Wednesday, February 2, 2011



By Patrick Omondi
Migori County
February 2 2011
The president and his men left the country laughing gleefully, having ambushed Raila Odinga with a list of a team to head the judicial reforms. As usual, the nation was duly informed that this list was arrived at after serious and intensive consultations had been made. The impression was for the audience to assume that both principles were in agreement and was satisfied with the list. But instead, the list has turned out to be one infamous “list of shame’, to the authors.

Who did the president consult and what was the level of consultation? Those against the list have anchored their defense on law and spirit of the ruling coalition accord, which requires the president and his counterpart, the Right Honorable prime minister to consult on matters such as appointment of constitutional office holders. The prime minister alleges all consultations were placed on hold, to allow him concentrate on other international assignments, including handing over the Ivory Coast report to AU in Addis Ababa.

His critics, who are vigorously pushing for the adoption of the list, however maintain the president followed the law and consultations were made. They are pushing for the report to be tabled in parliament, where they have unassailable majority, to endorse the president’s nominees.

As parliament, what is your understanding and reflection of consultation in government? It would be narrow to assume consultations is defined by informing your counterpart of your intentions and then going ahead to the implementation stage, without taking on board the feelings and suggestions of the other party. Without resorting to the lay meaning of the term, your level of representation as national leaders requires a deeper meaning to the word, than the implied theatrics already displayed in certain quarters. It is apparent you are all being misled by emotions and other ulterior motives, not the spirit of the word consultation.

In our peculiar and delicate political arrangement, the coalition requires a proportionate input of both parties, without one resorting to subversive activities, to underrate or undermine the other partner. This must be displayed in public, not necessarily in private.

Deep consultations must be made, displayed in spirit and principle as opposed to might. Issues emanating from the principles, if the details of the national accord were adhered to, cannot be contested through popularity, for it erodes the trust and working relationship between the two, an instrumental factor for government to operate. But since the national accord was formed, one partner has treated the other with disdain and lack of respect. Government could be performing much better, delivering services, if we stick to the accord and work as one government.

Neither side of the coalition should display behavior in public, likely to inflict injury to the conduct and reputation of the other principle, in manner likely to erode the public trust and confidence either from one of them or the entire process.

Legitimacy of the process is interpreted through the spirit of agreement and not with one party displaying its authority and might, to render the other irrelevant. Though the office of the president retains absolute power, the accord transfers equally important authority to the office of the prime minister, an office recognized by the constitution and funded heavily by the tax payers. It is not an office that has imposed itself on the functions of government, neither is it a smaller office, comparable to other departmental ministries. The Prime Minister has a bigger role to play in government, including appointments, supervision, disciplinary matters as well as other important administrative duties as a partner in government, not as a leader of the opposition.

It is most likely that as parliamentarians, you are likely to vote along tribal blocks based on the latest political developments in the country. However, there are cases that require you to withdraw into a state of deep thought and be guided by your conscience and that of the people you represent. Can parliament be used as a rubberstamp, to break the rule of law? Would parliament, as an honorable institution contribute to illegality, impunity and dictatorship?

Ethnic divide and popularity contest is likely to influence parliament to be biased, ending up making unpopular decisions to settle scores. Good decisions by parliamentarians must not only be dictated by the flow of the majority but by the reflections of other Kenyans, including recognized secular and constitutional institutions. In this case, what are the other stakeholders saying about the latest political fiasco?

Parliament must not blindly follow the decisions of the president/executive, particularly when there is public uproar about his unilateral decisions. As an institution, it has advocated for the trimming of the powers of the president in micro managing everything, including how laws are made, interpreted and how they are enforced, through the appointment of the exucutive office holders. A recent case of the director of NSIS was dowlplayed, creating the impression that the president could now act with impunity. It is a strong parliament, independent in character, that can tame a rogue president, rahter than back his bad tendencies.

Kenyans hope party and ethnic politics will not be dragged into parliament, to define reforms and how the constitution is interpreted. We further pray that law makers will resist the pressure of lobbying to make them disregard protocol, rule of law and become insensitive, just to please a few individuals whose life depends on the list. It is time you decide on the floor of the house, as individuals, not flocks of sheep.

Kenyans would like to see an independent parliament, not one that bows to the influence of a powerful executive,a parliamentary caucus guided by principles and not ethnicity. We yearn for a day parliament would seal loophooles which favor cliques of powerfull individuals, by enacting popular legislations, for the entire nation.

Patrick L Opondi,

Migori County