Sunday, February 22, 2009



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
February 20, 2009

The other day, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga held a Kamukunji meeting with MPs in the Old Chambers of Parliament. They had gone there to rally MPs to pass a constitutional amendment that would pave the way for establishing a tribunal to try the 2007/2008 planners and sponsors of post election violence. They went ahead to attend the afternoon debate to ensure the bill passed. It did not.

A week later, another Parliamentary report establishing the Interim Electoral Commission was tabled in Parliament. The entire list was shot down following stiff opposition from the ODM side that alleged irregularities and non-declaration of conflicts of interest apart from non disclosure of vital information on a number of nominees.

Earlier in the morning, the President and the clergy had organized a national prayer meeting and fundraising drive for the victims of Nakumatt and Molo fire victims. However, instead of the clergy praying for the soul of the nation and victims of the tragedies; they went on the assault of the President and Prime Minister accusing them of five cardinal things:

1.That the two principals were reluctant to punish their friends who were corrupt and greedy
2.That they had shown little or no effort towards healing and reconciling the nation
3.That they had not punished those who broke the law
4.That they had neglected internally displaced persons still languishing in camps
5.That they were indecisive on security matters and extrajudicial killings by the police.

These were serious allegations by any standards ever leveled against a sitting president in this country, especially coming at a time when Kenyans in Migingo Island in Lake Victoria were under siege from Ugandan foreign troops!

The normal practice where religious matters are concerned is never to answer back to a priest no matter how harsh the man of God may be. The reason being; the clergy are God’s representatives on earth and are therefore licensed to admonish wayward leaders on behalf of the almighty. However, this unwritten law was thrown to the winds last Thursday at the Kenyatta International Conference Center. The government answered the clergy back! This unthinkable act took place in front of foreign dignitaries, common wananchi and more embarrassingly in front of cameras!

If the clergy, teachers, workers, students, hawkers and prison wardens are rebelling against authority; what does this portend for law and order in this country?

If MPs are rebelling against their party leaders and ministers have thrown collective responsibility to the winds; if ministers are disobeying orders and directives of their Coalition principals, where is the center of power that can hold this nation together? If church members are rebelling against their pastor like they did the other day to my village pastor, where is order and civilization?

Are these rebellions justified or are they the fruits of years of bottled up anger, frustration and oppression over decades under successive oppressive regimes? Could this be the reason we witnessed unprecedented mayhem following the 2007 elections?
Looked at another way, the reason all sorts of people are finding their voices and standing up against authority is due to President Kibaki’s leadership style. He opened up democratic space like no other president had ever done in Kenya in the last forty years. When he did this, political leaders reclaimed their power and authority. For the first time ministers felt like ministers and wielded real power.

They forgot to exercise responsibility that goes with such authority. They forgot that they would equally be held responsible and accountable for their actions and ended up generating muted rebellion against them. The first line of attack came from the civil servants whose power under Moi they had usurped. These civil servants fought back using Gandhi’s passive resistance tactics. A lot of these tactics involved undermining, sabotaging and misinforming greenhorns that had joined the cabinet.

Kenyans are on a rebellious mood is because the political class has betrayed them not once but twice since 2002. Optimism they had of NARC six years ago has dissipated. The ODM, PNU glossy manifestoes are all dead. All that they see is lavish lifestyles of their leaders as they starve to death! They are crying for unga everywhere politicians go. Their newly elected MPs cannot go back to them. All they have left is to heckle leading politicians including the President in public forums.
Looking at this rise and rise of wananchi against authority, I worry for Kenya’s next president.