Wednesday, March 4, 2009

THE IDES OF MARCH ARE BACK WITH US IN KENYAN POLITICS

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By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
March 4 2009

As they always say; there is always a lull before a storm. The clouds hanging ominously over Kenyan skies are pregnant with rage. It is the season of hard politics and catfights once more. The first salvo has been launched by the ODM brigade. 2012 is too far to wait.

The big guns have made their calculations. If they wait until then; they will lose power to anybody not necessarily to the PNU or ODM Kenya. Most likely, like the PNU and ODM Kenya, they will lose it to disgruntled Kenyan electorate. Having made their calculations; they have decided that the time is now to strike the iron while it is still hot.

Was it by coincidence that the day President Kibaki called a rare press conference to complain to the media about his marital status, ODM National Executive Council also convened a special meeting to reevaluate its role in the Coalition government?
These two developments can only mean many things to the state of our politics for the next several years.

With Kibaki preoccupied with his family image, and a possible protracted court battle with rumor peddlers; he will most likely pay very little attention to crucial matters of state. Chances of retreating to the State House rather than operate from Harambee House in the near future are very high.

More importantly; now that the ODM National Executive Council is demanding fresh negotiations on the February 2008 deal, the likelihood of hardliners on the PNU side emerging from the woodworks to put spanners into the works are very high.

What this means is that for all practical purposes, the coalition government will either stop functioning or it will limp to the 2012 general elections with hardly anything achieved. The question is; can presidential hopefuls in the main parties allow it to limp to the 2012 elections? The answer is no, because such a scenario would not auger well for their performance at the polls knowing full well the present lousy mood the voters are in right now.

The ODM anger is understandable however; the situation they now find themselves in has not come as a surprise. Their eagerness to sign a lopsided deal with PNU; the party that stole the elections is the reason they now find themselves in this awkward situation. My suspicion is that they will have a lot of explaining to their followers why they were not prudent enough before they signed the accord knowing full well the kind of partners they were dealing with. ODM followers will remember that this will not be the first time their leaders had been taken for a ride by more or less the same characters.

They will remember the 2002 MoU signed at the Hilton Hotel by the same partners that came to nothing three years later.

As the new political wrangles take center stage, at stake will be the reform agendas that the coalition government was supposed to put in place before the next general elections. They include the new constitution whose outcome is already threatened.

On this score, Prof Nyongo’ was categorical when he stated the ODM position; that the nine wise men should never attempt to reinvent the wheel which was already invented at the Bomas Conference five years ago and patented by ODM. To Prof Nyongo’, either it will be the Bomas Draft or nothing. What this means is that since ODM has already taken a stand; the 2009 document will find it difficult to be endorsed in Parliament if the drafters come up with a new document unrelated to the Bomas Draft. The question is; will the other parties play along?

If indeed the ODM carries out its threat and writes to Kofi Annan demanding amendments to the Coalition deal, will Kofi Annan agree to reopen the discussions? And even if Kofi Annan played along with ODM; will PNU and ODM K accept to renegotiate? Suppose the other partners also come up with their own demands?

This new development will affect many processes already set in motion by the coalition government. One will remember that as a result of the Kriegler and Waki Commissions, Parliament amended the constitution and disbanded the Electoral Commission of Kenya but later failed to agree on the list of the Interim Independent Electoral Commission. In effect, as of now, Kenya has no constitutional electoral body and therefore cannot hold any parliamentary or civic elections.

As a result of the Waki Report, Parliament was supposed to amend the constitution to set up a special Tribunal along the lines of the International Criminal Court at The Hague to try suspects of Election Violence and other crimes against humanity committed on Kenyan soil. However, when the bill came to Parliament, it was shot down by MPs who believed that a local tribunal would be trivialized by the Attorney General and influential people in the system.

Under the circumstances, the worst that can happen will be for President Kibaki to call the ODM bluff, dismiss its ministers from the government and attempt to rule alone like he did in 2005 after he lost the referendum. In so doing this, he can use his undiluted executive powers under the existing constitution, appoint the entire cabinet, reconstitute the ECK and use the existing courts and criminal investigation machinery to try some suspects of the post election violence.

If he goes this direction, the ODM can resort to either making Parliament unmanageable by blocking all government sponsored bills. Alternatively, ODM can mobilize its supporters countrywide to make the country ungovernable once more. The question is; does ODM still have the good will to mobilize the masses after their one year stint in the coalition?

The ODM threat to reopen negotiations cannot be taken lightly. They have in their corner a swelling number of very unhappy supporters who lost out when the coalition was formed. The half a loaf Raila Odinga has been talking about has not gone around for everybody to taste even its crumbs. It is therefore in the ODM interest to go back to the drawing board and let their constituents know that the party leadership too is tormented by the current state of affairs.

More threatened will be the PNU and ODMK corner who will instantly see red signals ahead. A renegotiated settlement will logically not result in a more expanded cabinet and other government organs. As it is the cabinet is already too large and too expensive for our shrinking economy.

A renegotiated coalition can only mean one thing; PNU-ODMK side losing more ground to accommodate ODM fresh demands. It will mean more heads rolling among permanent secretaries, heads of parastatals, the military chiefs and Kenyan ambassadors and high commissioners abroad. It will mean more DCs and PCs will be either retired or redeployed to give room to some ODM appointees.

Not to be left out will be key ministries in the Kibaki administration. Right now Kibaki’s PNU holds all the key ministries like the Office of the President, Internal Security, Defense, Energy, Information & Communications, Finance, Trade, Foreign Affairs and Justice & Constitutional Affairs.

These are the ministries that supervise all the important dockets of government like Cabinet Affairs, the Police Department, National Intelligence Service, Provincial Administration, Department of Defense, the oil industry, telecommunications industry, the Banking Industry, the Central Bank, Kenya Revenue Authority, manufacturing industry, the Judiciary, anti corruption agencies, the Attorney General’s Chambers and Foreign Relations.

It is this arrangement that has rendered ODM an outsider when it comes to delivering its promises to the people of Kenya.

Because of this arrangement; most PNU ministers including one of the Prime Minister’s deputies has not seen the need to work with the Prime Minister. Their allegiance is to the man who appointed them to the cabinet and that man is President Kibaki.

It is this unholy arrangement that Raila Odinga has been battling with for the past one year with little success. His supervisory and oversight roles have been resisted by all and sundry including the Head of the Civil Service. And they are happy to tell the people at the end of the day that if this government fails to deliver; it will be because the man in charge of performance contracting; the supervisor and overseer of functions of the government has failed in his duties!

Yes, this arrangement is unholy and needs to be renegotiated. Kenya can ill afford two governments in one.

jerryokungu@gmail.com

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