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Last Updated: Friday, 4 January 2008, 14:57 GMT
Can Tutu heal Kenya's wounds?
By Mike Wooldridge
World affairs correspondent, Nairobi

A man who had one of his hands chopped of with a machete sit in a wheelchair at the hospital in the town of Burnt Forest
The violence has shocked many Kenyans

Uhuru Park was filled with Kenyans curious to hear what Archbishop Desmond Tutu would have to say.

He showed the crowd he understood their aspirations, gave them encouragement and at one point ventured criticism of the authorities over detentions.

There was an audible murmur among the people around me on a grassy bank.

That was in the 1980s when there was one-party rule in Kenya and then President Daniel arap Moi did not take too kindly to criticism - particularly from outsiders.

Uhuru - or Freedom - Park has been much in the news this week as the place where supporters of Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga wanted to demonstrate that they consider him to be the winner of the disputed election and the "people's president".

We have been there and we know how bad our sisters and brothers in Kenya are feeling
Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Tutu has been back in town. The Nobel peace laureate clearly hoped he might be able to use his influence to curb the violence and promote a solution to the political crisis.

At the start of his visit here, he recalled violence before the ground-breaking elections in South Africa in 1994.

"We have been there and we know how bad our sisters and brothers in Kenya are feeling," he said

The events this week are a measure of how much has changed - and has yet to change - in Kenya.

Rising expectations

A few months back, I was in a part of western Kenya that has been encircled by the recent troubles. I met people who are able to seize new opportunities as their income creeps above the dollar-a-day poverty benchmark but others who only see their poverty deepening.

Mwai Kibaki and Archbishop Tutu on Friday
Archbishop Tutu (R) said Mr Kibaki (L) was prepared to be flexible

In a country of rising expectations, it is a backdrop against which all parties were contesting the election - even if for now it is overshadowed by the political crisis over the election result, the exploitation of tribal differences and the bloodshed that has followed.

On Thursday, the Attorney General, Amos Wako, called for an independent investigation of the counting. It was a surprise move but so far it does not appear to be making much headway.

Mr Odinga's spokesman said it would make no difference. The opposition sees the attorney general as being close to President Mwai Kibaki, and the quick dismissal of the initiative seem to show once again how far trust has been damaged by the upheavals here.

The ODM, in turn, demanded on Friday that a new election be held within three months.

But there has been speculation about whether a compromise - if there is eventually to be one - could be the establishment of some form of government of national unity.

The track record of such governments around the world is mixed. Sometimes they have proved to be a vehicle for reconciliation, sometimes for paralysis.


The idea has not reached the point of a potential carving up of roles, which could clearly be fraught with difficulty given the inflamed atmosphere in the country.

A man gestures during clashes between rival groups in Nairobi's Mathare slum, 1 January 2008
There have been clashes in Nairobi's slums

Archbishop Tutu met Mr Odinga first and then had a three hour meeting with Mr Kibaki. The archbishop said he had found Mr Kibaki "not averse" to the formation of coalitions but insisting that there had to be acceptance that there is a governing authority in the country.

The archbishop said both sides were still putting conditions.

"But I think there is this eagerness," he added.

Over the past few days events on the ground have run rapidly ahead of the attempts by governments and others to help bring about some kind of solution.

In various parts of the country, the situation remains very fluid.

The question is whether - and when - the turning point will come and Kenya will be pulled back from the brink.

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