It will be Kofi Annan's turn tomorrow to arrive in a tense Nairobi, following in the steps of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and John Kufuor, the Ghanian president and head of the African Union, last week, and US diplomats and the former Sierra Leonean president the week before. As the tourists abandon Kenya's beaches, the country has tragically become the premier destination for a new type of visitor - the international mediator. But so far, all of them have managed no more than what could be described as a minibreak, hastily repacking their overnight bags with nothing to show for their efforts.
Kenya is stuck in a dangerous stalemate, with no point of agreement between Mwai Kibaki, who has claimed presidency in the recent contested election, and his opponent, Raila Odinga, from which to start negotiations on power-sharing. The country is bracing itself this week, when the newly elected MPs are due to take their seats, and there are fears fisticuffs could break out in parliament. Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement is poised to rally its supporters back on to the streets in protest at what they believe was a rigged election by Kibaki.
In London and Washington, not to mention Kampala and Kigali, there is close to panic. London needs Kenya to be an African success story; it gives the country £175m in aid a year. The US badly needs Kenya as a stable ally for its post 9/11 strategy - it is a vital intelligence base for the Horn, Yemen, the Gulf and east Africa. Meanwhile, Africa's landlocked neighbours need Kenya as their link to the world economy; already fuel supplies are running short in Uganda and trade through the port of Mombasa has ground to a halt. No one is underestimating the scale of this crisis.
While western diplomats and aid officials are quietly gritting their teeth with a combination of frustration and anxiety, the media story - with a few exceptions such as Peter Kimani, a Kenyan journalist on openDemocracy.net - has been simple: utter bewilderment. Here is how the story has been framed: the peaceful Kenya we know and love from our holiday snaps has suddenly erupted in senseless, tribal barbarism.
There are two old elements underlying this perspective. There is the persistent western fantasy of the exotic that we project on to Africa, but the peaceful, palm-fringed beaches of our holiday albums (I have them too) are the creation of our tourist imagination, which strips out what we can't or don't want to understand. They have nothing to do with the tumultuous, violent, rapidly changing reality of Kenya in recent years.
Secondly, the coverage shows how quickly the west reverts to racism. Why is the word "tribal" only used to refer to Africa? Why don't we talk of Belgian tribes or Middle Eastern tribes? No, only in Africa is inter-ethnic violence cast as "ancient", immutable tribalism, associated in the European mindset with barbarism and irrationality. It's a language of self-congratulation - we are civilised, Africans are not. How else could the ludicrous analogies with Rwanda have popped up? Kenya and Rwanda have completely different histories, ethnic relations and political economies. But that is swept aside as irrelevant, and the implication is that African violence is all basically the same. It's as if someone had claimed the blazing Paris suburbs of 2005 were the new Bosnia.
The bewilderment is born from ignorance. In Britain, a glamorous melange of White Mischief, Elspeth Huxley's The Flame Trees of Thika and a safari trip has passed for "knowing" the country. But Kenya is a complex society with 48 different ethnic groups and the highest internally displaced population in Africa, largely consisting of Somalis and Sudanese. It has some of the biggest shanty towns in Africa and its burgeoning, largely unemployed, population struggles to secure some of the gains of the recent economic boom. It's hard to imagine any country negotiating such chronic insecurity and rapid social and economic dislocation without conflicts of interest flaring up. It's why a close Kenya watcher like David Anderson, professor of African politics at Oxford University, is not particularly surprised by the violence of recent weeks.
Anderson's most important work recently has been the analysis of how violence has become a part of Kenyan economic and political life. In poorer suburbs where crime is endemic and the police ineffectual and corrupt, gangs have proliferated. They demand bribes from local businesses and how they work is not much different from the police or private security companies.
Just as the success of your business depends on paying off such gangs, so in politics your success depends on your ability to mobilise the support of "youth wingers". Unemployed young men are used to protect supporters and intimidate opponents. Their tasks can run from ripping down posters of an opponent to torching a neighbourhood. As the price of Kenyan politics has soared, politicians literally can't afford to lose and gangs are part of the strategy to ensure they don't. Always, there is the possibility the gangs will use the screen of politics to settle their own scores.
This "economy of violence", as Anderson describes it, can mobilise deep resentments along ethnic lines. Eldoret, the scene of the horrific church massacre earlier this month, is famous as a flashpoint. This is the region where Kikuyu, the biggest ethnic group who have done the best since independence, acquired land in the 60s dispossessing the Kalenjin - a grievance that has festered unresolved ever since.
What you end up with in Kenyan politics is a combination of the local and the global - Odinga was already planning to copy Ukrainian-style mass demonstrations in the case of electoral defeat back in November. But calling his supporters (and his gangs) on to the streets unleashes its own momentum of frustration and anger, some of which goes back to generations-old land disputes, while some is much more recent, provoked by the Kikuyu middle class who have done so well under Kibaki.
The violence that results is certainly barbaric - children were reported to have been thrown back into the burning church in Eldoret - but it is not about a primordial African capacity for savagery. In a study of the appalling violence in Africa in recent years, Civil War is Not a Stupid Thing, the author, Professor Christopher Cramer, argues that, on a continent that has seen more wars since 1990 than in the whole of the previous century, violence can be a form of communication of last resort. When all other channels of seeking justice for embittered grievances in a corrupt regime appear to have been exhausted, some will see violence as the only way to protect their interests. That doesn't make the violence right, but neither does it make it necessarily senseless. It can have its own awful rationality.
What we are seeing in Kenya - and in other unstable developing countries - is how human beings behave when faced with the kind of chronic insecurity that globalisation is incubating the world over. Dislocation breeds fear in which old, buried identities become an insurance policy - who looks out for you? - or make you a victim. The outcome is always tragic, and that is what is making so many Kenyans so anxious.