Balancing act tricky for race to State House Published on September 28, 2007, 12:00 am By Kipkoech Tanui
There are two traps that await new governments: postmortem and passing the buck.
Before Anglo Leasing ghosts found their way to the Cabinet, and even as Kenya turned a working nation, ministers burnt half their time telling us how bad the past had been. The nectar in their speeches was that they were change managers. President Kibaki said he was inheriting a tattered nation. Late Local Government minister Karisa Maitha, at the time the likes of Vice-President Moody Awori and Mr Ali Chirau Mwakwere were mere assistant ministers, swept streets of street families. Internal security minister, Mr John Michuki, before he was given wrong unwieldy docket, cracked down on matatu drivers and touts.
Agriculture minister, Mr Kipruto arap Kirwa, revamped the fledging sub-sectors. Justice minister, Ms Martha Karua, privatised urban water boards while Cooperative minister, Mr Njeru Ndwiga, restored order in the movements.
Education minister, Prof George Saitoti, championed the free primary education programme. Mrs Charity Ngilu’s went for free health for all. But two projects pulled off by two ministers flopped. The Orange Democratic Movement presidential candidate, Mr Raila Odinga, then the Roads minister, brought down houses standing on bypasses. Perhaps Mr Odinga had not heard of countries where the incoming regimes balanced the interests of the economy, against the ‘crime’ of land grabbing (where curiously the homeowners had legitimate Government documents), and decided the unlucky landowners must meet the cost of re-routing the bypasses. Some regimes turned the buildings into public facilities. They then paid off the owners from the budget the host set aside for new offices. But the mood then was such that every minister wanted to be seen working and the cheering squad was large. Even as the Office of the President, Treasury, Central Bank and Kenya Revenue Authority, were transformed into a tribal cabal, few noticed.
The feeling of satisfaction was quickly dimmed by the MoU war between President Kibaki and the Liberal Democratic Party brigade, and strange guests as Mr and Mrs Anglo Leasing.
The tension exploded in the 2005 referendum and the two presidential candidates fighting to unseat him, Raila and Mwingi North MP Kalonzo Musyoka, were in the basin of ‘dirty’ water he threw out. They are now back with fury, to take what they believe was theirs. Kalonzo however appears to be more keen at stopping Raila and his team from reaching State House than dethroning Kibaki. Half of what he says is about ‘our brothers in ODM’. The second most whimsical project, perhaps only eclipsed by Mr Chris Murungaru’s attempt to reincarnate General Mathenge, was in the hands of the then Justice minister Mr Kiraitu Murungi (now in Energy). Ever the admirer of Mzee Nelson Mandela and post-Apartheid South Africa, Kiraitu tried to set up a Justice, Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Like the fine mess Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission has made of the war against graft, this too hit the wall. Bishop Desmond Tutu was invited and he warned Kenya to tread carefully because ‘truth’ and ‘reconciliation’ could light fires across the country. The villain must be as ready as the victim to speak the truth, he said. Yes, corruption must be fought and it is a disgrace Parliament has blocked the indolent KACC from pursuing crimes committed before 2003. But this won’t work. Raila is chasing a mirage, I doubt he has given much thought to this fancy idea and Kiraitu must be laughing. It boggles the mind how he imagines he will line up the VIP thieves at KICC to confess the amount they stole, the date, and fork out the payback cheque. Firstly, we do not have hard evidence; there were no book entries. Secondly, even if we do, no one will be willing to confess. Thirdly, who will define corruption? Fourthly, inter-ethnic tension will flourish and we could end up with a slaughterhouse for a nation. Fifthly, Kenya is no post-Apartheid South African or Greensboro where the both sides were willing to face the panel seeking the truth. Sixthly, the corrupt will, like some in ODM, shield themselves under the roofs of courts and constitutional references. Seventhly, this election will be fought and won on the platform of tribalism and trust. All the others are textbook fads; they can only sway a few. Raila should not tell us he would be a postmortem President. Kenya needs a new deal and beginning. For the lack of a promising candidate, the majority would easily re-elect Kibaki aendelee na kazi! Mr Charles De Gaulle when he ruled France said: “Since a politician never believes what he says, he is quite surprised to be taken at his word.” The writer is The Standard Managing Editor, Weekend Editions firstname.lastname@example.org