Sunday, March 2, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
March 2, 2008

Kenya is truly at the crossroads. Multiparty politics are under test. Our grand coalition is going to stretch our imaginations to their limits.

Political dreams and ambitions have been shattered for some and blossomed for others. Yes, Kalonzo Musyoka’s famous pre-election miracles have partly been realized. He never made it to the State House but got a handsome consolation prize at least. While ODM and PNU were sitting it out at Serena Hotel arguing about who won and who lost the elections, Mr. Musyoka was sitting pretty as Vice President in some dilapidated Jogoo House in the Central Business District of Nairobi.

Now that the PNU and ODM have struck a deal that clearly does not include other fringe parties like ODMK and KANU, what happens to Kalonzo’s miracle? What happens to those ministers that had hurriedly accepted their lucrative positions soon after Kibaki was declared President?

The accord signed recently between Kibaki and Raila is binding. It was witnessed and co-signed by Kofi Annan on behalf of the international community and Jakaya Kikwete on behalf of the AU. This made it fundamentally different from the 2002 MoU that Kibaki trashed soon after NARC was declared the winner.

In this ODM-PNU accord, it is very clear that real power will be shared between the two parties on a 50-50 basis. Half the cabinet, permanent secretaries, public corporations, ambassadors and other constitutional offices such as the Governor of the Central Bank, Auditor General, Attorney General and top posts of the armed forces will go to either of the two partners.

More importantly, it will not be just numbers. Strategic ministries like Finance, Defense, Internal Security, Health, Agriculture, Education, Roads, Transport and Communications will have to be shared fairly between the two principals. Equally telling, the President has lost the power to decide who becomes a member of the Cabinet. He also lost the power to fire any cabinet minister without proper consultations with the Prime Minister. But even more painful to the President is that he has no power over who become the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Ministers. The party with the majority will decide for the two slots.

Germany, a country that has perfected the art of coalition governments has a very interesting lesson for Kenya. In that democracy, coalition partners don’t just rush to grab cabinet posts. They study their pre-election manifestos to see which ministries would make them realize their pre-election pledges to the electorate. If a party has a strong manifesto on foreign policy, it will opt for that ministry. If it is strong on homeland security, food production or industrial development, it will go for that ministry that adds value to its long term political survival.

A case in point where a coalition member can make blunders in the government was the recent fiasco in the Ministry of Information and Communication when the minister in that ministry threatened to audit the activities of the media in the aftermath of the elections without bothering to read the act that established the Media Council of Kenya.

The threat to dissolve the Media Council was a clear indication that the ODMK holder of that portfolio had no clear policy on media once ODMK won the elections. Had Kalonzo won the presidency, the media today would be in dogs!

Prior the elections, ODM had a very strong document on devolution, infrastructure, development agenda for Northern Kenya, national security and inequality. One will be excused to believe that when it comes to choosing which ministry to go to which principal, political party manifestoes will play a big role in giving ministries according to the beliefs of the political parties; in other words distributing ministries according to the passions of those political parties sharing power rather than their mundane desire to hog in the fat ones. On this premise, the ministry of local government should naturally go to ODM that passionately believes that devolution of political power and resources are the way to save Kenya from self-destruction.

After the signing of the ODM-PNU according, there is thick anxiety in the air. There are those in the civil service that served Moi for three decades and have served Kibaki well. They are known as the system’s survivors. They change allegiance as soon as they realize which side is winning. But again, these are the same clique that will ensure that no meaningful changes take place because they survive better in a stable status quo.

If there is going to be meaningful change that drove Kenyans to vote to a man and woman, the face of the public service much be overhauled irrespective of how good some of these people may want Kenyans to believe. Anybody who has been in one position for twenty years musty give way to fresh air and fresh thinking. The status quo experts must be sacrificed this time round. If we don’t do this on day one; Kenyans will have been shortchanged on change again!