Like most observers around the world, I was rather taken by surprise by the sudden implosion of Kenya into a state of ethnic violence in the aftermath of the December 27 elections. My last visit to this beautiful and scenic country was in 2002, just on the eve of the elections that dispatched the party of independence, KANU, to the dustbins of history.
The mood in Kenya, then, was pregnant with a rather impregnable hope: Kenya's democratic rebirth was nigh and nothing could abort it. Indeed, virtually all of my Kenyan colleagues in the media, with whom i was attending a UN conference, were caught up in the euphoria gripping their nation. I felt a tad envious of their ebullience; my own country - Zimbabwe - had just emerged from a controversial election in which the forces of hope had been ruthlessly extinguished by the now world-infamous chicanery of the Mugabe regime.
It was refreshing and highly reassuring in the context of Africa's illiberal and often violent politics to see the longstanding ruling party accepting defeat and giving way to the National Rainbow Coalition of Kibaki and Raila. It's against this background of hope for a new democratic era that Kenya's ethnic violence has had such a depressing and disillusioning impact not only Kenyans, but on all Africans and supporters of democracy the world over.