Thursday, July 31, 2008



July 31 2008
Daily Nation

Both Kibaki and Raila have sounded optimism over the coalition's future.
If the President is losing a hold of PNU, then the success of the coalition is the main thing he has to hold on as his legacy.

Raila has done a lot to soften his image and look presidential, by presenting himself as a team-player, being a strong defender of Kibaki and building his image abroad.

Ever since Kenya's grand coalition Government was forged over 100 days ago from the ashes of the post-December election violence, it has been hard to find anyone outside the ministers in it and the American, British and German envoys who thinks it will last up to 2012.

At various interviews in his hectic international schedule, he has sold the grand coalition as “the solution” to Africa’s tribal-riven politics.

I will not bet the house on the survival of the grand coalition (I am not deluded), but I am willing to put my shirt on it limping on to 2012.

For starters, because there are internal political battles to fight (witness Narc-K shaking the PNU tree), and there is an election in under five years in which the incumbent is not standing, no one in the coalition has time to spare to work on breaking it up.

Many factors will determine the future of the coalition, but at the level of personalities, President Kibaki and Premier Odinga hold the key to its survival.

To start with President Kibaki, it is remarkable seeing ministers, including junior ones, and minor party officials ticking him off about his attempt to consolidate PNU and, allegedly, to “impose” a successor.

Going by this, commentators and critics have written the President off as damaged goods, your typical lame-duck president in his last term of office.

If that is true, then it also means that President Kibaki isn’t powerful enough to wreck the coalition.

Secondly, if he is losing grip, then the success of the coalition is the main thing he has to hold on as his legacy. My own sense is that all he has to do to secure his legacy is to sleep throughout the next four years, leaving things as they are.

Mr Odinga, on the other hand, has even less reason to tear up the grand coalition.

During the campaigns it became clear that there was quite some unease in parts of Kenya as to whether he could be “trusted”, and whether he was still a “dangerous” radical and glass-breaker.

In the last three months, he has done a lot to soften his image and look presidential. He positions himself as the great team-player, and is robust in his defence of Mr Kibaki, a fact which should place him in good standing with some of the President’s staunch supporters.

But perhaps the greater discovery has been his appeal abroad.

His record of democratic struggle, and folksy political style – speeches full of proverbs and stories about rain-soaked lions being mistaken for cats, football tales and chants on stage, and the urban underclass’s fascination with grandeur (the Hummer) – looked unsuited to a sophisticated international stage.