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The ideal political solution to the current crisis is not a simple power-sharing formula between the PNU and ODM disputants, designed to serve individual ambitions.


We need to go beyond the politics of backroom deals

Publication Date: 2/19/2008

WHILE A GRAND COALITION is the most suitable deadlock-breaking mechanism in our desperate circumstances, the ideal political solution to the current crisis is not a simple power-sharing formula between the PNU and ODM disputants, designed to serve individual ambitions.

The only viable solution is to institute a pro-people system of governance that will hold the political elite accountable to the public and give us the opportunity to change mindsets and attitudes throughout the country to create new political realities. 

The crisis can only be contained by building a democratic society where all power is not just derived from the people, but that those entrusted with it should be kept dependent on the people. 

Hence, firm democratic hands must carefully mould the Annan coalition so that it doesn’t deny us that solution just like the 1997 IPPG deal did.

IDEALLY, THE GRAND COALITION must be an interim mechanism lasting no longer than 18 months with a clear mandate to midwife the much sought-after comprehensive political solution via constitutional reforms that must, among others, introduce enforceable accountability. 

Our problem has never been the lack of analysis; it has been the lack of political goodwill. Human-years of painstaking analyses have accurately diagnosed our problem as the impunity of our rulers. But since we can’t hold them to account, they reject all prescriptions because a cure would mean their losing out individually. 

This uncontrolled political power that encroaches on individual freedoms has since the colonial days betrayed successive generations of Kenyans and inflicted on us the historical injustices at the heart of the current crisis.

Had political power been accountable, citizens would have been able to use a range of informal and formal strategies to secure their self-determination. And political leadership would long have been forced to unite the nation around a common purpose. 

Since colonial times, Kenyans have been protesting, asserting our right to a just, democratic, peaceful future. We have been moaning that most of the conventional avenues for political engagement — legislation, elections, courts, single issue campaigns, labour fights — are so co-opted by the elitist system, and it is impossible for ordinary citizens to use them to realise self-determination. 

But after more than 100 years of struggle, save for the vain grandstanding and self-congratulation in political circles, very little has actually been accomplished on the ground.

At the very best of times, we have only won concessions that don’t threaten the status quo but progressively deliver us from a lesser evil to a greater one. 

We have helplessly watched self-interest transform individuals, whose great democratic promise embodied our hope, from being catalysts for social change into being limits simply because we can’t place checks and balances on the power we give them. 

In such circumstances, where there are few channels of representation and little access to justice, people naturally seek more radical ways to secure it.

Conflict is exacerbated by the lack of formal channels for aggrieved groups to claim their rights. The powerlessness they feel in the face of institutional breakdown often leads to violence as a form of protest. 

THIS VERY DANGEROUS STATE OF affairs underscores the need for the Annan initiative to do its best, not just to re-direct existing power through a grand coalition. Rather, the initiative must fix systemic flaws that perpetuate impunity. That way, the initiative will be our springboard for true progress and social change as a continuation of our clamour for reforms.

The worst thing that can happen to the reform movement now is to settle for a power-sharing arrangement that secures jobs for individuals but offers the ordinary citizen nothing in the form of placing enforceable checks and balances. 

Therefore, the much talked about political solution must not confuse and defeat the real democracy issues underlying the crisis.

Mr Okoiti is a playwright and human rights activist.
Write to the author

About SG

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


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