Kenya can't solve it alone

The post-election crisis in Kenya remains unresolved. The damage being done to the country's economy is severe: tourism, horticulture, and other industries that depend on trade beyond the Kenyan border are reeling. Thousands of livelihoods, along with investments throughout the region, are threatened and collapsing.

As the situation in Kenya escalated - with murders, rapes, burning of property, looting, and the displacement of thousands of people throughout the country - the international community was urged to help. Many countries responded, providing essential humanitarian assistance and logistical support. For this, I and many other Kenyans are very grateful.

The international community has also endeavoured to persuade the two rivals, Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, to negotiate a political settlement in the wake of the contested presidential election. But a resolution still eludes Kenya, despite the efforts of Kofi Anan, the former UN secretary general, and his team, which includes the former Mozambiquan first lady, Graça Machel, and the former president of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa. Over the past weeks a number of other prominent Africans have participated in the mediation efforts, including Ghana's president and African Union chairman John Kufour, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

However some Kenyan politicians claim these efforts represent an unwarranted meddling in the country's affairs. According to them, Kenyans should be left alone to solve their problems. While this may appear to be patriotic, it is just the opposite. These politicians know how dependent Kenya is on the international community - and the degree to which other nation states in the region depend on Kenya.

Moreover, to be worthy leaders of an independent and sovereign state, Kenya's politicians should have demonstrated a capacity to manage the crisis. Leaders of the business community, civil society and religious organisations, among others, appealed to politicians to end the violence. But they would not budge, even as the carnage escalated.

In Rwanda, the international community in large part left politicians to sort out the mess they had created, only for a horrific genocide to take place in which close to a million people were killed. When it was over, the world wondered why it had taken so long to react.

Today, millions of people are urging intervention in crises in Darfur, Somalia, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, to name only a few. In the 21st century, the world should not stand and watch as citizens are incited to kill and maim each other because politicians cannot agree on how to manage the state. The international community has a moral responsibility to intervene when life and human rights are threatened on such a scale.

To allow our egos as Kenyans to be offended by international involvement is a misrepresentation that can only give comfort to the hardliners in Kibaki's and Odinga's camps. As US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said while visiting Nairobi earlier this week: "The time for a political settlement was yesterday."

The focus must now be on and support given to the UN's Kenya national dialogue and reconciliation team so that a lasting solution is found. Responsibility for resolution lies in the hands of the rival presidential mediation teams. It is up to these leaders to put Kenya first. I, along with millions of other Kenyans, urge them to find an enduring settlement based on justice, fairness and the common good.

Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel peace prizewinner and a member of Kenya's parliament from 2002 to 2007. She is the author of Unbowed: A Memoir.