Africa Peer Review – Waste of time in Kenya?

Was the APRM process in Kenya a waste of time?

Lessons that should be learned for the future

Bronwen Manby
Senior Programme Adviser, AfriMAP, Open Society Institute

“There is a need for a healing of the nation. The process of national healing and reconciliation is unlikely to proceed as long as society is still polarized. In addition, without also addressing past crimes, corruption, marginalization and poverty, it is unlikely that reconciliation can be achieved.”

This is not a quote from a report on the recent election violence in Kenya, but from the country review report of the African Peer Review Mechanism, presented two years ago by the APRM panel of eminent persons to African heads of state and defended by President Mwai Kibaki himself on the margins of the July 2006 African Union summit.

The report went on to consider previous violence in Kenya, making observations that are just as valid today as when its writers made them. The APRM eminent persons noted ‘the role of prominent members of the ruling party and high ranking government officials in fuelling the so-called ethnic clashes’. They complained that many of the people involved ‘have neither been investigated nor prosecuted. Some have continued to serve as senior officers, ministers, or members of parliament. The inability to act (against them) tends to underline general public perception of impunity, while at the same time constricting the ability of people to come to terms with the past experiences of injustice and violence thus further aggravating and reinforcing polarities and suspicion.’

All in all, the APRM country review report made a remarkably frank assessment of Kenya’s problems. The report did not shy away from highlighting issues of corruption, especially in land allocation, nor from the ethnic tensions that have been so horribly demonstrated in recent weeks. It identified ‘overarching issues’ that Kenya would need to address, starting with ‘managing diversity in nation building’, and going on to filling the ‘implementation gap’ between policy and action on the ground; addressing poverty and wealth distribution; land reform; action against corruption; constitutional reform; and addressing gender inequality and youth unemployment.

Finally and notably, the report called for ‘transformational leadership’ – leadership that ‘recognizes the need for dramatic change in a society’ and that ‘entails not simply directing change but managing it in a way that ensures broad ownership, legitimacy and self-directed sustenance and replication of change in all associated systems.’

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