Archive for May 2008

ODM woes worsening by the day

The once only the other day fabled ODM party is now treading on a slippery path and any unmeasured step could throw it hurtling down the precipice and make it another of those flash in the pan phenomenon. After a stormy parliamentary group and National Executive Council meeting in Nairobi that saw a half strength attendance, even the most optimistic of party loyalists would have had his antennae twitter.

What is making matters even trickier for ODM is the nature of differences that have taken center stage at the party Raila Odinga acquired last year and through sheer scheming mould into the most formidable outfit in the last election. Although everyone thought Raila had by now surmounted all possible political roadblocks and no path ahead of him was un-navigable given his experience, it seems like the tests for Raila become harder with every political exam that he passes.

Those who attended the Safari Park meeting divulged that Raila found himself in unfamiliar territory as hitherto obsequious MPs exhibited the clay they are made of making Raila leave the meeting worried that his goose could be cooked in the not too distant future unless he meets the demands of the recalcitrant MPs. Although the PM knew the meeting would be difficult given the dress rehearsals he had seen performed by the rebels in his party, it is said, he was still hopeful he would somehow browbeat them into submission and was evidently not prepared for what he encountered.

To measure the waters, Raila started by asking the MPs to shelve the idea of a grand opposition but the MPs could hear none of it and the subject was deftly pushed to a later date. The proposed Grand Coalition Bill, according to its architect, Ababu Namwaba who spoke after the meeting would be tabled in parliament as planned whether some quarters liked it or not.

Although according to ODM secretary general Anyang Nyong the matter of forming a grand opposition was unanimously deferred to the next meeting, inside sources those supporting the Bill said the meeting did not agree on anything and that those pushing for it were free to lobby. Half of the about 40 MPs attending the meeting reportedly supported the Bill.

Most of the MPs who did not attend reportedly kept away because they did not agree with Raila on his stand regarding the Bill and also to show their displeasure to Raila’s inability to have the youth arrested on suspicion of perpetrating violence released.

One could tell not all was well in the meeting from the fact that instead of Namwamba who is the party’s parliamentary group secretary reading the statement after the meeting as has been the tradition; it was Nyong’o. a whole minister, who convened the press conference.

And even as Raila grappled with the Bill and amnesty headaches, Rift Valley MPs who make the bulk of ODm boycotted the meeting saying they are not satisfied with the way the cabinet was appointed and a number of weighty issues that they insist must be addressed failure to which it will not be business as usual.

Politically speaking, without the support of Rift-Valley MPs, ODM remains a shell and Raila would be in the risk of losing the PM’s position. Sources close to PM revealed that days before the meeting, Raila through his elder brother and Finance assistant minister Dr Oburu Odinga tried in vain to meet rebel MPs at his treasury office but he MPs demanded to be told the agenda of the meeting first before they could make up their minds as to whether they would attend. Some MPs allegedly told Oburu that they were ready to meet the PM as Rift Valley MPs and not individually.

Unconfirmed reports say Raila had earlier before the meeting tried in vain to get Namwamba on phone but the Budalangi MP who during the parliamentary swearing in ceremony swore his allegiance to ‘president’ Raila Odinga acted busy. It is not known what Raila was up to but it is believed he wanted to have a one-on-one with Namwamba with the express purpose of having him drop the bill.

There seems like nothing is going to stop Namwamba whose political stature has grown by leaps and bounds in the last four months no little thanks to the controversial but popular stand on the formation of opposition. He has even gone as far as suggest that those opposed to the formation of opposition are having one foot in government and the other out of it and are so they want a vacuum to remain in opposition benches whereby they plan to jump at the opportune time once they have wrecked the government as their plan is and pretend to be the protectors of Kenyans against bad governance.

This lot, Namwamba said, is now afraid that if the opposition is formed at this early hour when they still want to eat in government, they will jump ship too late when the opposition will by then have wenyewe.

RV MPs on their part are now loudly wondering why Raila has failed to act on the arrested youths while he was quick to ask the government to open discussions with members of the outlawed Mungiki sect. What remains to be seen is how Raila whom many were starting to see as another professor of politics will tame rebel ODM MPs.

This more so when sources say a number of Luo MPs are secretly pushing for the formation of Grand Opposition as way of showing their disappointment on the cabinet appointment. Although the entire backbench from Luo Nyanza had appended their signatures in support of the opposition, they hastily pulled out the day Raila said he was opposed to the formation of grand opposition. It came as a big surprise that a good number of Luo MPs were conspicuously missing at the all important Safari Park meeting and the few who attended either came too late or left too early.

Leave a comment

Kibaki Succession: Fresh Kikuyu-Luo alliance in the offing

“We want a political deal between the two communities. We feel we have a duty to demonstrate to members of the Kikuyu and Luo communities that with Kibaki and Raila now in coalition government, it does not mean any political enmity again,” Weekly Citizen overheard Njenga Karume , a kitchen cabinet member who still enjoys government security detail tell a friend at his Landmark Hotel, Nairobi recently.

This follows revelation that various political heavyweights in Central province and Luo Nyanza have been working on a behind-the-scenes scheme to build bridges between the two communities.

The recent opening of Equity Bank in Raila Odinga’s home town of Bondo is part of the move to bring together and empower the two communities economically and politically.

It is worth to note, Equity Bank headed by President Kibaki ally James Mwangi was one of those companies ODM had blacklisted during it pre 2007 election campaigns.

Other firms ODM wanted party supporters to boycott their services included Brookhouse Dairies a milk production company associated with the Kenyatta family. Citi Hoppa, a transport company operating in Nairobi and associated with Juja MP George Thuo and media tycoon Samuel Macharia.

Citi Hoppa has John Macharia, the Managing Director of Tripple-A-Capital, a son of Macharia and Francis Michuki, a director of the Windsor Golf and Country club, son of Minister John Michuki on board.

That Raila could officiate the opening of Bondo Equity Bank, a bank that financed Kibaki’s second term presidential campaigns has left many guessing. At the function, Raila told Luos not to keep money in house and instead take loans which they should use in proper investments rather than pay dowry and entertain prostitutes.

At Raila’s homecoming party at Kisumu, Moi Stadium, the crowd could not believe its ears and thought they had not heard right when he said a move to bring other members of the coalition in the region was being initiated. Political analysts say that Raila had in mind inviting president Kibaki and his Party of National Unity to Kisumu.

Reliable sources reveal that the current link man between Kibaki men and Raila is former powerful attorney general Charles Njonjo and Tony Gachoka who made part of the Orange Democratic Movement campaign team in the run-up to last December General election after pulled out of Kamukunji parliamentary ODM primaries.

Only recently, senior Ministry officials at PM’s office located at 14th floor, Treasury Building were shocked to learn of appointments of Gachoka (Senior Assistant Secretary in-charge of Protocol) and a Major (Rtd) Idris (Deputy Secretary) when name plates were fixed on their office doors.

The move to appoint Gachoka as his protocol officer did not only surprise senior ministry officials but also Luo members of Raila kitchen cabinet. Insiders say, Raila was sending a message that with Gachoka a Kikuyu holding a strategic position in his PM office, he was willing and comfortable to work with the community and was not a tribalist.

Our source further went on to explain, the appointment of Joseph Nyagah as co-operative minister met stiff opposition from a number of ODM MPs who thought Mt.Kenya region had got its fair share of slots in the cabinet from Kibaki’s PNU.

The argument was that it was not useful to name Nyagah to cabinet when Kibaki failed to nominate former cabinet Minister Raphael Tuju to parliament despite having stood with the President at the hour of need. Tuju is a Luo.

We have also established that the recent appointment of Tuju as presidential special advisory by Kibaki is part of the deal to show Kibaki can work with the lake region community.

Our investigations reveal, Kibaki and Raila are having a cordial working relationship and that is why no permanent secretary or senior ranking officials from Luo Nyanza were dropped during the formation of the new government.

The only permanent secretary from Luo Nyanza who served in Kibaki government David Nalo was retained and even then director of Medical Services James Nyikal promoted to PS Public Health and Sanitation Ministry to work under Minister Beth Mugo a Kikuyu.

Even Raila’s own brother Oburu Odinga is an Assistant Minister Finance Ministry where a Kikuyu kitchen cabinet member Amos Kimunya is the minister. This signifies that, if his own brother can work with a Kikuyu then other deals can be done with the community.

To go further, Orwa Ojodeh a Luo is an assistant minister Internal Security where Prof. George Saitoti a Kikuyu is the minister.

Another major move made by Raila is the nomination of Rachael Wambui Shebesh. She is a Kikuyu who contested and lost the Kasarani ODM nominations to Elizabeth Ongoro.

Following the pre-election chaos, the Kikuyu political operatives openly state the Luo community was not their worst enemy but the Kalenjin.

Whereas the Luo community took to the streets to demonstrate against the controversial results without killing but only looting and destroying properties, the Kalenjin engaged in murder acts including killings in an Eldoret Church that attracted international news coverage.

To the community, despite the Luo being the most aggrieved, they acted somehow in a democratic manner openly showing it is a civilized community who value human life and shun bloodshed.

It is on these grounds that while addressing a public rally of Internally Displaced Persons at Molo attended by Kibaki, Raila and other high ranking personalities in the coalition government, Agriculture Minister William Ruto was heckled at the function. To the contrary Raila was received warmly.

In fact, the controversy surrounding the amnesty call is being looked at from different angles. Whereas the majority from Nyanza and other regions are facing lesser charges, those from Rift Valley are on counts related to murder, robbery with violence, and possession of firearms. These are capital offences tat lead to life imprisonment or hanging. They also face malicious damage of property.

Only last week, Prof Saitoti ordered the police to act fast on pending cases against perpetrators of post-election violence.

According to Saitoti, the cabinet had resolved that the rule of law must be upheld and urged investigators to categorise suspects according to the crimes committed to quickly finalise he cases.

It is said, Ruto’s allies in Rift Valley are not happy with the politics. Raila is playing on the amnesty issue. They claim the PM is out to fix them politically if the arrested are not released.

Political analysts say, if Ruto and his cronies do not bargain for the release of the arrested youth, then their political future hangs in balance in the region. Already parents and relatives of the arrested are cursing local politicians for having cheated them and now they fly cabinet flags while their sons continue languishing in prisons and police cells. They have vowed never to vote them back unless their children are released unconditionally.

Aware of the deal, Ruto has started making inroads in Mt Kenya region and over the weekend he was in Nithi constituency whose area MP is Kareke Mbiuki of Kanu and who is assistant minister in Ruto’s Agriculture in a move seen as aimed at mending fences.

By late last week, word had it, former Kalenjin legislators were planning to call public rallies in the region condemning current legislators for having misled the youth. With the tag as the Kalenjin political leader, Ruto has been forced to be vocal on the amnesty issue.

But the political suspicion between Ruto and Raila in ODM is perhaps what is making Kikuyu elders lean towards the PM.

As the Kibaki succession take shape, Gema community has discovered it is not easy for one of them to succeed the ageing Othaya politician hence a need to strike deals with other regions.

To them, compared to Ruto, Raila is the person to take care of their interests. Why they claim years back in 1996, Ford Asili chairman Kenneth Matiba, Raila, Charity Kaluki Ngilu, Ngengi Muigai had formed an alliance and met at a luncheon facilitated by Nginyo Kariuki. Although the alliance never took off as expected, this time round Kikuyu elders are keen on it.

But Raila, a shrewd politician said to be eyeing the 2012 presidency will be comfortable with the Kikuyu on his board. He is aware of the rebellion he is currently facing among the Kalenjin ODM legislators and needs to work on a plan B.

Already, it is argued in 2002, Kibaki won the presidency without the support of the Kalenjin vote. At that time, the Luo, Kikuyu vote played a crucial role. If Raila the man who helped Kibaki capture presidency in 2002 can bring the bloc Kikuyu vote on his side, then he does not need Ruto and the rebels in 2012.

This is the script the Kikuyu elders seem to be reading from. To them, it is easy to work with a Luo who helped Kibaki become president peaceful than others.

It is the current fight over the Kikuyu vote that Raila has targeted vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka, the man a faction from Mt Kenya region mostly Kirinyaga, Meru and Mbeere believe is the right one to succeed Kibaki.

Initially, Kikuyu elders wanted to revive talks with the Kalenjin community held during the Moi era days but were reluctant after it emerged that it will not take off since already a section of Kalenjins are opposed to the resettlement of IDPs.

Apart from Karume, another Kikuyu tycoon behind the Luo-Kikuyu political unity is the proprietor of Kirinyaga construction and chairman of central province parliamentary group, Ephraim Maina. He is a close ally of Odinga since the days he served in Moi’s cabinet.

Other sources say, Raila’s scheme is to involve Kalenjin MPs not allied to Ruto in the talks. They include Roads Minister Kipkalya Kones, industrialization Minister henry Kosgey and Higher Education Minister Dr Sally Kosgei.

Leave a comment

Raila Odinga: Only reforms and democracy can nurture and sustain peace

IT IS THREE MONTHS NOW SINCE the National Accord mediated by Mr Kofi Annan was signed, but Kenyans are still savouring and expressing their relief over the restoration of peace.

People tell me they feel a great sense of reassurance when they see President Kibaki and myself working together to build a new Kenya.

Never has the value of peace been so resonantly and keenly felt by a people who had enjoyed an essentially violence-free past until the results of the disputed election were announced.

Every one of us must do everything possible to ensure that this peace holds and is made sustainable.

The burden of that responsibility falls first and foremost on the coalition Government and Members of Parliament.

We must work closely together to speedily address Kenyans’ urgent and compelling concerns, and create the new laws and reforms that will entrench democracy, good governance, the rule of law and the enhancement of ethical and equitable public service.

THIS IS NOT TO SAY THAT THE GOALS will be easy to achieve.

While we are rightly proud of having constructed Africa’s first ever Grand Coalition Government as a way to bring a halt to violence and division, the fact remains that it is a novel experiment in which both coalition partners and Members of Parliament are trying to figure out how to do things the right way.

How to agree within the coalition government on the best way to resettle the IDPs was the first major challenge.

Right now, there is an intense and passionate debate about the large number of Kenyans being held merely for taking to the streets to demonstrate their fury over the disputed election results.

And within both main parties, backbenchers who enjoy the enshrined right of opposing Government policy are struggling to find a way to exercise that right within the new arrangements.

But despite these and a number of other teething problems, it is clear that we must seize with gusto the opportunity that the grand coalition provides to finally achieve the reforms that Kenyans so overwhelmingly voted for in both 2002 and 2007.

As things stood in Parliament, neither party has the numbers to push through a new constitution and all the other reforms.

Together, however, the two parties can entrench in the constitution democracy and equity so that no Kenyan and no community feels marginalised.

And we must adopt policies which will drive economic growth to the levels needed to effectively address the crises in land, impoverishment and joblessness.

I am committed to doing everything possible to make this coalition government succeed.

But I am not blind to the fact that success will only be possible if the bulk of our people perceive that power is, indeed, being genuinely shared by the two sides, and that their most compelling concerns are being addressed.

So even as I stress that Government ministers must support policies that are agreed within the Cabinet, that in no way is meant to stifle debate on issues that are on people’s minds and on which policy has yet to be agreed upon.

Support for the Grand Coalition Government must not be based on blind faith or coercion.

That is why I have publicly called for the speedy resolution of issues surrounding post-election violence as a means of ensuring that the restored peace we enjoy is not undermined by shorter-term measures.

At the same time, as Prime Minister, I am in regular touch with President Kibaki and Government ministers to influence both policy and actions that I believe will heal wounds and promote reconciliation.

Some of these discussions must necessarily be conducted in private, but other issues can be handled publicly.

FOR EXAMPLE, I WILL BE SHORTLY visiting with the relevant ministers the vital Mau Forest, which is one of the nation’s water towers, to see for myself how an amicable settlement to the problems afflicting the communities there can be quickly arrived at.

Similarly, even as I have stated my concern about the impact the formation of a Grand Opposition in Parliament might have on our overall goals, I am committed to respecting the right of backbenchers to organise themselves in ways which will enable them to exercise their hallowed right to be the watchdogs of the people and oppose Government policies they consider inimical.

As someone who has spent many years in the opposition fighting for people’s rights, no one should imagine that I would ever allow that fundamental democratic right be abridged.

Mr Odinga is Kenya’s Prime Minister.

1 Comment

Adam Wood: Helping Kenya’s economy recover


That is the message signalled to the world last weekend when business and tourist leaders met in the Mara.

This country offers the best holidays you could wish for in world-class destinations. That is the message to attract tourists back.

Kenya has certainly come through a traumatic time this year.

The agreement that ended the post-election crisis would not have been achieved without the efforts of many, including private sector leaders.

Now we want to help restore confidence and promote the inward investment crucial to the economy .

The World Bank estimates that an extra five million Kenyans may have been pitched into poverty by the post-election crisis.

Some sectors of the economy kept going valiantly – like horticulture. But others, notably tourism, were hit hard.

The UK/Kenya partnership in trade and investment is important to recovery. The UK is the largest foreign investor in Kenya, estimated at above Sh313 billion.

There has been steady growth in our exports to Kenya too – by 25 per cent in the five years to 2007.

But the trade balance is in Kenya’s favour, with Kenya’s exports to the UK valued annually at Sh35 billion.

We shall continue to encourage British companies to set up offices in the region and to help Kenyan companies source products and services from the UK.

We shall be backing, too, the World Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi at the end of this month.

And we are supporting several other trade events and missions this year, including visits from the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and the Commercial Horticulture Association, and an environment seminar.

There is tough competition in attracting investment, but the interest is there.

Before the crisis, over 200,000 British tourists were visiting Kenya annually.

That’s more than double those from any other country.

We want them to come back, and in increasing numbers, to enjoy Kenya’s rich and diverse culture, the beautiful beaches at the Coast, the staggering scenery and the wildlife.

DURING THE CRISIS, WE WORKED hard to ensure our travel advice reflected the situation on the ground, so that British nationals could make informed choices.

We limited our advice against all but essential travel to areas where there was violence, and for only as long as we felt there was a potential threat to tourists.

For tourism to flourish, calm will need to be sustained. Kenyans are looking to their
politicians to address the issues that underlay the post-election violence.

Recovery will depend on rapid execution of the pact on national reconciliation.

They have made a start, but there are formidable challenges ahead.

Kenyans will be looking for action on the recommendations that will be made by the various commissions set up, to diminish the risk of ever again experiencing the suffering of early this year.

Meanwhile, we all hope to see the conditions created for those displaced by the election violence to return home safely and to see Government working to restore and improve the infrastructure that Kenya needs.

Britain, through our Department for International Development, has already provided nearly Sh400 million for emergency relief to help those most affected by post-election violence.

We are exploring ideas with the Government and our partners for an international conference in Kenya to discuss the Government’s policy priorities and programme for reform, and the assistance it needs.

We hope this will be followed with an event in London that will attract new investment and highlight tourism.

Mr Wood is the British High Commissioner in Kenya.

Leave a comment

Lucy Oriang: Amnesty out of the question if we want to remain sane


We fight over things we have no control over, such as your ethnic background.

We fight over things that should not even be the subject of debate, such as bringing killers to justice.

Our MPs fight over whether or not to keep the Government on its toes.

They turn it into a national crisis and demand the right to form a grand opposition with the express purpose of doing precisely what they are paid to do — until they get the appointment they are angling for, of course, upon which they vigorously oppose the very idea of opposition.

Sometimes we fight just because a microphone has been stuck in our face. Talk is cheap and there are too many idle people purporting to be leaders.

Following the amnesty debate does not disappoint, if you are a fan of exhibition wrestling matches.

A guy is pinned to the ground in what looks like an unbreakable grip. He grimaces in pain and sweats like a stuck pig as the countdown begins.

There is no way he is going to get out of this, you reckon.

But, lo and behold, his hand goes up a heartbeat from the count of 10. He will not be conceding defeat despite the extremes of pain he has gone through.

There is no dent on his ego since the outcome is part of the plot. This is meant to be fun.

There is a difference between real life political wrestling and the entertainment variety:

Innocent people get hurt and lose their lives as the politicians and their foot soldiers play games of one-upmanship — more than 1,500 dead and 350,000 displaced the last time their interests clashed.

Now, playing by the roadside near you is the dramatic confrontation over whether those who killed others in the post-election violence should be allowed to get away with it.

The answer should be clear-cut, and the punishment is provided for in law.

People who butcher others and rob them of their property deserve no mercy.

They cannot claim mitigating circumstances; they cannot plead that they were only messengers or that their children will suffer irreparable damage if they are sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

On the face of it, this is an open-and-shut case.

But then our other national pastime, political grandstanding, butts in and clouds our thinking.

None of the two sides in this debate is being truthful — and they just cannot resist the temptation of a fight, any fight.

In one corner, we have the Rift Valley troops and the Orange Democratic Movement demanding the release of youths arrested over the post-election violence.

In the other, the Party of National Unity brigade screams blue murder and demands justice.

Justice is relative when you are caught up in the situation we found ourselves in at the beginning of the year.

I seem to recall a ghastly photograph of a child screaming his head off in Naivasha as his mother lay dead in a pool of blood.

SHE HAD BEEN SLAUGHTERED BY people belonging to her husband’s ethnic group, who appeared to enjoy some protection as they paraded in the town, armed to the teeth and in full view of the armed forces — who were literally begging them to get off the streets as TV cameras rolled!

Let us call evil by its name, regardless of its origin.

And however we choose to address the quagmire we find ourselves, let us acknowledge that none of us is entitled to the moral high ground.

We are having trouble dealing with today’s evil because we created the culture of abuse and impunity that feeds the many militias that roam the land.

The cycle goes back all the way to the land-grabbing and human rights abuses of the immediate post-independence era to the Kisumu shootings of September 1969, when policemen opened fire on unarmed civilians during a disagreeable political rally attended by the president of the day.

The trail includes the Wagalla massacre, the “ethnic cleansing” in the Rift Valley since 1992 and at the Coast, and now the selective torture and killings of young people under the pretext of pursuing militias.

And let us not forget the era of detention without trial and assassinations of popular politicians. We cannot keep wishing away these things.

They will return to haunt us again and again.

There are lessons from the amnesty debate. We are all hostage to shamelessly corrupt politicians.

The “either/or” character of our politics has reduced us to pawns in a board game. We are not real people.

When you are just ethnic statistics, you can be treated as trash when you are no longer useful — which is in between elections.

Trash can be recycled when it suits our politicians and buried six feet under when it does not, hence the love-hate relations between them and the militias.

The tragedy is that youth who are drawn into these killing machines do not seem to recognise the vicious cycle.

They are content with passing gains.

There are many layers of dishonesty and double standards in the amnesty debate.

All this posturing is designed to distract us from the simple truth: killing is a crime, not just another campaign tool.

No one should get away with murder just because they have connections.

This is the reality we need to arrive at fast if justice is to be seen to have been done.

Can we agree on that, at least?

Leave a comment

Minister’s statement on land ill-timed

The Ministry of Lands has made an important policy pronouncement on leasehold land:

All 99-year and shorter leases issues before May 1909 have expired, and thus the land automatically reverts to the State.

At the legal and technical levels, the ministry may be right. Any property leased for a specified period must be returned to the lessor once the period expires.

Yet there is something very wrong with the style and manner of the announcement.

Although the minister did mention that there was room for extension of the leases, the impression created was that the Government was repossessing all such land.

Land is one of the most emotive issues in Kenya. It has provided the theatre for blood feuds involving siblings, families, clans and entire ethnic communities.

Announcements in such a cavalier fashion can easily be misunderstood.

Particularly troublesome is the admission that the ministry has no idea of the number and sizes of the land parcels in question.

Assuming it has its records in order, it should have individually notified all those concerned that their leases had expired.

Only in special instances should the present owners not be offered extension.

These include cases where large tracts of land are idle or have not been used for the intended purposes, and where the land is required for public use or for redistribution.

It is also clear that the ministry was speaking before it clearly thought through what to do with the land that may revert to the State.

We are still struggling with the crafting of a national land policy.

Various reports on land issues are gathering cobwebs on the ministry’s shelves for want of attention.

Ongoing efforts at national dialogue and reconciliation will also be addressing the land issue.

A public statement as the one made on Wednesday was clearly ill-timed.

Perhaps it betrays the gulf between what might be Government policy and what might be political activism.

Leave a comment

Gibson Kamau Kuria: ODM’s call for amnesty a threat to democracy

Until Sunday’s meeting in Tinderet constituency by senior ODM leaders, including four of the five ‘Pentagon’ members, the call for the release of suspects held in connection with post-election murders, arsons and other offences was associated with Rift Valley MPs and Lands minister, Mr James Orengo.

The support of the call by Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, Mr William Ruto, Mrs Charity Ngilu and Mr Paul Otuoma, gives the matter a different complexion.

ODM has made a mistake that it should correct to facilitate the reconstruction of the country.

The issue of releasing suspects is connected to bad governance, which is to be addressed in a democratic constitutional review. It also has grave implications for economic recovery.

If ODM does not reconsider this matter, hopes for the completion of constitutional review may be dashed.

Debate wanting

National debates both before and after the last General Election, including the current one about suspects, make it clear that the country has not provided its citizens with adequate civic education to enable them to handle the normal challenges of deepening democracy.

First, it was Orengo, Agriculture minister Ruto and Konoin MP Mr Julius Kones on the case for the release of suspects. Later, they were joined by four of the five ‘Pentagon’ members.

The most succinct argument on this issue comes from Kones and Ruto. Without any qualms whatsoever, Kones, a representative from the Central Rift Valley, has called for the release from custody of about 1,000 people suspected of having committed murder, arson, theft and malicious damage to property after the last General Election.

He is oblivious of the fact that in every district — and in the world at large — there are every day such suspects who are in custody in the executive branch’s discharge of its constitutional duty to execute or enforce law. Without enforcement of criminal law, civilised life is impossible.

Kones argues that it was these suspects — not people who voted for PNU, ODM-Kenya and ODM MPs — who created the present Government through their crimes. Therefore, he argues, they deserve reward, not punishment.

Ruto has advanced an identical argument (with which Orengo agrees) — that the criminal acts of the suspects are allegedly the ones, which gave birth to the Grand Coalition Government and so it does not make sense to praise the power-sharing agreement while the youth are being detained.

Power sharing

On Sunday, the PM, Deputy PM Mudavadi, Industrialisation minister Mr Henry Kosgey and other MPs allied to ODM joined in that call. By so doing, they put before the nation for debate very important issues of nationhood, democracy, constitutional change, rule of law and distribution of wealth — particularly land — even before the constitutional review resumes.

ODM’s contentions between December 30 last year and February 28, when the power-sharing agreement was signed, were that:

(a) The Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) so mismanaged the presidential election, that ODM could not accept its verdict;

(b) The party does not support use of violence to resolve election disputes; it wanted a political solution to the problem, not a legal one, as it does not trust the Judiciary;

(c) Some of its supporters were so annoyed by the election mismanagement that they violently protested the results announced, while others engaged in lawlessness.

It was on the basis of these contentions that ODM entered into power-sharing talks with PNU, whose contentions were as follows:

(a) Its candidate, President Kibaki, won re-election and was lawfully sworn in on December 30;

(b) The Constitution provides for the adjudication of election disputes by an independent Judiciary and anyone disputing the result was free to have the matter decided upon in court;

(c) Because a political solution was sought by ODM, PNU was prepared to negotiate one in the interests of the country.

Clearly, ODM is now contradicting the very basis on which it negotiated the power-sharing agreement, as communicated to voters and the international community. It is on that basis that ODM is sharing power with the PNU alliance today.

The rival contentions above are permissible in a democracy. However, the new contention — that it was through the crimes committed by suspects in custody that ODM created the present Government — is politically and morally outrageous. It destroys the credibility of ODM as a political party committed to the rule of law in a democracy.

The claim means that ODM believes in the use of force in changing or constituting government. It, therefore, follows that it does not qualify to wield power under the Constitution.

The Republics of Pakistan and Nigeria have used this view to support changes of government by the military.

These two nations have no useful democratic experience that Kenya can draw on. In democracies, the government must be changed through the ballot only.

It is only a revolutionary movement and the military that use force to change governments. Such political phenomena are not known in democracies.

ECK’s ‘crimes’

Through Orengo, ODM has added another dimension to the debate. He contends that the suspects are, in law, not different from the members of the ECK, who allegedly provoked the suspects’ actions through their mismanagement of the election.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that members of the ECK can be charged with criminal offences, his argument is still not supported by Section 82(9) of the Constitution, which provides that: "Nothing in sub-section (2) shall affect any discretion relating to the institution, conduct or discontinuance of civil or criminal proceedings in a court that is vested in a person by or under this Constitution..."

Section 82(2) of the Constitution provides that subject to sub-sections 6, 8 and 9 no person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner by a person acting by virtue of any written law or in the performance of the functions of a public office or a public authority.

Dangerous arguments

All these ODM arguments are both wrong and dangerous. They are dangerous because of their negative implications for the economy, rule of law and democracy.

In a market economy the individual’s incentive to work comes from the belief that one will acquire, own and enjoy property and, further, that the law will always protect it. Without that guarantee, no one will the take trouble to create wealth.

The credit system, which the banks use to make money is based on ownership of property, which is mortgaged or charged to them. Property, which the law does not protect is worthless.

The Ministry of Lands, which protects title or ownership of land, is a key player in the economy. In Kenya’s agricultural economy it is areas in which individual ownership of land is recognised that productivity is greatest. Therefore, the views held by Ruto and Orengo have great implications for the economy.

ODM’s arguments support the use of violence as part of the electoral process and is an attempt to effect illegal and immoral land redistribution, which Kanu appeared to permit. Such attempts were first made in both the Rift Valley and Coast provinces between 1991 and 1997.

The Report of the Judicial Commission Appointed to Inquire into Tribal Clashes, which was published by the Government Printer in 1999 and released in 2002, and an article by Mr Peter Mwangi Kagwanja in Democracy in Kenya (by M Rutten, Alamin Mazrui and Francois Grignon, Foundation Publishers, 2001), titled Politics of Marionettes: Extra-legal Violence and the 1997 Elections in Kenya, describe these political phenomena.

The post-election violence marked a determination on the part of some Rift Valley leaders to continue with that unconstitutional phenomenon. The arguments manifest an inadequate understanding of Kenya’s constitutional theory and practice as from 1963.

Ownership of land, and any other form of property, changes hands through only purchases, court orders, gifts or inheritance.

During the post-election violence some people in Nairobi purported to effect a redistribution of residential houses and businesses. As in the Rift Valley, they threw their owners out and have occupied them since then. One expects them to move out as they learn that such purported redistributions are unconstitutional null and void.

Heretical ideas

A heresy associated with majimboism emerged around 1991, together with multi-party era ethnic or election violence. That heresy is that the Constitution recognises or contemplates loss of ownership of property for communities not living in an area in pre-colonial Kenya.

It was because of that heresy that between 1991 and 1997, and also after December 27 last year, some people in Rift Valley Province took the law into their hands and sought to remove ‘foreigners’ from Nyanza, Western, Central, Eastern and other provinces.

It is these law-breakers ODM is seeking amnesty for. In doing so, the party rejects the democratic principles on which this nation was founded. They also seek to perpetuate distortions of democracy witnessed since 1963 that Kenyans are seeking to correct through a democratic review of the Constitution.

These distortions are:

(i) of the principle that all elections must be free and will be supervised by an independent Commission; The Electoral Commission, as an institution of democracy has been progressively weakened since 1963; the independence constitution established an independent commissions to supervise Lower House and Senate elections (see section 48 which established an electoral commission made up of the Speaker of the Senator’s chairman, the Speaker of the House of Representatives as the Vice-chairman, a member appointed by the Governor General acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, and a member representing each Region; the version of the 1963 Constitution referred to is contained in Legal Notice No. 718 of 1963).

(ii) of the principle that a constituency must have the same number of registered voters; see Report of the Kenya Constitutional Conference, (1962), paragraph 3, and section 42 of the Constitution as interpreted in Michuki & Another -v-Attorney-General & Others, (2003)1, EACA, 158; the court observed that "there are some constituencies that have over 100,000 voters and others with less than 10,000; yet in both cases, their representatives have the same or equal voice in Parliament"; this principle has been departed from since 1980s; this gerrymandering is documented by Francis Ang’ila Away, a member of the Kriegler Commission, and Francois Grignon, who served in the resource team of Kofi Anan during the recent mediation talks; their article is titled As Biased as Ever? The Electoral Commission’s Performance Prior to Polling Day in M. Rutten, Alamin Mazrui and Francois Grignon, Democracy in Kenya, Foundation Publishers, 2001, page 102; the result is that many Kenyans are today under-represented whilst others are over represented in Parliament because of the way constituency boundaries have been drawn; over representation is very strong in the Rift Valley province which has 49 constituencies; the practice of true democracy is not possible today because of this distortion;

(iii) of the principle that the Constitution will not be overhauled without he consent of Kenyans; see Report of the Constitutional Conference, 1962, paragraph 19 of Appendix II; and sections 61 and 63 of the 1963 Constitution; as held in Njoya & 6 Others –v- Attorney-General & 3 Others (2004)1, KLR, 261, a "yes" vote at a referendum for a new constitution must win; the Bomas draft constitution of March 2004 was drafted by delegates who were not elected by Kenyans;

(iv) of the principle that in Kenyans in elections and redistribution of wealth violence would have no role to play whatsoever; see section 197 of the 1963 Constitution; as the both the 1992 the Kiliku Select Committee Report on Tribal Clashes and also the Report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry Into Tribal Clashes demonstrate violence was introduced into the country’s elections in the Rift Valley and Coast provinces between 1991 and 1997; violence was used to prevent voters perceived to be supporting the Opposition from casting votes; through the same violence the phenomenon of attempted land redistribution through violence started; the governments which were formed after the 1992 and 1997 elections profited from that extra-legal violence; according to ODM’s own admission, the post-December 27, 2007 election violence had the illegal goals of altering the electoral verdict and effecting land redistribution; Mr. Peter Mwangi Kagwanja has described this phenomenon in the article referred to above;

(v) of the principle that the rule of law would rule and all people would be equally subjected to law and be equal before the law; see section 21 of the 1963 Constitution which guaranteed every person enjoyment of the right to the protection of the law; since 1991, there have been, in Rift Valley and Coast provinces, endeavours to use violence to preserve political power and to purportedly effect land redistribution; the endeavours were illegal; it was because of the state’s failure to prosecute offenders that lawlessness rose to the 2008 level; and

(vi) of the principle that citizenship goes with rights set out in chapter 5 of the Constitution — the right to life, to liberty, not to be treated as a slave, not to the subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, to own and enjoy property in any part of Kenya, not to be subjected to arbitrary searches, to the protection of law, to hold any religious view and political persuasion, to express oneself, to reside in any part of Kenya, to associate with whoever one chooses, not to be discriminated against and to seek remedies in court when any of these rights is violated; Chapter 5 of the constitution in which human rights are protected has suffered the least amendment since 1963.

It is these five and others distortions of the Kenyan democracy which led to the decision in 1996 that the Constitution must be re-written. It is also against the background of these distortions that one must view the debates on the resettlement of displaced persons and the campaign for the release of selected suspects in one part of the country.

Guilt and innocence

Every day, in every part of the world, there are suspects held by police waiting to be charged in courts with offences the police believe they have committed on the basis of evidence in their possession. In Kenya, people are charged with criminal offences every working day. Some are convicted and punished, while others are acquitted on being found innocent or not proven guilty.

Of the post-election violence suspects in custody, those found innocent will be acquitted by courts of law in the normal way, while the guilty will be punished as provided by the law.

These phenomena are replicated in every democracy on earth. Indeed, the protection of life, bodily integrity and property is one of main reasons for the establishment of government by man.

To most people’ surprise, some Rift Valley MPs, and now ODM, argue that this universal phenomenon should not apply.

A question of principle arises: What is the conception of government and rule of law they have which has escaped the attention of political thinkers and statesmen of the world over the centuries?

-The writer is a leading human rights advocate and public interest litigator.

1 Comment

MT Akelo-Misori: Day of reckoning over ODM promises is near

Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s tour of Nyanza and Western provinces was refreshing and piteous in equal measure.

Large crowds cheered the man yet at Kisumu, of all places, the excitement he arouses was tempered with popular disapproval for the Grand Coalition Government that he supports.

Why such a turnaround by notorious Railamaniacs? The PM’s parties were concurrent with rising hostility between new factions in ODM emanating from diversity of views on the ‘Grand Coalition Opposition’, which he opposes. This enmity truncates differing interpretations of Raila’s stance on this issue; his alleged failure to assuage losers in Cabinet appointments; and transient debate on his or ODM’s stake in the coalition, which many see as top-heavy with PNU members.

During the ceremonies, Raila affirmed a fear being expressed quietly that he changed greatly during the post-elections crisis. At Bondo, he officiated at the opening of an Equity Bank branch and challenged supporters to nurture a culture of thrift. At Funyula, he attacked MPs behind the grand opposition push in characteristic fashion. It is also here where he confessed to receiving advice to split Kenya at the height of the crisis.

These issues reveal new chasms in ODM whereby Raila leads a moderate wing that seeks to slow radicals who want speedy conclusions of the election dispute, so-called historical grievances and a commensurate role for ODM in the grand coalition.

Raila appears to be on a mission to neuter youthful experiments with drastic reforms that he favoured not-so-long ago.

Many believe this to be a game plan, and it could still be. Yet many are also concerned that such a strategy can incorporate alienating progressive voices in a mass movement whose power to transform was well harnessed in the last elections.

The truth is, while Raila supporters are set to live with their man’s tactics, the movement must constantly assure impatient groups that voted for Raila to achieve urgent change that power is all-knowing.

Raila’s statements in western Kenya last week cohered with conservative views on poverty in those regions. Most symbolically, he made them at an Equity Bank function, with the bank’s top manager at hand to unveil a fund for small entrepreneurs. Even without the benefit of figures, how many western Kenyans benefit from the bank’s credit is anyone’s guess.

There are diverse explanations why western Kenya is poor. Large families, HIV/Aids, even lack of thrift are readily advanced in neoconservative logic. But one cannot fail to account for the part played by distorted development policies. Four decades after independence, far too many Kenyans in those parts are yet to have roads, social infrastructure or banks to keep their money. Their lake and farm produce rot before getting to the market or is bought at throwaway prices by rapacious, Nairobi-based middlemen.

In Bondo, Raila seemed to blame the victim. He is obligated to do better because he spent all his youth fighting the system. His Kisumu supporters disdain his embrace of Kibaki who, they maintain, gave ODM a raw deal. Yet, as Raila explained, he is an executive Prime Minister who must deliver on his election pledges.

Obstacles are as many as the challenges he must address, top of which is improving the remuneration and social condition of workers, like the long-running teachers’ pay dispute. Teachers, the backbone of whatever little development this society can boast of, are paid peanuts, while MPs, judges, bureaucrats and supposed anti-corruption officials gobble disproportionate share of the public expenditure without attendant results.

The Government’s pledge on free secondary education is a cropper; schools are grappling survival on shoe-string funding. Little talk is heard these days of the universal health plan that ODM promised, while corruption is yet to cease. A show of how blatant vested interests have become, Raila’s journey coincided with a bold assault on new pro-labour legislations by employers, the Judiciary and an embedded law society.

Last week also witnessed the collapse of collective bargaining talks for Government workers. Raila’s day of reckoning is near. He is new in office, but won’t be in a while. Luckily, with decades of poverty, adversity has taught the Kenyan worker some patience — and they are giving the PM a chance.

The writer is national chairman of the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers

Leave a comment

Wanyiri Kihoro: Land reform, other Rudi Nyumbanis necessary

Resettlement of displaced people is urgent and must be done quickly. To be away from home for a day looks long. To be away for months, involuntarily, must feel like ages.

But let us not be reckless about the return as this could be a harbinger of greater tragedy.

According to the Kenya Red Cross, there were 166 IDP camps strewn on or to the west of the Rift Valley, with an estimated 150,168 displaced people just before resettlement began. With Operation Rudi Nyumbani, this number declined markedly.

IDPs had been drifting away from the camps anyway and the operation could be a pre-emptive strike by the Government, so as not to be seen as having done nothing. Serious resettlement needs counsellors, land surveyors, valuers, lawyers, teachers and other infrastructure in various measures and not just administrators and transporters.

Forced resettlement is callous

The IDP numbers had been declining because many people were drifting away after waiting for action for months. Only North Eastern and Eastern provinces were without IDPs after the January violence. The rest of the provinces had IDPs, with the largest numbers being in the Rift Valley and the least number in Coast and Central provinces. The return operation is thus concentrated mainly in Central and North Rift.

Some of the IDPs are, however, reluctant to go back where they came from. They need and deserve to be listened to. The displaced know the ground better than the camp managers who are in a hurry to close down and go back to their offices.

To be forced back "home" in these circumstances is callous, uncaring and bigoted to the extreme. You can be sure that the conditions in the camps, and the losses from not being at home to plant during the rains, would be enough incentive for IDPs to return without plodding.

The resettlement must be done in a sensitive manner aware that tensions remain high in the neighbourhoods. Emphasis must be on the different communities accepting each other and living together in peace.

In areas where the IDPs have been displaced from, there are landless and homeless people who also need to be settled in the neighbourhood or elsewhere. Stock taking of these people should be done because so long as they remain unsettled, it will be difficult to build lasting peace.

Talk about the police keeping peace among settled communities should be discouraged just as much as the police do not keep peace in our homes. The police cannot be expected to keep peace among neighbours. Community policing does not fall in this category and local communities should be encouraged to form units. This has not happened as yet to ensure that an integrative force is built and maintained after the police leave.

Land buying companies fiasco

There used to be a settlement rule on building settlements in new areas after Independence. The rule held that new settlements should comprise of 60 per cent local people and 40 per cent non-locals. This formula broke down with the advent of land buying companies.

These companies were formed after the Government introduced the "willing buyer, willing seller" principle as the dominant mode of transfer of land from the white settlers to the locals. The land buying companies sourced the new settlers from the same area, leading to the breakdown in the mixed settled communities.

The principle has favoured the well-to-do at the expense of the landless and should be discarded. It is at the heart of the displacement of the IDPs and has ensured that the genuine landless are excluded from the market, thereby perpetuating many historical land injustices.

The IDPs emergency should not make us lose sight of the landlessness crisis, which is now over a century old. This has brought land clashes, especially before elections. Poverty has now caught up with many and aggravated the human conflict.

The new coalition Government, more than ever before, should heed the calls for a broad-based resettlement programme and a new land use and management dispensation. We need new techniques, which will make more arable land available for settlement by the landless and increase food production.

Every province has its own proportion of landless and poor people who now constitute 60 per cent of our population.

The areas with the greatest land crisis are those that had white settlers at Independence.

The process of the restoration of these lands did not favour the squatters as they had no money — it favoured the rich and the well-endowed who really had little interest in increased food production.

Crisis situation

Unfairness in land distribution will always bleed crisis in overcrowding, insecurity and hence conflict.

In Coast Province, we see frequent land invasion on the belt from Lunga Lunga to Kiunga and also in the Taita/Taveta region. In Eastern Province, there is urgent need for resettlement in areas like South Machakos, Kibwezi and Makueni. The flare-ups are all too frequent.

In Central Province, there are still many landless people living in Mau Mau emergency villages and on road reserves. The land ownership in Kiambu, Muranga, Thika, Nyeri and parts of Nyandarua is still defined by colonial tenures.

The Rift Valley is the most troubled, from Kilgoris through Kericho/Nandi belt to Kwanza, and all the areas in between. Small areas of previously settled Nyanza and also the Mt Elgon area in Western Province fall in this category.

All these are potentially IDP-producing zones.

Let us introduce the necessary land reforms so that we can give all Kenyans a permanent home. If we do this, we will have created an atmosphere for durable peace, security and employment.

The writer is an advocate, land economist and arbitrator

1 Comment

Juma Kwayera: Are major parties on path to doom?

Friday’s announcement by Mr Gideon Moi that he will soon embark on a countrywide tour to revive Kanu has rekindled debate about the role and future of party politics in the country.

Kanu fortunes have been on a steep decline since the re-introduction of pluralism in the country, with representation in Parliament plummeting to 14 from 107 in 1997 when it was on the roll.

The current Parliament is made up of 22 political parties, four fifths of which have less than three members in the House. When Moi embarked on a mission to revamp the independence party, it had support in the Rift Valley, Central Kenya and North Eastern provinces.

However, the party can take solace in the fact that it is not the only one going through a rough patch.

The Democratic Party (DP), which was once associated with President Kibaki, Mr Musikari Kombo’s Ford-Kenya, Ford-Asili, Kenya Social Congress (KSC), the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Safina, Labour Party of Kenya and Ford People are all in trouble.

Statistics since 1992 when Kenya embraced political pluralism show that while the number of parties has been on the rise, those that had a national outlook have been disintegrating.

Kanu, DP and Ford-Kenya are among the leading casualties.

Former Member of Parliament for Liakipia West, Mr GG Kariuki, blames the Constitution for the electorate’s apathy to party politics.

Regional interests

"Had we succeeded in coming up with a new constitution that addresses the concerns and fears of every Kenyan, political parties would not be in a limbo. Kenya’s independence Constitution is a patchwork of laws that protect the interests of the rich and leave the poor and vulnerable at the mercy of nature," Kariuki, who served in both the Moi and Kibaki administrations, said on Friday.

He says the Constitution does not address the question of national cohesion and as a result the country is on the verge of self-destruction as parties jostle for power and clout.

"No party qualifies to be called a national party. The Party of National Unity (PNU) and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), for example, are conglomerations of smaller parties that represent ethnic and regional interests," said Kariuki, who in 1992 was elected to Parliament on a DP ticket.

DP, whose stronghold was Central Province in 2002, was one of the 14 "small" parties that teamed up to form the National Rainbow Coalition alliance that ousted Kanu.

"The Constitution is a package of British colonialism," he said, "which has ensured that the status quo does not change in politics."

He said the disintegration of parties that had national appeal follows a pattern created inadvertently by the Constitution.

The veteran politician is, however, against calls to reduce the number of parties to just two or three to enable ideas instead of tribe take centre-stage.

"Let them come up, compete and die. The law of natural attrition should be allowed to determine the fate of the parties so that everyone feels he has chance to participate in national issues," he said. He said restricting the number of parties by law or constitution has the potential to create a tyrannical Government.

Even before the defeat, Kanu’s fortunes had been dwindling because of what a senior party member described as reluctance to accept reforms from within.

For Prof Ruth Oniang’o, Kanu was bereft of ideas and its imminent death is not a surprise.

"The party has fewer members in Parliament because it refused to apologise for its misdeeds since independence. It balkanised the country into ethnic fiefdoms and when it was handed a resounding defeat in 2002, it should have realised that the electorate was angry with it. The party is on the verge of death," said Oniang’o, a former Kanu nominated MP and shadow Education minister in the Ninth Parliament.

She predicted that the grand old party is destined to become a fringe outfit, or even die completely unless it reorganises itself.

"The problem we have is poor political leadership. I don’t see any serious leader among the crop of leaders we have. When too many parties are sprouting and others dying, it is a reflection of the quality of leadership we have in the country," said Oniang’o.

Narrow ethnic interests

She said: "Party trotting reflects a dearth of leadership, which is mitigated by politicians rooting for narrow ethnic interests."

A casual look at the representation in Parliament shows a growing slump over the years among parties that ruled between 1992 and last year.

In 1997, Kanu had 107 elected members and six nominated lawmakers. This number dropped to 64 elected and four nominated in 2002. Last year, the party failed to field a presidential candidate, but saw its numbers tumble further to 14.

Over the same period, Ford Kenya, which once had support in all eight provinces, waned. In the 1997 General Election, Ford-Kenya was the second most popular party garnering 17 seats. In the last General Election, Ford-Kenya managed only one seat.

DP had 39 elected and two nominated members in Parliament in 1997 but lost its lustre when its chairman, President Kibaki, gave it a wide berth in the last election. It has two members in Parliament.

Narc, which was founded on the eve of the 2002 elections and formed the Government with 125 elected and seven nominated MPs, now has only three elected members.

Asked for comment, former Subukia MP Mr Koigi Wamwere said the parties are not dying but are resizing to fit in their ethnic contexts.

"The smaller parties that had an ethnic appeal have remained virtually the same while those with a national or class outlook have been affected by the changing political landscape. Kanu, DP, Ford-Kenya and Narc were national parties. We are seeing a trend and ethnic identity that these parties are trying to acquire," said Wamwere.

He argued that the slow death of parties is a reminder that the country is headed for self-destruction, "just as the parties are dying or failed to grow out of their ethnic base."

"We must decide now to put aside the national and wear the tribe garb because leaders are averse to the national good. The parties are just reacting to its leadership, which unfortunately inclines towards negative ethnicity," he said.

He posed: "Do we kill the class or national appeal in favour of ethnic organisations? We have seen churches, mosques, the media, and politics acquire a tribal dimension. We must choose to exist together or exist apart."

Communication consultant, Mr James Ohayo, summed shrinking party fortunes as an inevitable end. This is because they promote individual and ethnic agenda at the expense of higher common good.

While the politicians are thriving, he observed, their political parties are declining often because of pathetic delivery on policies and national agenda.

"Were they commercial ventures most of the political parties would be bankrupt today," Ohaya wrote in the countdown to last year’s polls.

He was referring how ethnicity has replaced issue-based politics."

Leave a comment

Robert Shaw: Public discontent with rising cost of living alarming

ANY RESIDUE OF THE GRAND Coalition’s honeymoon is fading away fast. An element of goodwill and hope remain, but it is diminishing quickly as the mounting problems confronting it and the country multiply. They are compounding fast and in turn making the task of government more onerous.

It has not been helped by the fact that we now have a huge and unwieldy government. There may be validity in the argument that this was the price we had to pay for peace. But, there are many Kenyans who feel that there is an excessive, some would argue greedy, element of self-serving and reward to loyalists by the ruling political elite.

On the one hand, we are fast being engulfed by a period of rising expectations, demands and frustrations that are being fuelled by the ever-rising cost of living, and on the other, by belated and often confused action on how to tackle them.

THE UNPRECEDENTED WALK-OUT on President Kibaki on Labour Day when he said there would be no increase in the minimum wage because times were hard spoke volumes.

Here was the head of a bloated government of over 90 ministers and assistant ministers, who are all drawing fat cat salaries even by international standards, basically telling Kenyans times are tough, tighten your belts and eat less and accept a continuing decline in your standard of living.

This irony was further emphasised when the latest batch of inflation statistics showed that Kenya was now experiencing the highest inflation rate since those dark days of the Goldenberg era.

It cannot be emphasised enough that any delays, impediments or wrangling in our new top-heavy government to getting down to serious work is making the challenges more gargantuan by the day.

We have the immediate legacy of the past unrest and mayhem coupled with the damage and wounds inflicted. Persuading the internally displaced persons to go back to the homesteads from which they fled is proving a hard task, and shows clearly that suspicion, hatred and fear run deep and cannot be papered over.

Whether the root causes are historical, resource-based or fuelled by poverty and inequity makes no difference to the realities confronting us when it comes to any attempts at reconciliation and greater harmony.

The strike by prison warders and the threats of several other strikes in the public sector are arguably the start of a period of major labour and social unrest. It is logical that in the formal sector, it will start where pay and conditions are at their worst, and as we have witnessed, they can’t get much worse than the lot of a prison warders.

But the unrest is likely spread beyond the public sector into the formal and informal private sector. Whilst pay and conditions may not be as bad as in the public sector, the avalanche of increases in the price of most essential commodities is fast reducing the standards of living of the vast majority of Kenyans.

In addition, much of the private sector got severely disrupted by the post-election mayhem, and in many cases, it has yet to recover.

Its latitude to increase wages to ease the burden of rising prices is, therefore, severely limited, especially as the foreseeable economic and commercial outlook looks tight.

As we witnessed with the post-election violence, there is fertile ground for volatility and discontent in the half of the population who not only live below the poverty line, but are also being hammered by these rising prices.

THE PROSPECTS OF THIS DISCONTENT with the rising cost of food and living generally spilling over into civil defiance or riots are, therefore, high.

This is especially so if the Government delays on taking remedial action to ensure there is adequate food in the coming months.

Assurances by the Government that there are adequate stocks of maize, that these reserve stocks will be increased, and that two million bags will be shortly imported may show that the Government is waking up to the gravity of the problem.

But if the stocks on the farms and in the stores are not anything like the Government assumes, if NCPB’s reserve stock is fast running down, if only half of the Northern Rift grain basket is planted, then the measures announced by the Government so far will not go far in addressing Kenya’s looming food crunch.

Mr Shaw is a Nairobi businessman.

Leave a comment

Okiya Omtatah Okoiti: Give grand opposition a chance

BEFORE WE IMPUTE IMPROPER motives on the part of those MPs who wish to institute a structured mechanism through which backbenchers can formally engage the Government to keep it on the straight and narrow, it is advisable that we don’t proceed on the basis of distortions.

Individuals and parties run for elections in the hope that they will form the next government. It is only after they fail to make the numbers required that they embrace the opposition as a fallback measure. I am yet to hear of any serious party that offers itself for election so that it can be out of government.

I, therefore, find it extremely dishonest to argue that these MPs should not be allowed to form a formal opposition simply because they are doing so after being left out of the Grand Coalition Government.

On the contrary, it is precisely because they were left out that they qualify to form a formal opposition.

The principle of collective responsibility does not allow ministers to oppose Government policies in Parliament. In fact, if the Grand Coalition Government is to deliver its promise, its entire membership must be strictly bound by the principle of collective responsibility.

Further, a structured opposition is one of the mechanism by which we can ensure that the coalition partners stay in place until they midwife the new dispensation they are supposed to.
Some people have argued that we take a journey back in time to the days when solo efforts by some MPs provided a modicum of opposition in Parliament.

To these people, our MPs can still play the opposition role as individuals like Mr Martin Shikuku, the Seven Bearded Sisters and others did in the 1960s, the 1970s and the 1980s under the Kanu dictatorship.

But such arguments do not augur well for the development of democracy. Our democracy will only be healthy the day we have healthy institutions.

A formal opposition cannot be done away with simply because we have the coalition Government or because some individuals have now ascended to power and would like to have an easy ride.

AND DEFINITELY, A SPACE OF THE formal opposition must not be kept conveniently vacant so that it can provide an exit for those who plan to decamp from the coalition in 2012.
The institution of the formal parliamentary opposition in democracies the world over is formally recognised in the laws of those countries.

But in Kenya, there is no specific law on any form of opposition in our Parliament. The Constitution is silent on the issue, only saying that Kenya will be a multiparty democracy. From the constitution to Parliament’s Standing Orders, there is scanty mention of opposition.

Our laws don’t clearly provide for an opposition other than when they mention it in passing like giving the leader of the opposition some role in the Parliamentary Service Commission.

There is also some implicit recognition of some form of opposition when the law requires that the President should consult party leaders when he appoints ministers from their parties.

What is refreshing about the current move by MPs to form a Grand Opposition is that for the first time, our Parliament will have a chance to legislate specific laws on the institution of the Official Opposition once the relevant Bill is tabled.

Parliament must legislate what happens when all major parties end up in a coalition government in future.

So those ministers and MPs opposed to the formation of a Grand Opposition for whatever reasons, including that it will threaten loyalty to political parties, should stop running around the country distorting the issue and wait to translate their concerns in Parliament when the proposed Bill comes up for debate.

Mr Okoiti is a playwright and human rights crusader

Leave a comment

Stop these campaigns

We have in the last couple of days heard a group of Cabinet ministers campaigning for one of their own to succeed President Kibaki. And from the same side, we have heard others express disquiet about such a move.

From the other side of the governing coalition, we have heard ministers say their ultimate goal still remains to secure power and win tenancy at State House.

From both sides, we could do with more focus on work rather than extremely premature political campaigns.

Politicians, of course, have the right to aim for the highest office in the land and to put in place the machinery to help realise their dreams.

But there is a time and place for everything. We are being governed by a young coalition that is still trying to work in harmony.

The coalition was cobbled together principally to save Kenya from sliding into anarchy following a disputed presidential election.

The coalition government, and the entire body-politic, is still at a very delicate stage. Those serving in it are still learning to work together. The post-election violence still has to be dealt with.

At this stage of such a fragile situation, we would expect our ministers to focus on service delivery, and concentrate on seeking a permanent cure for a troubled nation.

The same old politics of perpetual competition must be put aside for the moment, even if only to buy the coalition government the breathing space it needs.

Kenyans, in any case, deserve a break from destructive politics so that they can get around to rebuilding their shattered lives.

Leave a comment