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Kenya, Constitution reforms could see the return of powerful PM

Reforms could see the return of powerful PM

Published on February 19, 2008, 12:00 am

Standard team

The executive Prime Minister’s office, abolished on December 12, 1964 when Jomo Kenyatta became Kenya’s first President, is now inevitable if a political settlement out of the impasse is to be reached, The Standard has learnt.

It is understood to be behind the inordinate delay in striking a deal because of its far-reaching political implications.

United States Secretary of State Dr Condoleezza Rice in Nairobi on Monday. She met President Kibaki and ODM leader Mr Raila Odinga.

Sources say it is also the reason for the unrelenting pressure by the international community backing power sharing “as it’s the most viable option in such an arrangement”.

“We can make the amendments to make the fundamental changes in order to achieve a political settlement,” Mr Raila Odinga, the leader of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) said last night.

It could be the biggest compromise from the talks. The President is to be the head of state and the Prime Minister to be the head of government.

This emerged on a day US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pushed for a speedy return to governance in Kenya through power sharing during an intense eight-hour, shuttle diplomacy ahead of the resumption of mediation talks today.

“It can’t be an illusion, power sharing must be real,” the top US diplomat told Party of National Unity (PNU) and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) — the two protagonists in the disputed and discredited presidential elections.

US will not dictate

However, the message appeared directed more at PNU, whose cast of Government hardliners led by Foreign Affairs minister Mr Moses Wetangula threw a major tantrum on the eve of Rice’s arrival at the weekend.

“There needs to be a governance arrangement that will allow real power-sharing, that will allow a coalition, indeed a grand coalition, so that Kenya can be governed,” Rice, in a statement that left no doubt about the political settlement the US and the international community is backing, stated.

Upset by growing international pressure to share power and pave way for wide ranging reforms and a possible early election, PNU at the weekend invoked the Constitution, roundly attacked President George Bush and said it would not be rushed into a deal.

But Rice, the highest-ranking US official to visit Kenya since the December 27 presidential vote outcome that triggered a bloodletting that left at least 1,000 dead, over half a million homeless and threatened an economic meltdown, in an appeal couched in diplomatic language urged utmost cooperation.

Without making a direct reference to the events that preceded her arrival, the diplomat said: “I’m going to emphasise that there is a lot to be gained in a relationship with the United States through resolution of this political crisis”.

Rice underscored the urgency for a political settlement, saying: “The time was yesterday. It must be urgently done. Kenyans want to see the country moving forward.”

The diplomat said she did not come to impose a solution. “I’m here to support mediation. We will continue to support the civil society to ensure accountability. The US is a partner with Kenya. We are friends of Kenya. It will not be business as usual with the US and other international community.”

She added: “We are not dictating but aiding in what Kenyans have expressed in their impatience for the two parties to agree, Kenyans are impatient at the time the talks are taking. They want to see a solution.”

In perhaps her busiest day of the week, Rice touched down at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Nairobi, at 10.30am and was chauffeured straight to Serena Hotel where she met Chief Mediator, Kofi Annan, who briefed her on the progress in the talks.

Thereafter, the top diplomat proceeded to meet President Kibaki, ODM leader Mr Raila Odinga and members of the civil society and business community.

“The Kenyan leadership must now take the last step in dealing with the issue of governance. Kenyans expect more from their leadership,” Rice said at Serena Hotel, the venue of the mediation talks.

Mrs Graca Machel, former South African First Lady and Mr Benjamin Mkapa, former Tanzanian President, sit with Annan in the Panel of Eminent African Persons steering the talks.

Justice minister Ms Martha Karua leads the Kibaki team in the negotiations while Pentagon member Mr Musalia Mudavadi leads the Orange side in the search for a political solution to the crippling crisis triggered by the disputed presidential elections.

Raila insists President Kibaki stole his victory.

Rice said the country has to move forward and stressed the need for the political players to come together for the sake of the country.

“What I’m underscoring is that there is need to share power and responsibility. That’s what I gathered from all the teams I met. I met President Kibaki, ODM leader Raila Odinga, members of the civil society and business people and what they all want to see is an end to violence and a quick political settlement,” Rice told an international press conference at the residence of US Ambassador, Mr Michael Ranneberger.

She added: “The civil society underscored the fact that Kenya needs to revert back to its democratic principles. It is time to put the good of Kenya at the forefront.

“The people of Kenya carried out their constitutional duty and voted, but the outcome was not a good day for Kenya. What we want to see is good governance and a political compromise.

“There must be emphasis on constitutional reforms and the two leaders must use the crisis as an opportunity to bring the country back to track.”

 

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About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.

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