Kenya's Political Unrest Threatens Regional Stability: A Call for Dialogue

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EDITORIAL - Kenya’s political protests are expected to enter another round of chaos on Thursday as opposition leader Raila Odinga and his Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition take to the streets to demand a more manageable cost of living and electoral justice.

The protesters have every right under local laws to picket or protest as long as it is peaceful. The first three protests since last week have shown, however, that it is never peaceful. According to Kenya’s Interior Ministry, two people were killed this week as protesters confronted police in running battles in Nairobi and Kisumu.

The fact that the protests have degenerated this far means the problem is no longer just Kenya’s internal affair. Insecurity or any threats to stability in Kenya have always hurt the region. Considering this, the Port of Mombasa and the northern corridor are crucial in supplying goods to Kenya, north of Tanzania, Uganda, western DR Congo, and South Sudan.

But political instability inside Kenya hurts something else; a distraction from its regular peace initiatives in the Horn of Africa.   

We Somalis, having seen the pain of conflict, hope Kenya’s current storm will be in a teacup. We have a proverb that says prevention is better than cure, and Somalia, having failed to prevent it, has been curing for the last two decades.

In Kenya, preventive measures can help route the tensions. The opposition has called for an easier cost of living. The biggest question is whether street protests will bring down prices overnight.

They have also asked the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to open its servers as proof the vote that Odinga lost to President William Ruto was not stolen. The second demand is tricky because the country’s Supreme Court had already approved Ruto’s win as legitimate.

Mr. Odinga, a veteran politician of Africa’s second liberation, may find himself in a hole countermanding an institution he helped build and had its confidence high among Kenyans. As it is, there is no other legal way of addressing the electoral grievances raised by Mr. Odinga unless he also says he no longer recognises the Supreme Court.

That doesn’t mean there is no political problem. As with many other jurisdictions, including Somalia, political problems have often come in the way of legal structures. How should Kenya solve it? Somalia’s lesson is that political leaders need to bring their heads together.

The escalating tensions between Odinga’s supporters and those of his political rival, President Ruto, are threatening the country's peace and development.

Kenyan politicians, particularly President Ruto and Raila Odinga, need to prioritise the needs of the people and the country over their political ambitions. A constructive dialogue between these two leaders could help ease the tensions, bring the nation together, and avert further chaos.

Kenya has made significant strides in recent years, but the ongoing unrest threatens to undo this progress. The socio-economic and political consequences of continued instability will not only affect Kenya but also have ramifications for the wider region. It is, therefore, in the best interest of all parties to come together in a spirit of unity and collaboration.

Both President Ruto and Raila Odinga both have considerable influence over their respective supporters, even though only one person can be president at a time. By engaging in an open and honest dialogue, they could signal to their followers the importance of peaceful coexistence, compromise, and the prioritisation of Kenya's well-being above partisan interests.

We urge Kenyan politicians, especially President Ruto and Raila Odinga, to draw upon the lessons learned from Somalia's experiences and take immediate action to safeguard their people and nation. They must prioritise constructive dialogue and promote unity, putting the well-being of Kenya and its people above their political ambitions.

The Somali people stand in solidarity with the people of Kenya, hoping for a swift resolution to the current crisis.

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