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Kenya political crisis: Kofi Annan to the rescue – again?

A corruption scandal threatens to tear apart the fragile coalition government, prompting fear of a return to the ethnic violence that killed 1,300 and displaced hundreds of thousands after the disputed elections of December 2007.

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan attended the ceremony for the Global Statesmanship Award at the World Economic Forum in Davos January 29. On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi called on Annan to return to Kenya to help resolve the political crisis.

Michael Buholzer/Reuters

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Kenya’s fractious government is facing its biggest challenge as its two top leaders – President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga – face off in a corruption scandal.

At issue is the simple question of who is in charge, and whether the shaky, bickering coalition government will hold together long enough to pass a new constitution that will make such political crises a thing of the past. If the government falls apart, the consequences could be severe, including a return of the ethnic violence that killed 1,300 and displaced hundreds of thousands after the elections of December 2007.

“This is the biggest test for the coalition government,” says Wafula Okumu, a researcher on East Africa for the Institute for Security Studies in Tshwane (Pretoria), South Africa. “This coalition government was always intended to be a transitional government, and it is not viable for the future.” But if the government falls apart now, he adds, before Kenya’s parliament creates a new constitution and new system for credible elections, the country could descend into “another round of violence.”

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