Monday, February 28, 2011

Kenya coalition government is no longer at ease

By STANDARD TEAM Three years ago, on the front steps of Harambee House, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga signed the National Accord ushering the Grand Coalition Government.
Three years later, the candle of optimism and hope that swept across Kenya, carrying along with it unbridled expectations that seemed to defy the time and confront political differences of the day is dying.
The road to Grand Coalition, propped up by the two claimants to the 2007 shambolic presidential elections, started off with suspicion and hostility between the two principals and their lieutenants.
Then after the Cabinet portfolio war, where each side wanted ministries deemed to be strategic and more influential in management of public affairs, there seemed to be developing a working relationship between the two principals. Both used every opportunity to assure the Kenyans and the World they would make the Grand Coalition deliver.
President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga on the front steps of Harambee House signing the National Accord that ushered the Grand Coalition Government. (Picture file/The Standard)

But three years later, after the rows by both sides over the 50-50 power sharing and the seat of Executive authority, the picture of the two principals is that of two comrades no longer at ease with each other. However, in language and their dreams of Kenya, they remain ‘comrades’, something that is discernible from the messages of hope for and solidarity with Kenyans they sent yesterday on the eve of the third anniversary of the Accord.
Their statements came against the backdrop of disagreements and a public spat over nominations to key Constitutional offices, over which the Constitution and the Accord requires them to ‘consult’. Their messages also had one common denominator; the importance of smooth and full implementation of the Constitution. May be, Kenyans could argue, they agree on the road to take but not the means of getting to the destination.
Message of assuranceKibaki’s verdict, as conveyed by the Presidential Press Service, was: "In spite of challenges, the letter and spirit of National Accord has prevailed over last three years." He then thanked Kenyans, "for their enduring commitment to National Accord and Reconciliation Act which has enabled coalition Government succeed."
He also had a message of assurance: "I want to assure all Kenyans the challenges we have experienced in last few weeks should not be cause for worry. I am committed to successful implementation of the Constitution."
Raila was also had a pledge to make: "I commit (myself) to explore all avenues to sustain spirit of compromise that gave birth to this Government…The (new) Constitution remains our best hope against another war." He added with a touch of optimism: "History shows civilisations can be swept by devastating fires, but in the aftermath, a vigorous new growth emerges, industries rise from rubble and cities and communities rebuild."
Kibaki also advised that today affords Kenyans an opportunity to reflect on the past in order to make the future more secure: "On this third anniversary, we reflect on the road we have traveled over the last three years with a view to drawing lessons on the road ahead of us as a nation."
He also was, probably because of the bloodshed in the first months of his controversial second term, prayerful: "Let us always remember that there is so much that unites us as Kenyans. We are one nation, one people. Let us commit Kenya to the Almighty God who has seen us through this period."
Drawing from the chaos in Ivory Coast, where he was dispatched by the African Union to lead conciliation efforts, Raila painted the picture of Kenya that would probably have come to be, were it not for international mediation.
Warring lieutenants"I always knew the decision by President Kibaki and myself to agree to share power was momentous. But its real magnitude struck me when I traveled to Ivory Coast at the beginning of the year to mediate in the election dispute there," he said.
He added: "I landed in a once prosperous and stable African country…now struggling to stand with two presidents, two prime ministers, two Cabinets, two militaries and two "state houses" all running the same country. It struck me how much we can save, and how much we did save by just agreeing to compromise.’’
But while Kibaki and Raila, painted a rosy picture of Grand Coalition, their lieutenants kept on throwing brickbats at each other.
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who reports to Raila, said the power-sharing deal was just meant to "silence those who opted for violence’’.
Uhuru, who is on the list of the ‘Ocampo Six’, added: "We were not dishing out leadership. We were just silencing those who opted for violence."
Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka argued despite the constant political competition, the coalition had managed to work in the best interest of the country.
"The fact that three years on, the coalition, still holds is a testament to the values both sides hold on peace and normalcy without which ideologies would be meaningless,’’ he said. He added Kenyans were forced to challenges among them tricky process of harmonising divergent perspectives and visions into one ‘Programme of action policy’.
Lands minister James Orengo, who was one of the eight members of Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation Committee known more as Serena Team, reflected on the protracted negotiations, saying: "It brought peace and laid foundation upon which the new Constitution was later enacted."
He, however, lamented the ‘old order’ was fighting back: "We have covered some ground, but there are difficulties because many have not internalised the complete change of attitude."
Assert rightsHe advised Kenyans to, "be vigilant to ensure the new Constitution is fully implemented and continue to assert their rights."
The President gave a raft of steps taken by Government to heal the country following the disputed elections, including the setting up of Agenda Four Commissions and the ongoing resettlement programme for Internally Displaced Persons.

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