A choice for peace? The story of forty-one days of mediation in Kenya


Elisabeth Lindenmayer and Josie Lianna Kaye

Executive Summary

The postelection violence that erupted in Kenya in December 2007 resulted in the deaths of over one thousand people and left three hundred thousand people displaced. While catastrophic, the scale of the social and economic destruction, not to mention the loss of life, could have been much greater were it not for the peace mediation mandated by the African Union in January 2008. The Panel of Eminent African Personalities, chaired by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, led the forty-one-day peace process, culminating in the Agreement on the Principles of Partnership of the Coalition Government, which was signed by President Mwai Kibaki and the Honorable Raila Odinga on February 28th, putting an end to the crisis which engulfed the nation and took the world by surprise.

This paper gives a detailed account of the events which led up to this agreement. It pays particular attention to the factors that made Kenya accept international mediation, and it concentrates on the role and comparative advantages of the African Union, as well as the unique and undivided support of the many stakeholders, including the international community. More specifically, the paper discusses the inclusion of a prime minister in the coalition government, as well as the role and responsibilities that the government should assume. The paper also describes the series of conflict-resolution strategies and tools used by the Panel, and it provides a set of conclusions and recommendations that reflect what kinds of lessons can be learned from this case of successful mediation. These include the benefits of a single mediation fully supported by the international community; strong engagement by civil society; a division of issues to be negotiated into short- and long-term categories; a carefully orchestrated media strategy; a strong emphasis on pragmatism over politics; an understanding of peace as a process, rather than an event; and a high level of creativity and flexibility on the part of the mediators. Above all, the agreement which was negotiated reflected the desire of the Kenyan people to achieve peace in their country; its sustainability, however, will depend on their ability to address the root causes of the conflict and to tackle the underlying and deep-seated issues which triggered the crisis in the first place.