Saturday, June 29, 2013

Jubilee Faults Taking Us To Election Mode

Friday, June 28, 2013 - 00:00 -- BY JERRY OKUNGU
Nobody expected that in three short months following the March polls, Kenyans would embark on the road to the 2017 election mode. Yet this is what has happened. A spat between the Senate and the National Assembly, fuelled by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s signing of the controversial Division of Revenue Bill 2013.
Soon after it became known that the Jubilee government had caved in to MPs over their salaries and lucrative allowances, teachers did not waste time. Kuppet and Knut officials are out on strike, demanding the final implementation of their 1997 pay and allowances deal which successive governments have been ignoring.
What the striking teachers are saying is simple: if this government can afford better pay for MPs and buy expensive laptops for children still struggling to learn their ABC and basic numbers under a tree at a cost of Sh60 billion, why not pay teachers well, construct classrooms and equip schools properly? More importantly, why not build computer labs for each school to be shared by all children in lower primary institutions at a much lower cost and use the rest of the billions to pay teachers well?
Not to be left behind, nurses at the Kenyatta National Hospital also downed their tools almost simultaneously with Nairobi county workers. The KNH staff are demanding their Sh4 billion salary arrears and allowances while the Nairobi county workers were crying foul over their delayed end of May salaries.
The decision by the Senate to lodge a complaint at the Supreme Court and embark on a popular campaign to amend the constitution points to one thing: the court may not rule in their favor no matter how logical and factual their case may be. They have the Supreme Court’s decision on the Raila-Uhuru case to go by.
If indeed the Senators stay united and forge a strong bond with governors in dealing with a common threat from the Executive and National Assembly, it simply means that for the next several weeks—even months—this group will be building political momentum in readiness for the next elections. And if they succeed to force a referendum and actually win it, they might just repeat the ODM script of 2005 when half of the Kibaki government defeated the government in the constitution referendum.
The move to rope in governors in the dispute could be the reason the Executive hurriedly arranged a meeting with all governors in Nairobi to reward them with special number plates for their official cars and diplomatic passports. Whether these will compensate them enough to make them abandon their pursuit of Sh48 billion deducted from county allocations remains to be seen.
This is very much in conformity with Kenyan politics where alignments and realignments are the order of the day.
There is the interesting coming together of MPs from the ruling and minority coalitions who are united in the clamor for more cash from the Treasury come rain or shine. The clamor is led by Jubilee MPs who are the majority. Three of the most vocal MPs are from ODM strong holds that should not be supporting the ruling coalition to fleece Kenyans.
The 11th Parliament , if anything, is beginning to look like any House under Daniel Moi. The circus that is the vetting of presidential appointments appears to be a well planned and choreographed exercise with Cord MPs behaving like outsiders who choose to grieve more than the bereaved family. In almost all instances, some of them have seemed too eager to cut short the debate by asking the Speaker to put the question to the vote. Parliament is looking more like a conveyor belt that allows both the chaff and the grain to pass through.
In the Senate, the situation is a little different. It seems as if Senators have forged some unity of purpose especially after some thoughtless MPs intimated prematurely that the National Assembly should disband the Senate. Since then, the Senators have seen the need to hang together or else they be hanged separately.
The fear of derailing devolution and subsequently disbanding the Senate, county assemblies and special seats is the reason political temperatures will heat up earlier than expected.
Disenchantment with the Uhuru government has not come too soon for the national government alone. Governors in different parts of the country are equally feeling the heat. For example, the Nakuru governor has chosen to defy his vetting board and appointed to his cabinet individuals who had been rejected. Kisumu governor leads the pack—he not only sleeps in a hotel five minutes drive from his home, but also wants to spend Sh70 million on four wheel drive cars for his Cabinet at a time when harvesting hyacinth is going to cost the tax payer Sh50 million.
All these actions put together only point to one thing – we are soon going to find ourselves on the road to the 2017 elections with a very angry electorate.

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