Soul searching in Central Kenya
Published on March 23, 2008, 12:00 am
By Gakuu Mathenge
This year’s Easter holiday is like no other in the country’s history.
There is anxiety to see the shape and form of the new look government President Kibaki is expected to unveil next week.
|President Kibaki with a delegation at State House, Nairobi. It remains to be seen if there will be a purge and radical change of guard among State House gate keeping networks, or if it will be business as usual. Pictures: File|
The Grand Coalition Government will assume higher significance for the Central Kenya region, coming as it does with a cul de sac feeling after initial celebrations following declaration of President Kibaki as winner of last year’s presidential election.Too much has happened too fast and the region is yet to take in all of it: President Kibaki is declared winner of the disputed 2007 presidential elections, violence breaks out that leaves hundreds of thousands of their kin in the Rift Valley dead and others on the road, running for their lives; negotiations result in a power-sharing arrangement between President Kibaki and his nemesis, ODM leader, Mr Raila Odinga.
As the country awaits the new look government, the region is pondering what will happen next.
“While we have agreed to power sharing arrangement, it is also time for the region to sit back and take stock of what has happened, go back to the drawing board and think of what direction to take from here. The truth is, the foundations for 2012 contest have been laid and we should not waste time preparing for it,” said Mr Mwangi Kiunjuri, the Laikipia East MP.
He says the region should start looking for political allies and alliances.
Central Kenya voters and many of their leaders require adequate information on power-sharing in a grand coalition.
Many are waiting with guarded caution while others are openly suspicious of the new government arrangement.
What is certain is the uneasy silence will not last long; a vicious season of blame game is just about to explode.
It is not lost to observers that the war between elected politicians and a cabal of wealthy businessmen who act as gatekeepers at State House is likely to spill over into Kibaki’s second term, and perhaps assume more vicious proportions.
The elders are being accused of isolating President Kibaki from Kenyans and nearly costing him a second term in spite of reviving the economy and the agricultural sector, among other achievements.
The businessmen have been around President Kibaki since he plunged into opposition politics in 1991. They have been going by the title, Democratic Party Board of Trustees and Council of Elders.
They were blamed for bungling the Referendum campaign in 2005 and may not escape blame over last year’s presidential vote fiasco. They were charged with the re-election campaign under the Kibaki Tena (Maendeleo Resources Trust) and Kibaki Foundation outfits.
President Kibaki has demonstrated a strange aversion for political parties since he ascended to power and the Council of Elders has assumed the role of political party’s decision making organs, to the chagrin of elected politicians.
The absence of a party creates a vacuum that is soon likely to be filled by the old political buccaneers, who use their financial muscle and clout derived from proximity to the Head of State to position themselves as gatekeepers and custodians of ownership, access and control of the presidency.
Few politicians have been bold enough to publicly take on the revered elders or question their credentials, motives and abilities to execute projects they have been involved in.
Energy minister, Mr Kiraitu Murungi, blamed the elders for mishandling the Referendum campaigns by holding the purse strings too tightly.
Late last year, immediate former MP, for Kikuyu and Safina leader, Mr Paul Muite, caused a stir in Central Kenya when he castigated the elders. He blamed them for the hostility the Kibaki re-election campaign faced in parts of the country.
It remains to be seen if there will be a purge and a radical change of guard among State House gate keeping networks or if it will be business as usual.
There have been signs that although the political leadership in the region has expressed support for the grand coalition, many of them are still suspicious about the region’s position in it.
The Central Kenya Parliamentary Group (CPG) has been seeking an appointment with President Kibaki ahead of the crafting of the new-look government.
Two petitions have been written to President Kibaki — one signed by the 50-member CPG and another by MPs from Meru — all insisting the region’s representation in the coalition should reflect its voting strength in the last General Election.
While expressing support for the coalition government, restoration of peace, resettlement and compensation of the displaced, the two documents demand the region be accorded fair representation in Government.
“If the Cabinet comprises 34 ministers, it can be argued that President Kibaki has already exhausted his slots and therefore should leave the rest to the Orange Democratic Movement and Raila to fill. As it is now, Cabinet appointments are not commensurate with the voting strength of Mt Kenya region. If the imbalance is not considered, it would amount to a political injustice against the region and its people,” the CPG document notes.
A March 4 letter by CPG seeking appointment with President Kibaki, says in part: “The group has genuine fears that given the current political situation, central Kenya might be discriminated against and denied its rightful political representation in Government. The group would appreciate to meet Your Excellency at the earliest opportunity and preferably before the finalisation of the coalition Government.”
The CPG chairman and Mathira MP, Mr Ephraim Maina, signed the petition.
However, Dr Gibson Kamau Kuria, a Nairobi lawyer and legal scholar who also comes from Othaya in Nyeri, cautions the country against looking at the Grand Coalition from a purely power sharing perspective, and counting potential losers and winners.
“This should be viewed for what it is, an opportunity to stabilise the country, complete the constitutional review and establish institutions that can withstand stress and challenges in the future and reform those that have been found wanting,” he told The Sunday Standard.
Kuria says the grand coalition government should give the country a new constitution.
Muite said it was unfortunate that political leaders from the region had not displayed visionary leadership and had boxed the region into an awkward position.
“I hope good sense will prevail this time round that people are talking about a deputy prime minister’s position from the region. Safina would not support such a proposal. I would rather the President picks someone else from another community. The Central Kenya region needs to build political bridges and reach out to others. A deputy PM from Central Kenya would not advance this ideal,” Muite said.
He recalled as chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Administration of Justice, he spearheaded a minimum reform package that enjoyed the support of MPs but was opposed by the Government and eventually defeated.
“We had proposed a minimum reform package that was acceptable to both sides. However, the same people who opposed us are now being forced to accept what they opposed last year. Central Kenya definitely needs to re-think its politics,” Muite added.
The soul searching has also been going on in Meru. Two weeks ago, nine MPs signed a memorandum and sent it to President Kibaki. The MPs are demanding more Cabinet and senior Civil Service appointments.
“The region gave Kibaki 520,000 votes and nine MPs, the third highest pro-Kibaki voter bloc after Rift Valley that gave him 618,911 out of the 4.5 million cast for him,” said the memorandum, dated January 29, and signed by all the Meru MPs. They demanded two more Cabinet appointments and four assistant ministerial slots.
It was signed by Kiraitu, Mr Peter Munya (Tigania East), Dr Kilemi Mwiria (Tigania West), Mr Ntoitha M’Mithiaru (Igembe North), Mr Mithika Lintuli (Igembe South), Mr Silas Muriuki (North Imenti), Mr Gitobu Imanyara (Central Imenti), Mr Mburi Muthengi (Tharaka) and Mr Kareke Mbiuki (Nithi).
The subterranean turf wars and re-alignments in the PNU have been held in check by expectations of Cabinet appointments and they are bound to come to the open once the names are announced