The significance of impending Raila Vs. Kibaki duel

Raila Odinga did not disappoint on the august occasion to launch his vision last Sunday. To his credit Raila spared no effort to ensure the event would project a nationalistic image. As widely expected Raila was likely to come out strong in pomp, colour and flamboyance. Yet at the end of Raila’s long speech it was not easy to tell what his ascendancy to power would offer at a lesser political cost than now. Everything that Kenyans have in their wish list found some space in Raila’s vision which conspicuously did not tell where the billions to build us heaven on earth will come from.

Unlike the previous launches by his ODM-K rivals, Raila’s occasion was not a provincial affair which goes on to fortify the fact that he is the first among alleged equals in ODM-Kenya. Listening to Raila left me with the distinct impression that far from bringing any single issue to closure, he is bound to reopen virtually everything including motives of the things Jomo Kenyatta did to build us a nation of few millionaires in a sea of destitution. In other words Raila’s vision does not unravel the mystery around him but covers him with new layers of enigma, paradoxes, fears, suspicions and contradictions.

Raila’s historical take of the country’s political developments depicts himself as a man who ahs been grossly wronged by the system. It is a history of deprivation and injustice against the Luo and anyone else who had the misfortune of not being born from the regions of Kenya’s successive presidents. Given the complexity of the issues that informed specific particular events and assassinations – including the alleged one of Crispin Mbai in 2003 – it is crass opportunism to make the simplistic conclusions made by his speech.

Consider the constitution making process as a case in point. Raila is obviously proud that he led the Orange campaign to reject the proposed new constitution during the November, 2005 referendum. The natural outcome of the referendum was that the review law under which both the Bomas and Wako draft were made expired. This is why the government has table two bills in Parliament to help in restarting the review process.

Viewed this way it was intriguing for Raila to promise that, if elected president, he will give Kenyans a new constitution in six months. Which draft? According to Raila the Bomas draft requires only minor amendments then it will be proclaimed as the new constitution. Besides the fact that in a democracy a president is not elected to give people a new constitution, Raila’s position is cause for grave concern on Kenyans despite the deep-seated concerns about its implications.

Further in a democracy leaders are elected to rule in accordance with the existing laws. It follows therefore that something is amiss when Raila is seeking office under a presidential system in order that he may replace it with a parliamentary one. Once again we must pause and ask: Why is Raila obsessed with the parliamentary system. There are two reasons why. First, a parliamentary system removes competition for power from the people to parliament where experience shows that a man with the kind of skills Raila possesses is the guaranteed winner.

Secondly, under a parliamentary system there is no such thing as term limits as prime minister can rule as long as his party or coalition has a majority ion parliament. Today Raila’s friend, Olusegon Obasanjo, is the outgoing president of Nigeria because his bid to remove the term limits aborted. To his credit Raila knows that save for how one gets to power, it matters precious little in Africa whether the chief executive wears the title of president or prime minister. And to be prime minister is to become chief executive on the cheap!

Finally, there was a ring of arrogance in Raila’s speech that made it sound more of an inauguration than a vision statement. The level of confidence among Raila’s political supporters makes one wonder whether they know something the rest of us don’t. it is increasingly being taken for granted by ODM-K particularly Raila’s loyalists, that Kibaki’s tenure must end in December 2007. This self confidence is all the more amazing considering that Raila is yet to secure ODM-K nomination and the implication of his seemingly imminent triumph over Kalonzo Musyoka and William Ruto is not yet known.

The way I see it, Kalonzo is more easily dispensable in ODM-K than Kibaki’s supporters would rather have it. Under the current dispensation it is highly unlikely that Kalonzo would defect with more than a quarter of ODM-K current political power. Regarding Ruto, all indications so far are that neither he nor his supporters truly dream of a presidential inauguration in the near future. Theirs seem to be a case of strategic positioning in post-Kibaki era as opposed to a serious bid to have Ruto succeed him. Moreover, it seems that amongst the Kalenjin and the Abaluhya, Raila is bound to trounce any candidate from the Kikuyu community.

In sum, in launching his vision Raila has simultaneously managed to dwarf his ODM-K rivals and also announced his arrival on the big stage for a Herculean contest against Kibaki around December. There could be no drastic political contest as this one promises.

Lawyer Kibe Mungai

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