A Cynic Goes Soft

It’s not hard to sneer at diplomats. Particularly those who have learned the art at the United Nations. And, being a journalist, it’s something that comes easy to me. I’ve done it already on this blog several times. You know the sort of thing – making fun of their platitudes, using the term “diplomatic” as a euphemism for “weak” or “weasle” words (or vice versa), and generally suggesting that anything other than overnight success in conflict resolution is a total disaster.

But I’m developing a sort of grudging respect for Kofi Annan’s way of doing things.

His efforts haven’t really achieved much of a breakthrough in tackling Kenya’s post-election violence. We have had hints of a big, power-sharing deal only for them to peter out by the time the ink on the next day’s headlines has dried. 

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Instead we’ve had a series of very small deals. A commitment to talks, first up. Then to end the violence. Then an agreement on an agenda. A narrowing of options. And today an agreement to set up an independent review of the elections and that constitutional reform is needed. That sort of thing.

And it’s starting to work. The two sides are locked into talks and a sort of momentum is building. We are at the point where it is almost impossible for either side to walk away without being accusing of sabotaging the country’s fragile peace. There’s still a long way to go but it’s gradually becoming more difficult for things to slide backwards.


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