We must stop the violence in Kenya.
To do so, we must recognize that the Kenyan opposition is a mirror image of the ruling party.
Both are manipulating their ethnic bases. Both are fomenting violence. And those on both sides who are responsible for ethnic cleansing must be brought to justice.
We are witnessing now in Kenya a vicious cycle of ethnic cleansing and counter-ethnic cleansing.
The myth that the violence is a spontaneous reaction to the rigged elections of Dec. 27 has to be debunked because its persistence only gives cover to the perpetrators on both sides.
True, there is strong evidence that President Mwai Kibaki engaged in widespread voter fraud to declare victory, and that he has illegitimately held on to power.
Kibaki has also used a police force that from British colonialism to the present has kept peace at the expense of the people. That police force is racking up a significant body count, now estimated to be in the hundreds.
But it is also true that the opposition, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), led by Raila Odinga, wears a democratic face to mask violent practices. Human Rights Watch says that it has “evidence that ODM politicians and local leaders actively fomented some post-election violence.”
The opposition leadership consists of three parts: the activist-intellectual left, the reactionary followers of former dictator Daniel arap Moi and the populists.
The intellectuals speak a language that the international media understands — and that anti-establishment friends of Africa like to hear. It is this group that has marketed the ODM as a people-power movement, in the process glossing over the ethnic killings by its own side.
To their credit, the intellectual activists favor boycotts, smart sanctions, and peaceful civil disobedience. But they did not adhere to these principles, bending instead to the Moi-ists within ODM, who engaged in ethnic violence in 1992 and 1997 and are at it again.
Their reprehensible tactics have cost the Orange Democratic Movement a lot of political mileage. Now instead of demanding Odinga’s right to the disputed presidency, the opposition has been forced to lower its sights and to urge Odinga and Kibaki to come to a negotiated solution.
For his part, Odinga, the leader of the populist camp, seems to want to draw violence from the state because the consequent anger unites the people and earns his party some political leverage.
A flamboyant millionaire, Odinga drives a red hummer and at one point hired Dick Morris, the discredited former Bill Clinton adviser, to serve as a political consultant to the ODM.
But this doesn’t stop Odinga from acting the populist and calling for mass protest. Yet when such protests are ethnically driven, they inevitably end with violence.
Odinga's populism therefore gives fuel to the Moi-ists while isolating the intellectual-activist left within ODM.
As the opposition jockeys among its various factions, it is not certain which element will eventually triumph. This, as much as the violence, makes Kenya’s future uncertain.
Any solution, be it a recount, another election or a coalition government, must be one that places the Kenyan people at the center.
And if the cycle of ethnic cleansing and counter-cleansing is to be broken, those responsible for organizing it must also be brought to justice.
Without such accountability, any political solution may be short-lived.
Mukoma wa Ngugi is editor of Pambazuka News, author of “Hurling Words at Consciousness” and a political columnist for the BBC Focus on Africa Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.