Kenya: The prisoner of peace - An interview with Kofi A. Annan


The presidential elections of December 2007 in Kenya were the first broadly contested elections in the country's history. The sudden eruption of violence that followed the announcement of the results brought to light longstanding tensions concerning both inequalities in wealth and political ethnic cleavages. Former and sitting African heads of state1 reacted swiftly and flew in to offer good offices. Their effort unfolded in the deployment of the African Union Panel of Eminent Personalities, led by Kofi Annan as chief mediator, with Graca Machel2 and Benjamin Mkapa.

Upon his return from Kenya, Kofi Annan discusses the five weeks of intense mediation he led there, in an interview with Martin Griffiths, Director of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. Mr Annan's main concern was to avoid a further escalation of violence, leading him to maintain a rapid pace in the talks while continuously changing his strategy to adapt to developments. Although this approach ran the risk of his portrayal as 'a fox', even 'a dictator', by the parties, Kofi Annan's unique experience and stature enabled him to mobilise a high level of international support. Combined with a strategy of transparency to Kenyan civil society, and occasional pressure on the parties, his efforts led to the development of a successful 'African solution to an African problem'.