A new Cabinet is just the beginning

The swearing-in Thursday of the prime minister, the two deputy prime ministers and the rest of the new ministers and assistant ministers might be one of those great moments in Kenyan history.

The event at State House, Nairobi, completed the installation of the grand coalition government as mandated by the power-sharing agreement signed in February 28 between President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and the subsequent enabling legislation.

Even as Kenya marks this great moment, however, there is still the danger of seeing completion of the new government as the final act in the deal.

This is just the beginning. We must not forget that the National Accord and Reconciliation Act is not just about having our main political protagonists sharing power.

It was not merely about bringing the ODM into President Kibaki’s PNU government or about creating the office of Prime Minister for erstwhile opposition leader Raila Odinga.

The whole arrangement was necessitated by a national emergency; to end the violence that threatened to dismember Kenya after the disputed presidential elections.

We must not forget that the installation of the national unity government is just one of the initial steps towards interrogating the underlying causes of the kind of violence witnessed, and making sure we are never faced with a similar situation.

There will be a great temptation right now to think that our national problems have been solved and we can all go back to business as usual.

Far from it. The process of national dialogue must go on. One urgent issue still waiting to be addressed, as stressed by both the President and the Prime Minister Thursday, is the re-settlement of the hundreds of thousands of Kenyans who have been made refugees in their own country and across our borders.

But even that will remain an event in a long process that must involve an inquiry into what went wrong with the 2007 General Election; a truth, justice and reconciliation mechanism; a look at the issue of inter-ethnic relations in the country; an examination of the land issues and ultimately lead to a new constitutional order that will guarantee equity and justice for all individuals and groups.

That is the most challenging agenda for the grand coalition government. The installation of the government must not become an end in itself.

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