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Cornell Law School Professor Muna Ndulo, director of the Cornell Institute for African Development, emphasized that ethnicity is a reality at a March 28 forum on understanding the current situation in Kenya. The meeting was organized by the Wananchi Association (Cornell's Kenyan and East African student association) in conjunction with the 2008 New York African Studies Association annual conference and the Heal Kenya campaign at Cornell's Africana Studies and Research Center.
The roots of the current crisis in Kenya go deeper than the disputed election, in which the incumbent president was declared the winner over the top opposition leader, despite widespread evidence of vote rigging, forum panelists noted. Increased distrust in the government has only escalated ethnic tensions.
In an attempt to stop violence, Kenyan lawmakers approved a power-sharing deal agreement between the country's two main political parties. However, it remains uncertain how well the parties themselves will cooperate in a coalition government.
Kenyan panelist Philip Rodi Otieno said he does not see the new power coalition as enough to encourage Kenyans to return home. Otieno, who has chaired several panel discussions on Kenyan issues at Cornell, said that a strong push toward ethnic co-existence in Kenya is essential.