Macharia Gaitho: The new unity government should not be about leaders

LOOKS LIKE THINGS WILL BE moving at a frenetic pace. The two keys Bills supposed to open the way to the realisation of the peace accord could be debated in Parliament today.

If everything is as hunky dory as it appears, the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill and the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill will be passed in record time by popular acclamation.

This will clear the way for establishment of the so-called Grand Coalition Government with ODM leader Raila Odinga as Prime Minister.

Speculation is already rife that things could move at supersonic speed resulting in President Kibaki announcing the new government as early as tomorrow.

Whether it happens this week or the next, events have indeed proceeded at a pace that was surely unimaginable just few weeks when it appeared almost certain that the talks brokered by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan where on the verge of collapse.

Instead of the total meltdown we all feared at the time, Kenya is instead on the verge of a great new beginning, but a lot more will have to be done than merely assembling a national unity government or whatever it may be called.

The kind of government we are expecting is coming into place expressly as a device to pull Kenya from the brink of anarchy after the violence suffered in the wake of the disputed elections.

The violence may have been triggered by the elections, but the roots lay in long-standing issues and grievances that successive administrations — Kenyatta, Moi, Kibaki — had preferred to sweep under the carpet.

Those are the issues that the unity government is supposed to address, and they are far more important than merely providing space for the political elite agreeing to close ranks and “eat together”.

There is the danger than once every party has its quota of Cabinet ministers and senior civil servants and every major leader his allocation of bodyguards and escort vehicles, the issues that really matter could be again conveniently forgotten – until the next explosion.

It is, in fact ,quite distressing that so many so-called leaders are up to the present more preoccupied with canvassing for rank and position than in pushing for the issues that need to be tackled.

And the rest of us are fascinated as to who has what powers in the new pecking order and who gets what slot. We are putting more emphasis on the scramble by individual politicians for power, perks and privileges, and in the process taking our eyes off the graver issues we should really be focusing on.

EVEN AS WE EAGERLY AWAIT THE new power structure we must put the focus back where it belongs.

Politicians, by nature and almost without exception, are a greedy, selfish and shortsighted breed. Thus it becomes doubly important that we force our leaders to address the issues that are much more critical to the future of this nation than their own individual ego and ambition.

The successful mediation by Mr Annan and his departure was not the end, but the beginning of what will be a difficult and lengthy process of crafting a new constitutional order and resolving the issues of land rights, justice, equitable development, fair sharing of resources and a criminal gap between rich and poor.

Those are the ticking time-bombs that must be defused if Kenya is not to forever threatened with implosion.

Peace, it must be emphasised, is not merely the absence of war. And let us not forget that Kenya is not yet at peace. At best, there is a ceasefire in place and the mandate of the unity government is to continue the engagement that will bring about a permanent cessation of hostilities.

Unless our leaders tackle this aspect with due speed and diligence, there is every danger that renewed violence could be in the offing.

In the first instance, the formation of the unity government must not in any way be hampered by hardliners, obstructionists and other unpatriotic elements who may place their individual interests above the national good.

Secondly, the unity government, once in place, must move with speed to national healing and reconciliation, a process that will only be successful if the underlying issues are resolved without delay.

It is important here that all recognise that the unity government is not about leaders hitherto at odds putting aside their differences so that they can wine and dine together at our expense.

Nor is it about any side surrendering some of the power it thinks it won at the ballot box; nor about the other side winning some of the power it thinks it lost unfairly at the same polls.

It is simply about a win-win situation, not for the leaders, but for Kenya. And the issues to be tackled are not about the leaders, but about the people of Kenya who deserve peace, security, human rights and the opportunities to prosper and realise their goals and ambitions irrespective of clan, tribe, race, sex or religion.

Bookmark the permalink.