PNU’s hurdles undermining search for settlement
Published on February 24, 2008, 12:00 am
By Oscar Obonyo
President Kibaki and his PNU brigade seem to be borrowing from Chinese war strategist, Sun Tzu, to navigate through the current crisis.
Tzu, a decorated military general and one of the great Chinese thinkers of ancient times, says if you have an upper hand over an opponent, you must crush them totally. You must have no mercy; you must give them nothing to negotiate, no hope, and no room for manoeuvre.
By default or design, PNU is in the driver’s seat and is increasingly making it difficult for Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) to gain political ground.
Even as ODM politicians maintain Kibaki stole Raila Odinga’s victory, the ODM leader is vulnerable as hardline PNU tightens the noose. The party has placed a host of hurdles in the way and does not appear to be in a hurry to conclude the former United Nations Secretary-General Dr Kofi Annan-led negotiations.
But the rival ODM has apparently lived up to the grand law of physics; “To every action there is always an opposing reaction of equal measure”. Indeed, it is because of these tough positions that the current political stalemate is yet to be unlocked.
The PNU plot has been to hide behind the discredited Constitution. To bolster this position, the President’s team has nominated to the Annan-led negotiations lawyers, except one.
Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, Ms Martha Karua and senior counsel Mutula Kilonzo, lead the team. Foreign Affairs minister Mr Moses Wetangula; also a lawyer, and Education minister Prof Sam Ongeri complete the PNU cast.
Ugenya MP, Mr James Orengo, who was belatedly included in ODM’s team, is the only lawyer on the opposing side. The rest are Aldai MP, Dr Sally Kosgei and Pentagon members Mr Musalia Mudavadi and Mr William Ruto.
Outside the negotiation room, “learned friends” are espousing the PNU agenda. Garsen MP, Mr Danson Mungatana, leads the hardliners.
He told The Sunday Standard that there was no way the party would allow ODM to walk away with executive premiership. He says Section 23 of the Constitution, vests executive powers only in the presidency. But he forgets this presidency is disputed.
Although President Kibaki and the PNU brigade have amplified this position, there has been a remarkable climb down by the party’s negotiating team.
Insists on constitutional route
From a rigid position of declining to share power and creating the position of Premier, PNU negotiators have ceded some ground, but insisted the deal with ODM should be entrenched in the Constitution.
This may well be part of the Government side’s game plan — to open up the deal for possible legal challenges in court. But ODM insists such landmark changes be executed through an amendment to the Constitution.
The Sunday Standard has learnt that, court cases are lined up to besmirch the Annan deal once it is finalised. Some of the challenges, in PNU’s bag of legal options, include the annulment of parliamentary elections as well — a move that could send shivers down the spines of all MPs. In the meantime, PNU continues to give mixed signals over the Annan talks. Although its negotiators seem to be softening their stand, the same is not true in its parliamentary group.
While conceding the Constitution has been amended over the years, Mungatana maintains Kenyans must mandate key changes such as the creation of a premier through a referendum.
The other ploy PNU is accused of is “openly dragging their feet” in the negotiation. For instance, last Friday PNU negotiators skipped the morning session to consult President Kibaki and a day earlier to attend a funeral.
While ODM roots for an immediate political solution, including appointment of a premier, PNU wants a comprehensive constitutional review that will culminate in effecting ODM’s demands within a year.
PNU politicians also argue creation of premier’s post requires time to constitutionalise the necessary structures and budget.
A lengthy and tiring process is bound to work to the disadvantage of ODM, and the country that needs to reclaim its peace.
With PNU’s leader having taken an oath of office as President and its politicians bent on preservation of status quo, the Annan talks serve political interests of the country and ODM more than PNU.
This probably explains why the party has given a cold shoulder to a number of world leaders keen on supporting the mediation.
South Africa’s Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the first to arrive, waited for two days to secure an appointment with Kibaki. Indifferent Government officials were later to derogatively describe the mission of Ghanaian President and immediate former African Union chairman, Mr John Kufour, as having “come for a cup of coffee” with his age mate (Kibaki).
South Africa’s renowned mediator and former African National Congress Secretary General, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, followed suit when he left in a huff after PNU negotiators alleged he had business dealings with the ODM leader.
Desperate for help after losing elections
In all instances, PNU stood its ground with Public Works and Roads minister, Mr John Michuki, stating that the volunteer negotiators were not invited by the Government but were guests of ODM leaders who were “desperate for help after losing elections”.
Only last week, it seemed like Annan himself would go the Kufour-Ramaphosa way. But he chose to raise an alarm over maneuvers to force him out.
“I will not be frustrated or provoked into leaving. I will stay on for as long as it takes to ensure Kenyans achieve a lasting solution to the current political crisis,” he said, at Kilaguni Lodge.
A day earlier, members of the negotiating teams flew back to Nairobi on Valentine Day with Ms Karua branding envoys whom she believed were meddling in the mediation as “junior officers in the pecking order merely expressing their views”.
She further cast doubt on the Annan-talks: “He might sound optimistic but that is different from the true position of the situation.”
And last Tuesday, following the visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Annan regretted that some politicians were unhappy with his presence, which they viewed as interference in “Kenya’s affairs”.
Nobel laureate Prof Wangari Maathai was greatly touched by this particular notion. She hit back, clarifying that Annan and team were in the country to sort out the post-election mess, which politicians had fuelled but failed to calm.
“They only stepped in after more than 1,000 Kenyans were killed as a result. How could anyone or political party be so insincere and insensitive?” posed the former Tetu MP. Wangari has since claimed she has received death threats.
Although many watched in disbelief as ECK officials hustled with ODM leaders over “top up” presidential votes in 48 constituencies and the subsequent swearing-in of Kibaki as President 20 minutes later, PNU has repeatedly published what it considers evidence to prove its candidate won.
PNU has chosen — almost successfully — to play hardball. It does no matter that facts such as ODM winning 99 parliamentary seats as opposed to PNU’s 43, may be a pointer to who actually won.
As the two sides dig in to each other, those on Annan’s negotiating table maybe persuaded to reflect on US renowned black civil rights’ leader, Martin Luther King, Jr: “The old law about “an eye for an eye” leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.”