Rachel Sbebesh: Big 2 fight is about Kibaki succession - The Star

It is political high season following the clash between the two principals over the "suspension" of ministers William Ruto and Sam Ongeri.

Our self-serving "experts" now subject us to treatises interpreting the coalition powers. There is a media frenzy with lopsided intellectual arguments, conspiracy theories and juvenile debate.

Wananchi share the discourse huddled in estate corners, pubs and village barazas. Politicians, myself included, engage in bare-knuckled exchanges, cheerleading and seek to outdo each other at funerals and harambees.

This impasse between the two principals is no longer about who is right or wrong over Ruto and Ongeri. Plainly said, it is about the intertwined forces of corruption and succession politics.

The ordinary mwananchi may not appreciate the magnitude of corruption and its capacity to fight back as alluded to by former anti-corruption czar John Githongo and Aaron Ring'era.

The lack of political will to fight corruption is a fact. If Raila is politically responsible for the misdeeds of a government whose operations he supervises and coordinates, then Kibaki is equally culpable for denying him the tools (read power) to right the wrongs.

The most recent scandals — Grand Regency, maize, free primary funds and Triton, politically speaking, all belong to ministries under the PNU wing of the coalition (even though maize was partly administered by a parastatal under Agriculture).

It is difficult not to read mischief into the power play against Raila by Kibaki. When Kibaki rescinded Raila's decision, he barely scratched the surface on the substantive issue of corruption.

And Kibaki suspended the various PSs because he wanted to share the moral high ground after officials in Raila's office had resigned.

Kibaki has been lukewarm towards Mau which is a "Raila" project. You can see revenge and succession proxy wars being played out. If a schism can be wedged between the PM and the Kalenjin, or any other community for that matter, then Kibaki's succession plan gains.

How can the Prime Minister exercise responsibility without authority? Clearly the management chain and unity of command have been redefined. Kibaki is encouraging anarchy and insubordination in the management of government affairs.

The timing of Raila's suspension of Ruto and Ongeri may be treated with suspicion, considering the fallout with some Rift Valley leaders and pressure from donors on the free primary education. I accept it may have been politically expedient for Raila to play to the gallery with a selective war against corruption.

But the battle lines are drawn. I don't believe the deep rooted rifts between the two principals can be resolved by Kofi Annan. In fact it is not in Kibaki's interests to have them resolved because they afford the opportunity to exercise his perceived imperial presidency.

Notwithstanding, the culture of holding leaders to account must start immediately.

The current stalemate between Kibaki and Raila is a red herring meant to distract Kenyans from the issues that safeguard their future and that of their grand-children. Many leaders will want this debate to last forever while they preserve the status quo of deals, ill-gotten gains, and power sharing.

The only reason Kenya has not slid into a failed state is through the resolve and resilience of the wananchi. If only they realised how much people power they wield, yote ingewezekana.

Kenyans, let us now give the constitution making process top priority. Do not be derailed from this process and do not let politi-cians dictate when you should have it. With its minimum acceptable safeguards, demand it now and let's modify it as we move along. But the end game of that document should be a General Election not later than mid 2011.

Kenyans, don't accept lip service on comprehensive institutional reforms. Clamour for them at every opportunity. Use all public events and national days to agitate both for this and the constitution. Let your national leaders appreciate the urgency. Boycott functions if necessary. It will be pointless to achieve the constitution and still meet an inept judiciary or security organs headed by individuals heavily implicated in the post-election violence.

Let us force compliance of a once and for all settlement of all IDPs by mid-2010.The current bickering is callous when victims of political violence still languish in makeshift homes.

Hopefully, by the time we go for the elections next year under a new constitution, the answers we seek today will be answered. Who holds the moral high ground? Who do Kenyans trust most? Who is playing politics? Who are the mavericks? Who are the vultures in our midst? But when we do make that choice, let's agree to live with it. As they say, leaders mirror their society.

Shebesh is an ODM nominated MP and a member of the PanAfrican Parliament.

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