and stability, albeit troubled by government corruption. If President Kibaki's faction is allowed to retain its grip on the presidency through blatant fraud, it will send a terrible message not only to other African leaders, but to all nations balanced on the edge of a firm democratic tradition.

More chillingly, the spectre of political disputes triggering tribal divisions that erupt into massive, lethal violence is all too familiar from tragedies like the Rwanda genocide of the 1990s. Too often, the world has looked aside as this awful train of events has lurched into motion: Never again. It's too early to tell how far the situation in Kenya could deteriorate -- we just can't afford to wait and find out.

If governments of the world withhold recognition of any Kenyan regime until Desmond Tutu and mediators from the African Union and the Commonwealth can investigate the vote, broker agreement and restore democratic integrity, this crisis could be averted, corruption rooted out and Kenya's democratic promise salvaged.

Please send a note to your foreign minister today:

With hope,

Paul, Ricken, Ben, Galit, Milena, Pascal and the whole Avaaz team

Here are some links to more background -

The election commissioner admits he was pressured into declaring Kibaki's victory, and does not know who truly won:

Kenya's attorney-general also just called for an independent review of the election results:

Reuters on mediation efforts by Tutu and the African Union:

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