NAIROBI, October 17 – President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and former United Nations chief Kofi Annan were Friday awarded honorary degrees for a peace accord that ended the country’s post-election violence.
The University of Nairobi awarded the three doctorates in law for the agreement signed in February to end Kenya’s bloodiest unrest since independence, triggered by the disputed December 27 presidential polls.
Around 1,200 people were killed in the clashes which also displaced hundreds of thousands.
Annan displayed "extraordinary diplomatic dexterity" in brokering the power-sharing accord, Vice-Chancellor George Magoha said during the university’s 39th graduation ceremony.
"The paradigm of peacemaking and institution of creativity he (Annan) applied to Kenya will on one hand be repeated in different countries and at the same time the model will be widely repeated by scholars and diplomats," Prof Magoha added.
Accepting the degree, Annan described Kenya as an "oasis of peace in a region torn by intractable conflicts."
President Kibaki, who was accused by Mr Odinga of rigging the polls, said the agreement was the only way of ending the violence.
"The awards conferred on the three of us today cement our fraternity, and are symbols of our shared determination to ensure peace and prosperity in Kenya," Mr Odinga said.
"I am conscious that we are receiving these awards on behalf of the people of Kenya," he added.
The awards have however received mixed reactions. While a section of Kenyans appreciate the sacrifices the two made in signing the peace accord another group expressed dissent that the President and Prime Minister were at the centre of the power tussle which resulted to the chaos.
“We still blame them (Kibaki and Raila) for starting it, so I don’t see what they did to get the awards,” said George Mathiru, a resident of Nairobi. “The post election problem is something they made us go through so why should we honour them?” Mary Andika wondered.
Many felt that the awards should have been directed to other individuals and organisations that showed selfless dedication in helping those affected by the chaos.
“Giving them would not make any difference. In any case why should we honour them and it’s because of them that we went through the skirmishes?” Michael Githinji asked.
Sociologist Ken Ouko told Capital News that the reaction was expected especially from those affected by the skirmishes. Dr Ouko nonetheless said that the legitimacy of the awards should be linked to the need for uniting the country rather than the source of the chaos.
“Given to both of them, the degrees are supposed to help with the reconciliation, healing and the recovery process. If you look at it that way then they are playing a very important role,” the University of Nairobi lecturer said, adding that “each one of them made a sacrifice in their own right.”
All those interviewed said the former UN boss deserved the honour for managing to bring the two together.
Dr Annan brokered the deal that saw the President and the Premier agree to share power after a disputed presidential tally. The chaos resulted to the deaths of more than 1,100 and the displacement of more than 300,000 others.
Nevertheless there are those who have supported the awards. James Omondi noted that by signing the deal the two ensured peace in the country. “We could not condemn them because what they did was for the benefit of Kenya. For that I think we can honour them.”
“In the spirit of national healing, I think it is good to recognise what they did,” Robert Muturi noted.
Mr Ouko, on his part, said that the recognition was supposed to act as a sanction to the leaders requiring them to act responsibly. “We are hemming them in and telling them they have to live that example. They have to reflect the fact that we have honoured them for the political manoeuvre they made. So we don’t expect them after two weeks to be back to the streets,” Dr Ouko said.
He said that the awards would be a source of recognition for the two ‘statesmen’ internationally. “For the Kenyan on the street the only thing they will remember is the ceremony and that is it.”
This is the second doctorate award for President Kibaki this year after receiving a Degree of Doctor of Science from Masinde Muliro University in July, “for his sterling academic achievements, distinguished services and resolve to re-engineer Kenya’s economy and society.” The Head of State had received another honorary Economics degree from Nairobi University in 2004.