News 2008


On the threshold of a breakthrough

February 11, 2008


By Standard Team

It will be a unique political solution for Kenya that will be unveiled this week if both sides at the Kofi Annan-led talks agree to final details of a deal already on the table.

Both sides on Sunday gave hints of a power-sharing arrangement tailored to bring both teams into Government, in a settlement delicately balanced to end the post-election crisis, start the healing and build on future stability.

This follows last week’s announcement by Annan of an impending political solution, but details of how it would look like remained sketchy.

Four leading political analysts were of the view that given the delicate background behind which the Annan talks are taking place, the expected power-sharing formula may not have to stick to internationally established models but would be one made uniquely for the Kenyan crisis.

The analysts were agreed that the most expected outcome of the talks by Kenyans and politicians is a Government that leaves Mr Mwai Kibaki as the President while creating another top respectable executive position — like the Prime Minister — for Mr Raila Odinga.

They said for a fair deal to be seen to be struck, several ODM members would have to be absorbed into the Cabinet, some as assistant ministers, while Kibaki would have to cede some executive authority to Raila.

Amend constitution

Some of the agreements that may emerge in the talks would call for constitutional amendments to accommodate positions that may be created.

Both Kibaki and Raila are understood to have heeded international pressure and acceded to a demand to share power, the details of which will this morning occupy the resumed sessions of the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation team.

But top politicians, including Raila, declined to speculate on the final deal, though they were agreed that the final steps of a political solution were in sight.

Raila, who spoke Sunday afternoon after attending a church service at the All Saints Cathedral, said: "The mediation team agreed on a political settlement and we support it. Details on the kind of settlement will be out soon".

But asked who the beneficiaries of the joint government would be, Raila remained tactically evasive: "We will give our proposals at the negotiation table. We are not going to negotiate through the media. At this point, I don’t know who is going into the Government or who is going out, we have not reached that stage yet".

He said the two sides were still discussing who would lead the government and what roles each party would play, and urged the media to wait for official communication from the mediation team sometime this week.

Finance minister Amos Kimunya, a close ally of President Kibaki, indicated that the Government side was flexible to the proposal to share power, even if it meant amending the constitution.

"We are willing to give this effort all our co-operation. When we agree, the rest can be handled constitutionally," said Kimunya.

He added: "The Wako draft has the position of a Prime Minister with certain responsibilities. It has worked in other countries, including the neighbouring Tanzania, why can it not work here?"

Prof Peter Wanyande, the dean of political science at the University of Nairobi (UoN), and Tom Ocholla, a political scientist at the university, concurred that in an ideal parliamentary system, the party with majority MPs would form the government, with its leader becoming the executive prime minister.

But the two doubted that such a straightjacket system could be applied in the Kenyan situation, saying that certain concessions would have to be made.

Said Wanyande: "We must appreciate that if such a settlement were to be reached here, it may include certain concessions that are not necessarily typical of a parliamentary system. For the sake of national healing, all parties could be brought on board in the power sharing arrangement".

Ocholla said the president’s role was largely ceremonial in a parliamentary system of government but he doubted that PNU would cede that much ground.

"I doubt whether PNU would agree to an executive prime minister with sweeping powers. I believe they are going to push for the Tanzanian model where the prime minister enjoys limited powers," he said.

In Tanzania, the President is both the head of state and head of government. The president appoints a prime minister who serves as the government’s leader in the National Assembly.

Once the deal is struck, Ocholla suggested that the present Cabinet be dissolved to pave way for a freshly reconstituted one in line with the proposed agreement.

Multi-party democracy under threat

Lawyer and political scientist Paul Mwangi said the proposed power-sharing could complicate the case for multi-party democracy.

First, Mwangi said, under the current Constitution Kenya is a multiparty democracy. Second, executive power is vested in the president, hence the proposed position of a prime minister must be preceded by a constitutional overhaul.

As regards multiparty democracy, he argued that if ODM were to be brought into government, that would "water down" this principle and contradict what the opposition has fought for all along.

"Who then would be the leader of opposition if ODM were to join Government? Clearly, ODM cannot be both in Government and in the opposition," he posed.

To sidestep the contradiction, he proposed a mechanism for a Government of National Unity that would allow opposition chiefs to be part of government.

"Even then, we should find out a way of constituting an opposition because leaders of the three big parties would then be in Government," he concluded.

Another political scientist, Dr Chris Abong’o, said whatever balance would be struck between the two sides, Annan’s team must strive to come out with a ‘win-win’ scenario.

"For the sake of healing and reconciliation, no side should be seen to come out wielding the big stick over the other. It should be a ‘win-win’ for both," said Dr Abong’o.

The ‘win-win’ formula was also echoed by visiting Anglican Archbishop of York in the United Kingdom.

"I am appealing to Kofi Annan to lead the process into a ‘win-win’ solution for both sides," said Archbishop Sentamu at the All Saints Cathedral. He has already met Raila and Justice minister Martha Karua.

On where a shared government leaves the opposition, both Prof Wanyande and Ocholla had varied views.

Said Ocholla: "The fate of the opposition certainly is an issue of legitimate concern that is not being addressed seriously in case of a power sharing deal."

Ocholla, however, noted that there could be a silver lining to the arrangement given that the parties involved hold radically different ideological differences.

"This factor perhaps will provide internal checks and balances within Government. Moreover, the fact that both parties would seek to meet their respective pledges to the electorate would discourage wayward behaviour," he argued.

But Wanyande differed, saying the power-sharing arrangement would not necessarily deal a deathblow to multi-party politics "because there is no opposition to speak about in the first place".

He explained that ODM was locked in a bitter electoral dispute with PNU over who won the elections and hence had not accepted to assume the role of the official opposition party.

Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, who had spoken a day earlier, said the matter of power-sharing needed further discussion to ensure it did not conflict with the Constitution.

"Our Constitution is very clear that Kenya is a multiparty state. This means that what is arrived at protects this cherished ideal," Kalonzo said.

Other politicians who welcomed the power sharing deal included Laikipia East MP Mr Mwangi Kiunjuri

"I think it would be a good idea if it is the only solution to unlock the political impasse," said Kiunjuri, who declined to comment further.

Seven ODM MPs from Nyanza and Western have indicated that any proposed joint government with PNU should reflect the strength of their party.

The MPs, who on Sunday toured Western to assess the impact of post-election violence, pointed out that ODM should have a major stake owing to its strength in Parliament.

The MPs included Dr Oburu Odinga (Bondo), Mr Ababu Namwamba (Budalangi), Mr Manyala Keya (Lurambi), Dr Simiyu Eseli (Kimilili), Mr Fred Outa (Nyando) and Mr Alfred Odhiambo (Butula).