SPIEGEL Interview with Kenyan Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai: 'The Violence Is Unbelievably Brutal'
Kenyan Nobel Peace Laureate and environmental activist Wangari Maathai served in President Kibaki's government until 2005. She spoke to SPIEGEL about the outbreak of violence and the prospects for peace in Kenya.
Wangari Maathai says she is deeply saddened by the violence in Kenya.
Wangari Maathai: The opposition, in particular, must call upon its people to exercise prudence. It must convince its supporters to stop the looting, murdering and destruction. The leaders of the opposition must speak to their people in their own language. They have a lot of influence. Time is running out, because at some point we will have reached a level at which violence becomes an end in itself and can no longer be stopped.
SPIEGEL: Is the opposition solely responsible for the violence?
SPIEGEL: Does this outbreak of violence surprise you?
Maathai: It makes me deeply sad. I would not have thought that this could happen in Kenya, that people could be driven into a church and then set on fire. The violence is unbelievably brutal, and it is very intense and spontaneous. Nevertheless, this development was predictable. A large segment of the population has long felt very strongly about being treated unfairly.
SPIEGEL: What's behind this?
Maathai: Politics in this country is conducted heavily along ethnic lines, particularly by the governing party. Members of ethnic groups other than the Kikuyu feel left out and neglected. The crisis that is now coming to a head began five years ago, when Kibaki came into power.
SPIEGEL: You too were a member of his cabinet.
Maathai: Yes, but I always said: Stop pursuing these one-sided policies. The government's approach has divided the country. This became especially clear during the controversy over the new constitution, which would have given Kibaki even more power. Luckily it was defeated in a referendum. I left the government after that.
SPIEGEL: How would you judge the outcome of these elections?
Maathai: I think it's strange that the opposition clearly won the parliamentary election, and yet Kibaki won the presidential vote. But the election commission bears the brunt of responsibility. It didn't do its job properly, because it took far too long to announce its results. The entire process was not transparent. The vote counts should have been announced directly at the polling stations in order to prevent completely different figures from being presented in Nairobi, which is what happened. But who actually won the election? I have no idea. It could have been either of the two.
SPIEGEL: (Opposition candidate) Raila Odinga has called for new elections within three months, and he has said that he envisions a transitional government until then.
Maathai: I think that's a reasonable proposal. But I don't think three months is enough. It might work in half a year.
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