Topical debates — Kenya

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 1:50 pm on 17th January 2008.

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Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Liberal Democrat, East Dunbartonshire 1:50 pm, 17th January 2008

I welcome that intervention. The hon. Gentleman is right: it will, of course, be key that everybody involved in the Kenyan political process buys into the electoral commission processes, and the body must be seen to be independent.

The idea of a Government of national unity is unlikely to work. Let us remember that Kibaki reneged on a memorandum of understanding between him and Raila Odinga back in 2002, so there is unlikely to be sufficient trust. The only realistic solution is for a transitional power-sharing Government to take office, and a timetable for new elections to be drawn up. It will take time for Kenyans who have been displaced to be resettled and reregistered to vote, and a lot of rebuilding work will have to be done across the discredited branches of government. The restoration of the electoral commission's independence is a vital step, as Mr. Clifton-Brown says.

The year 2002 brought a new sense of optimism to Kenya. That year's elections deserved the praise that they received for being the most free and fair in Kenyan history. Last December, voters again approached the polls with optimism, and recorded turnout was 70 per cent. However, the situation has quickly turned into a seminal crisis. Whether the violence is blamed on tribal tensions, a conflict between the haves and have-nots, or an intergenerational clash, we should not lose sight of the fact that the direct cause of the bloodshed was the manipulation of the presidential election result.

As we enter the second day of fresh protests in Kenya, the potential for further large-scale loss of life is very real. Pressure must be brought to bear on Kibaki so that Kenya can have a transitional Government and fresh elections. Failing to act now will push Kenya closer to the brink.

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