News 2008


Women demand ‘fair share’ in new coalition

Sunday Nation


09. March 2008

The government announced on Saturday that Kenyans who fled to Uganda at the height of the post-election violence had started returning home.

At the same time, women leaders demanded what they termed their rightful share of power after the recent signing of an agreement between President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

The pact should be followed up by a people-driven reconciliation process instead of falling into a political time-bomb ready to explode when the next elections or referendums are called.

Nobel laureate Prof Wangari Maathai told a gathering during celebrations to mark the International Women’s Day at the Holy Family Basilica, Nairobi, that there were fears that politicians would abandon the reconciliation process, arguing that they would use divisive schemes when the next elections are called.

She urged Kenyans to force leaders to take the campaign to the grassroots by using the 42 tribes’ councils of elders, “so that people who lost property and loved ones as well as had their marriages broken may embrace a people-driven process.”

She added: “Which small tribe is benefiting now? We want to hear the Ogiek and the El Molo talking and the big tribes accepting them in the larger Kenyan family and as stakeholders.”

Prof Maathai said she lost her Tetu parliamentary seat because of what she called speaking the truth when “President Kibaki refused to honour the memorandum of understanding he signed with Mr Odinga in 2003 and later opposed.

The sacking from the Cabinet of Liberal Democratic Party leaders in 2005 was the culmination of tribal warfare, she said. “I refused to join the Cabinet that seemed to take Kenya towards a dangerous slope, and my words were ignored and my seat went because of saying the truth.

“I now want Kenyans to support reconciliation at the top, but push the politicians because they will forget after sharing positions, yet peace is not yet existing among the common wananchi who suffered most.”

Prof Maathai noted that the international community acted very fast to save the country over issues that Kenyan leaders could have tackled long before. The land question, she noted, was caused by the colonial and independence governments who pushed people in Central province and Nairobi into settlements in the Rift Valley.

“Telling somebody who has been living in a region for 100 years to go back home is the greatest political crime Kenyan leaders committed by window-dressing or ignoring the voice of reason,” Prof Maathai said.

She accused church leaders of taking sides in the current political crisis, saying that although they gathered courage to apologise recently, “their salt had ceased to add flavour in most Kenyans.”

“Tribalism,” she said, “is a micro-national fabric that, if used well, will unite Africa and make it behave like Europe where wars killed over 50 million people until they themselves realised that France, Germany, Britain, Russia or Greece must discard violence for the sake of peace.”

The minister for Special Programmes, Dr Naomi Shaaban, the guest of honour at a similar function at Kenyatta International Conference Centre, said all the displaced people, including those in Uganda, had been convinced to return home, and that efforts by an advisory board formed by President Kibaki would work for their harmonious return.

The few who reject the offer will be resettled, she added.

The minister said the signing of the power-sharing agreement was a major step in ensuring that the displaced return home.

About Sh700 million would be used to set up 32 police stations, mainly for security reasons and not forceful resettlement, she added.

She said the government had set aside Sh1 billion for the department of mitigation and resettlement being set up.