Wycliffe Muga: Kibaki, Raila cant work in harmony - The Star

It has been widely reported that Kenya is facing a "crisis" as a result of the controversy on prime ministerial powers, which has seemingly brought a split between the two partners in our coalition government.

On the one hand we have Raila Odinga, backed by his ODM party, insisting that he acted well within his constitutional powers, in "suspending" the minister for Education Sam Ongeri and Agriculture minister William Ruto, both of whose ministries have featured prominently in corruption scandals.

On the other, we have President Kibaki, supported by his PNU party and their affiliates, arguing that the PM has no such powers at all.

Now, if you wish to understand why something of this kind was inevitable and also why there is really no reason to worry about it, the question you should ask concerning the two principals is: Who are these men, and what do they want?

I do not mean what they want in the long term, as the answer to that I imagine is "eternal life in heaven". Rather, what do they want to see happen over the next few years, leading up to the 2012 General Election?

And when you consider this, it becomes obvious not only why their paths had to diverge at some point, but also why this divergence is merely harmless political posturing.

First the President: I think it is reasonable to say that the he has long given up hope of going down in history as the President who ended corruption that has for so many years plagued the country. There have simply been too many corruption scandals, too much of business as usual under his watch for this to even remotely feature in a realistic assessment of his presidency.

Then of course there was the matter of his doubtful "victory" in December 2007, and the post-election violence that followed on it.

But he does not have to worry about reelection. And finally, and in many ways by far the most significant factor, there is his continued poor health which limits him to only the bare minimum of exertion in the conduct of his official duties.

All this suggests a man who is really just biding his time, waiting for the day when he will leave all this behind him and take a well-deserved rest; a man who has no stomach for any aggressive steps or for making hard decisions.

The PM is the precise opposite of this. He seems convinced that he has a rendezvous with destiny and that he is possibly the only man who can turn this country around and bring about fundamental change, whether it be in ending corruption, or in transforming Kenya from a low-income country into a newly industrialised country.

More significant yet, for his relationships with the president, Raila obviously believes that he won the December 2007 presidential election, and that he only gave way to President Kibaki for the good of the country. And he plainly intends to be either president or PM after 2012, depending on which office will have real power at that time.

So when you combine a very passive president like Kibaki with a supremely dynamic PM like Raila under these specific circumstances, what do you expect?

I believe you get a situation in which the PM will constantly be "pushing the envelope"; flexing his muscles; seeing how far he can push the president to fall in with his priorities.

As for what these priorities are, I would say it seems Raila has his eyes unwaveringly focused on a future election. Despite all his talk about being willing to give up politics and "sell mandazi" if that should be the price for doing the right thing, in whatever steps he takes, his guiding principle seems to be, "How will this look in 2012?"

For the PM faces a huge problem when it comes to that election: He has always had his most remarkable electoral successes when he has been able to present himself as a reformist outsider competing with entrenched insiders, who have betrayed the legitimate expectations of Kenyans.

But in 2012, he will not be an outsider: as the PM, he will be very much an insider. So how can he then claim to be the virtuous outsider who is out to evict the corrupt insiders from the throne of power?

In the final part of this analysis, I will explain what I think the PM is trying to do, in order to ensure that despite being very much at the centre of power right now he will be able to present himself as a champion of the people against the corrupters inside government come 2012.

Muga comments on topical issues.

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