Africa Matters is a blog that follows the news and offers analysis of African affairs. Our aim is to delve deeper into the issues of African politics and development. We don’t presume to be experts, and we don’t presume to have all the answers—we are just trying to ask the right questions.

Wednesday, January 23

Annan, arbitration, and advertising

Kofi Annan arrived in Kenya yesterday as the latest delegate to attempt to mediate between sworn-in President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga. The stakes are high for Annan to succeed, but if neither side is ready for serious talks that may require concessions, Annan is unlikely to have any more success than the previous mediators who have come and gone in rapid succession. After Desmond Tutu's brief attempt at mediation, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, Nelson Mandela’s wife Graça Machel, and Ghanaian President and African Union chairman John Kufuor have all tried, unsuccessfully, to bring the opposing sides together. For the economy's sake, hopefully some of these people went on a safari or something.

Mr. Annan met with Raila and his associates today, but his meeting with Kibaki was postponed until tomorrow. Today, Kibaki was hanging out with Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, who extended his stay in Kenya. Museveni is also playing mediator, but he is widely perceived as too pro-Kibaki to be objective or effective. After Annan's meeting with Raila, Raila's party ODM called off rallies planned for tomorrow "at request of the mediation team". This is an encouraging sign. However, Raila and his surrounding "pentagon" of officials have maintained that during mediation they will call for Kibaki's resignation and for a rerun of the election. File that under not going to happen.

Hopefully Mr. Annan, who still retains a modicum of moral authority despite Oil For Food faux pas and his less-than-respectable handling of the Rwandan genocide, will be able to move the opposing sides in a way previous mediators have not. The many mediation attempts in Kenya raise question about the state of arbitration in Africa. On a continent so desperately in need of good mediators, has the African Union succeeded in any mediation efforts to date?

On an entirely different note, the government has been paying for some disconcerting ads in the local papers, especially the Daily Nation. The ads are addressed to the EU, UNDP and othercal UN staff, Ambassadors of the USA, UK, and Germany, the Electoral Commission of Kenya, the Law Society of Kenya, international and local media, other actors, and of course ODM (the World Bank has managed to stay on the government's good side while embroiling itself in another scandal). Most of the ads call for those who have questioned the election results to produce proof that elections were unfair. But one ad (right) plays on the tragic deaths in a church burning, threatening that "warlords of violence will have to face justice" (that’s you Raila). And how about this Prayer by a Kenyan child? "Dear God, Please tell ODM to stop mass action... baby will be hungry" Um...what?

Although westerners have not been targeted at all in the post-election violence, if the government is effective in linking foreigners, especially diplomats and the UN, with one side of the conflict, that could change.