The Public Watchdog
Do leaders care about Kenya and its people?
Published on February 26, 2008, 12:00 am
The Kenyan people have remained anxious for a political settlement from the ongoing mediation talks and what could still prove a defining political moment for this country.
The Kofi Annan-led talks appear to be making slow but certain progress, in an environment of high public expectation.
The truth, however, is that a deal has remained as elusive as a mirage with the expected conclusion date shifting from one week to another.
We are said to be all geniuses, thanks to the power of hindsight. However, in this column we did not need hindsight to make out that the talks would take longer than most people imagined. Kenyans, however, wish that a settlement were reached at the earliest opportunity.
What then are the compelling factors at play at these talks?
Firstly, a struggle for power and control of resource distribution and, secondly, an environment that is captive of vested interests.
A third factor at play is egocentrics and delusions of grandeur and, fourthly, the question of whether the future of the nation and its people does actually matter to these people.
Finally, everyone is watching and listening to everything while seeking the slightest opportunity for any tactical manoeuvrings.
In the power struggle, The Public Watchdog’s instinct remains that the settlement horizon requires more diplomatic tactical manoeuvrings by the arbitrator and continued local and international pressure to convince both sides to agree on an enduring settlement proposition.
Recently, in this column, we cautioned that while a political settlement must be reached as soon as possible, a realistic timeframe was imperative as the stakes would rise as the settlement’s details are being worked out. Thus, building unrealistic expectations and committing to over-ambitious timeframes amount to creating a time-bomb waiting to explode with far-reaching consequences.
Even today, the body language of those close to the reins of power suggests that the impasse could be sustained beyond next month.
Secondly, the ultimate outcome of any negotiation must be widely acceptable, not merely by the negotiators or their principals, but the majority of the stakeholders.
The fundamental question begs: Who are the stakeholders in the ongoing negotiations? Certainly not President Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga as many now consider. They might be the two principals claiming a stake on leadership but the two leaders’ interests must always be aligned with those of the people.
In any event, no matter what could be at stake, their personal interests cannot possibly override those of the electorate, the people, the nation, the region and international interests.
The major stakeholders are indubitably the Kenyan people and the Kenyan nation, which has the ultimate right to agree or disagree a governance structure.
As a matter of right to Kenyans, national resource allocation, including human capital, must of necessity be made equitable regardless of who holds the reins of power in a truly shared governance structure.
Thirdly, Kenyans and the international community are now an emerging environment that is captive of vested interests as well as egocentrics and delusions of grandeur. It is such an environment that could serve as a major threat to peace and national stability.
It is the vested interests of those who feel like they stand to gain or lose in any power sharing arrangement that could undermine the mediation talks.
At stake are the new positions created in a power sharing agreement, the interests to be dispensed on one side and those to be accommodated on the other. The important factor must certainly be the need to create a power-sharing framework that serves as critical governance pillars, participatory government with checks and balances for posterity.
Any structure agreed upon must not be seen as serving the interests of individuals but accommodating wider public interests today and in future. Thus, any self-catered interests must be subordinate to national interests.
No political leader worthy of his position — whether in power or hoping to ascend to power — should allow themselves to be seen as suffering from what could be considered as delusions of grandeur.
Finally, it might appear that the country is returning to normalcy but the situation remains fluid and cannot be equated to a “business as usual” position.
We have seen so far how fragile our people’s fortunes can be and as a nation, we should nurture peace and create governance structures to endure peace and coexistence as a people today, tomorrow and in the future.
Thus, if we are creating a position of Executive Prime Minister today or leaving Executive powers in the Presidency, it must not be intended or seen to serve Raila or preserve Kibaki in the Presidency. It must accommodate current and future interests of Kenya.
Needless to state, it has now become crystal clear that the vested interests that tried to stop sharing of executive powers during the last constitutional dispensation are now wishing they had supported the people’s desire.
As stated previously in this column, the weighty issues of power sharing structure demands methodical mechanisms and legal instruments to facilitate a workable governance structure.
Parliament must be at the centre of determining the power structure and in the ultimate arbitration, the people of Kenya could be called upon to decide such structures through a national referendum.
The decision cannot be about the past though the past serves as a useful lesson on deciding and planning for the future.
This is a matter of great public interest!
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