We must not waste this
13. Feb. 2008
Tuesday marked another milestone in the path towards resolving the
political crisis and finding a lasting solution to fundamental
problems this country has failed to tackle since independence. The
chairman of the negotiation team, Mr Kofi Annan, and panelist
Graca Machel shifted base from Nairobiís Serena Hotel, the venue
of the talks, to Parliament Buildings, where they addressed an
informal session of legislators, updating them about the ground
covered in brokering peace and what needs to be done to conclude
Top on Mr Annanís agenda was the fact that the countryís problem
is political, hence must resolved through a political means. Hence,
he rooted for a coalition government to bring together the main
parliamentary parties into a power-sharing deal. Additionally, he
pitched for constitutional and policy reforms, which among others,
encompass a review of land tenure structures and equitable
distribution of national resources.
Underpinning this is the concern that the current political
dispensation promotes exclusion and marginalisation of groups and
consequently, give rise to irreconcilable inequalities that in
turn, spurn ethnic, social and even religious conflicts and
Indeed, consensus is building around the fact that the violence
that engulfed the country for most of January was a manifestation
of long-held and deeply felt feelings of exclusion arising out of
a governance structure that gives everything to the winner. The
converse, therefore, is dispersal of executive powers from the
imperial presidency, building of strong and independent
institutional and legal structures and religious adherence to
Given the prevailing conditions, it is easy to quickly jump onto
these proposals and run away with them. But it also at this
critical moment that it is imperative that we take time to
seriously interrogate every step we make.
The current constitution that has been maligned owes its
weaknesses to the short-termist amendments made to it since
independence at crucial moments to solve political crisis. For
example, when Jaramogi Oginga Odinga formed the Kenya Peopleís
Union in 1966 after a dramatic fallout with Mzee Jomo Kenyatta in
Kanu, the constitution was quickly amended to compel MPs defecting
from their nominating parties to seek a fresh mandate.
Secondly, when the same Mr Odinga and others like the late George
Anyona sought to form an opposition party in 1982 to challenge
Kanuís hegemony, the constitution was amended to make Kenya a de
jure single party. This ushered in the darkest era in Kenyaís
political life characterised by mass political detention and
unjustified arrests. It was not until the repeal of the infamous
section 2A in 1991, which returned Kenya to a multiparty state,
that this country breathed a sigh of political relief.
A similar short-cut amendment was made in 1997 under the
Inter-Parliamentary Parties Group deal that saw parties cut
political deals, including working out a formula for nomination of
MPs and members of the Electoral Commission.
With political and constitutional history, we must ask the
question: what does a coalition government portend for Kenya? Does
that put us on the path for political slide to the dark days of
single-party state? Who will check the excesses of the Executive
if all parties join the Government?
The other fundamental issue to address is the chemistry of the
political parties to work together. Just from the recent history
and particularly in lieu of the sudden demise of the National
Rainbow Coalition soon after it won the 2002 election, one wonders
if the parties can work together. The level of suspicion is high,
let alone dislike for each other.
Of course the question of the publicís feelings over the elections
must also be taken into account. There is deep feeling of betrayal,
disappointment, hopelessness and helplessness. Unless these
feelings are dealt with, peace will remain elusive.
We are conscious of the current challenges, including mass
displacement and deaths. The constitutional amendments that
require to be done now should be to bring peace, but prepare
ground for major legal reforms and ultimately fresh elections in a
short while to conclusively exorcise the ghost of 2007 poll.