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I remember standing on the streets of Nairobi in 1989, watching a car go by with then-president Daniel arap Moi in the back seat. “There goes the savior of democracy,” a fellow classmate at the University of Nairobi joked. “Let’s see if he flashes his diamond.” He did (or so we thought, as we let out peals of laughter). Though it would be another 13 years before Moi stepped down, he was already viewed—quietly—as someone steeped in corruption. What none of my classmates questioned, though, was the stability of the country and its ability to succeed.
Moi’s eventual successor, Mwai Kibaki, came to power in 2002. Having complained that previous elections were unfair to him, he’s now at the center of a election scandal that’s ripping the country apart.
It’s hard to believe that Kenya could now be headed down the same path as, say, Rwanda or Zimbabwe. The local press is vehement in opposing the violence and opposition leader Raila Odinga seems intent on trying to stop the violence. (Kibaki, at this point, is just telling protesters to seek redress in the courts). With tourists cancelling their safaris and the stock market in freefall, Kenyans are justifiably worried that their economy could crash. The key is to reach some path to resolution in the next few days. If the uncertainty and violence extends much beyond that, investors might write off Kenya as a place to be avoided.
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