When Mwai Kibaki won a landslide victory in Kenya's presidential elections five years ago, the country's future seemed bright. Daniel Arap Moi's corrupt 24-year grip on power had finally been broken in the country's first truly democratic election. And the new President, a trained economist, had campaigned on an anti-corruption ticket. Mr Kibaki seemed to be the leader to unleash Kenya's economic and human potential.
But Mr Kibaki has been a grave disappointment in power. The President shamelessly emasculated Kenya's anti-corruption commission. And the clique around him, dubbed the "Mount Kenya mafia", has been as venal as those who enriched themselves so greedily under President Moi. According to some estimates, more than $1bn in international aid donations has gone missing in the past five years. The extent to which the regime truly changed in 2002 is also questionable. Mr Kibaki's campaign in this month's national elections was actually bankrolled by his old rival.
In the light of this wretched record, it is no surprise that President Kibaki struggled to maintain his grip on power. When vote counting began last week, the leader of the opposition, Raila Odinga, shot into a strong lead. Twelve cabinet ministers lost their seats, including the Vice-President Moody Awori. But then the momentum suddenly (and suspiciously) began to switch back to Mr Kibaki. Mr Odinga alleged fraud. But despite widespread doubts over the soundness of the narrow result, Mr Kibaki was named yesterday by the Electoral Commission of Kenya as the victor and awarded a second term in power.
Some will argue that this is not such a terrible outcome, as Kenya has registered healthy economic growth (around 6 per cent a year) under President Kibaki. But despite widened access to education and healthcare, the fruits of this growth are not reaching the poor. Most Kenyans still live on less than $1 a day. Nairobi is now one of the most violent cities in Africa and the city's sprawling Kibera slum is the largest on the continent. Moreover, Kenya's large and well-educated middle classes are hungry for change. And after his government's sweeping electoral reverses, President Kibaki has lost the moral authority to rule.
It is now difficult to be optimistic about Kenya's future. There is likely to be a violent reaction from Mr Odinga's supporters. The rancour will be exacerbated by the tribal divide between Mr Odinga's Luo political base, and Mr Kibaki's mainly Kikuyu constituency.
Kenya, for all the manifest faults of itspolitical class, has long been regarded by the outside world as an oasis of relative calm in a volatile region. After this dubious result and yesterday's bloodshed, it may lose even this saving grace.