Monday, September 8, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
September 8, 2008

The riot act Raila Odinga read to his belligerent party MPs was most appropriate. Party hotheads who think they have arrived must not be allowed to ride rough rod on our heads. There are paid up party members who are not MPs but are equally important.

These are the people who sacrificed their everything to ensure ODM did as well as it did. These are the same people who will matter in 2012; not the current MPs that may not even see Parliament again. If they don’t want to work for the party, then the honorable thing is to quit the party rather than rock it from within. They must quit, go back to their electorate and seek fresh mandate from parties of their choice. Every self respecting politician knows this.

For a long time , I have been wondering why these MPs have been clamoring for a grand coalition of the official opposition. As the days have passed, it has become apparently clear that some among them have been harboring their tribal agenda. Now some want to unite their tribes as if these tribes are a bunch of lesser beings with no brains of their own.

Some of these individuals have forgotten that they helped Moi ruin Kenya’s economy in 1992 during YK’92. They lost the elections in 2002 for backing the wrong horse- Moi again. Now it would appear like they have become the messiahs that their communities have been waiting for! Could it be true that these individuals harbor a permanent vendetta against their current national leaders that they see as a stumbling block to their political ambitions?

The truth is; this desire to form an official opposition alliance is driven more by the bitterness for missing out on cabinet appointments than by democratic ideals. If it were not so, I would challenge any one of them to tell Kenyans that if today they were included in the cabinet, they would still pursue these misguided causes.
A good politician reads and investigates circumstances for comparison. We have few coalition governments in Africa, save for South Africa under Mandela.

Therefore for us to make our coalition work, we must cast our eyes beyond the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. We have to look to Pakistan, India, Italy, Germany, France, Israel and Japan. These are the countries that have perfected the art of coalition building.

Perhaps the most democratic countries that practice coalition governments are Israel, Japan and Italy. We see their formations and fallout from time to time. And they don’t fear going back to elections for as many times as it takes. No Japanese Prime Minister or government is assured of a five year term. They hardly last a year in office.

Yet in all these democracies, there are no opposition coalitions. Back benchers fill the gap comfortably. Why should we feel so special and different?
The other day Martha Karua, Musikari Kombo and Paul Muite read the riot act for their MPs that might contemplate joining the PNU bandwagon. They asked these MPs to read the Political Parties Act afresh.

They threatened them with immediate deregistration as party members should they attempt to behave as if it is business as usual. They reminded these MPs and cabinet ministers that are stuck in the past that this is 2008 and not 2007 when Parliament was a jungle.

Political Party managers must stick to the letter of the law and rein in on political party promiscuity. Those who are unable to keep one partner for at least five years must be divorced and set free to go to bed with any party they fancy. But they cannot do this and come back to their matrimonial home in this era of ukimwi. If they come back home, they may just infect the entire clan and cause unnecessary deaths in the village.

The only way to instill discipline in political parties is to act tough especially now that the tax payer is going to fund them. In this regard, the riot act read to ODM members in Naivasha over the weekend was not blunt enough. These MPs should have been told to resign now rather than later to allow for fresh political realignment. It makes sense to get rid of a problem now rather than wait for it to go away on its own tomorrow. Now is the time to strike the iron while it is still hot.