Kenya not out of the woods yet
Published on March 16, 2008, 12:00 am
By Dennis Onyango
Does President Kibaki want to go down in history as the leader who embraced change to save his Government and his legacy or is there more to the new spirit of friendship that has taken root in the national politics?
That is the question that remains begging in the light of events that have gone on this last week.
First, came a statement from the Head of Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet Mr Francis Muthaura that gave a controversial clarification of the power sharing deal.
That was followed by confusion and panic at Prime Minister-designate Raila Odinga’s home. Guards the Government stationed at the home were changed three times in hours.
As Head of the Civil Service, Muthaura is expected to take orders from the President. His statement that the power sharing deal did not include sharing of Civil Service positions has passed quietly without a comment from the Head of State.
While some have taken this to mean the President may have been privy or sympathetic to Muthaura’s claims, those familiar with the events that took place just before the deal was signed paint a different picture.
There are a number of politicians and civil servants who were caught offguard by the President’s agreement to sign the deal and may still be trying to influence him against it.
Others, realising that the President moved on, are fighting personal battles for survival, using State structures.
A few hours before President Kibaki travelled down to the city centre to sign the agreement with Raila Odinga, some PNU leaders unsuccessfully tried to meet him in State House, before he could come to Harambee House.
The concern of the PNU group was that the President should not accept the position that the agreement must be constitutionalised, and be part of the laws of Kenya for the life of the coalition.
Just a few hours before the deal was signed, a bitter argument raged in the negotiation room over whether the agreement should be legislated.
Sources say chief negotiator Dr Kofi Annan, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and ODM leader Raila Odinga insisted that the deal was nothing if it were not legalised.
The PNU team opposed that vehemently, forcing the negotiators to call in Ugenya MP James Orengo and Attorney General Amos Wako to give their position.
“At that meeting, even Wako said it did not need to be law,” one source said, adding that the AG was however “cagey” on the issue apparently because he never knew where the President stood on the matter.
Those opposed to the legalisation of the deal cited Germany and the UK where coalitions have been formed on the basis of agreements between parties without the backing of the constitution.
Hardliner denied access
When the peace package was finalised, the PNU team was sure the President would not agree that it be made law.
In State House, however, the President agreed that the agreement is put into law, but the PNU teams in the talks and Civil Service were unaware.
“They tried to see the President when they got wind that he might be signing the deal. They wanted to tell him not to accept that the agreement be put into law. But they were denied appointment,” a source, who moved between State House and Serena Hotel, the venue of the talks on that day, said.
With time ticking before the President could sign the deal at OP, opponents of the arrangement regrouped and agreed to send Vice-President, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, to appeal to the President not to agree to legalise the agreement.
The VP was not lucky either. State House told him the President was leaving for OP to sign the agreement.
“I think the President should be given a part on the back. Had he agreed to meet the hardliners that day, it would have been a very different story today,” the source said.
The group that tried to stop the signing of the deal, sources say, is not sitting idle. Its members are said to be hassling the President over the matter, even though Kibaki has so far stood his ground. The group is suspected to be the force behind Muthaura’s statement.
“The insistence by the President that Raila be given protection even before the deal took off was largely his way of telling the group that the deal is done and Kenya is bigger than vested interests,” the source said.
Blame game began outside the OP where the deal was signed, with one of the opponents accusing the others of selling them. But almost immediately the deal was signed, the battle shifted to the opening of Parliament. A group of hardliners wanted the House to open two or three weeks after the signing of the deal, in the hope that they would probably influence MPs against it.
Other members of the negotiating team insisted that the House be convened immediately, on the Tuesday after the signing. Even on this, the President agreed with Raila that the House needed to convene immediately.
President Kikwete suggested “a compromise” saying the opening be moved from Tuesday to Thursday to give time for others to adjust.
That proposal became another source of contention, with the hardliners arguing that traditionally, Parliament opens on Tuesday. Again, it took the President’s position that there were extraordinary times and this was one of them.
“There are a lot of people around the President who do not want this deal. But somehow, the President has refused to lend an ear,” one source said.
Still, some MPs caution that it is not yet time to celebrate and there may never be, if Kenya’s history is anything to go by.
“It is possible that this could be like Jomo Kenyatta signing the independence Constitution, knowing well that he was not comfortable with it,” one MP said.