Macharia Gaitho: The deal is done, now for the very tricky part

PRESIDENT KIBAKI AND ODM leader Raila Odinga signing on to a power-sharing deal was probably the easy part.

Now comes the tricky bit of crafting out the fine print in the pact that is supposed to lead, for the first time in Kenya’s history, to the President sharing power with a prime minister coming in from the opposition to form the so-called Grand Coalition.

Ideally, such an agreement should present a win-win solution. But one gets the impression that celebrations in some quarters are rather muted.

In President Kibaki’s political camp, there seems to be a feeling among hardliners that too much was given away.

And while the Odinga forces are jubilant that their man will get a share of power as Prime Minister, it is still unclear whether the powerful Rift Valley constituency — the region most affected by ethnic evictions — is all that excited.

Resettling the hundreds of thousands evicted from their farms and homesteads could turn out to be easier said than done, especially where the properties have already been appropriated.

It could also need a lot of effort by President Kibaki and Mr Odinga to whip their respective MPs fully into line behind the agreement. It would take just a third of all MPs staying away during the crucial vote to derail any constitutional amendment Bill.

The accord was rather vague on the finer details of exactly how the President and the Prime Minister will share power, and the exact duties and functions of the proposed new office.

One problem is that the power-sharing deal is more of a shotgun marriage than a union by mutual consent.

Even assuming all the tricky bits are agreed on without too much fuss, the actual operationalisation could be hampered if there is too much mistrust and suspicion.

For one, both sides will be diverted considerably by keeping an eye on the next elections. The coalition is designed as a temporary measure to oversee work on the longer term solutions needed to put Kenya back on an even keel. Beyond that task, both sides will be plotting to out-do each other come 2012.

Mr Odinga will certainly be working on a strategy aimed at securing power, and not shared power, whether it is through the presidency or the premiership depending on which office he covets in a new constitutional dispensation.

President Kibaki is on his final term and will not be in the running, but there are, in central Kenya, a few already actively working to inherit his mantle.

Narc, which took power in 2002, collapsed basically because both sides, Mr Kibaki’s and Mr Odinga’s, remained in competition even after the elections. The constitution review exercise of the time became merely a tool for each side to try and retain power or plot to take power.

IF SIMILAR QUESTS DOMINATE the new coalition, then it could again be paralysis that will force a parting of ways before any meaningful progress is made in the search for long-term solutions to Kenya’s ethno-political and social schisms.

Then there is the added complication that a president in his final term is always a bit of a lame-duck. President Kibaki will be even more so in a situation where he is serving out his final term forced to share power with a bitter rival.

Many in his camp will be looking beyond the present to either make their own bids for power, or lining up behind those they feel can best represent their interests in the post-Kibaki era.

If there is a critical mass of his MPs who feel President Kibaki accepted a raw deal, then they will have even more incentive to look towards a new champion for the community.

Such a scenario was already building up even before the agreement when a good number of MPs and Cabinet ministers from central Kenya started rallying round a few of their own, independent of the established Government machinery to lead a counter-offensive against the Rift Valley attacks.

Within the Government, also, there is the issue of how Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka fits into the new political dispensation.

Although the VP has publicly welcomed the power-sharing pact, it is obvious that he loses out when Mr Odinga comes in. A Prime Minister in charge of co-ordination and supervision of government is likely to be much more powerful than a Vice-President who has little in terms of defined responsibilities beyond running a ministerial docket.

Besides being a heartbeat away from the presidency, the VPs post carries little clout – not worth much more than pitcher of warm spittle, as a former US Vice-President famously put it.

If he also loses his leadership of the Government side in Parliament to the PM, Mr Musyoka’s role will be further diminished.

Mr Musyoka is not part of President Kibaki’s PNU, but was invited into government to provide the numbers needed to keep Mr Odinga’s ODM in check. Now Mr Odinga is coming into government with vastly superior numbers, and still evidently angry at what ODM calls Mr Musyoka’s betrayal, first in running his own presidential campaign through ODM Kenya, and then in going into the Kibaki Government.

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