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Kenya, Grand coalition under siege

Grand coalition under siege

Published on April 27, 2008, 12:00 am

By Sunday Standard Team

Top three politicians — President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka — are under siege for different reasons.

President Kibaki meets Ndhiwa MP, Mr Orwa Ojode at the Naivasha Stadium IDP camp. Area MP, Mr John Mututho (left) and Public Service minister, Mr Dalmas Otieno look on.

Picture by Antony Gitonga

On the other hand, despite their silent and overt battles, the nation looks upon them to deliver particularly on four key areas: Resettlement of the displaced; a new constitution within a year; land reforms; and redressing historical injustices.

But first they must have a working, not warring Grand Coalition, which going by the protocol wars in last week’s three-day tour of the Rift Valley, could be getting trickier.

Kibaki, who leads the Party of National Unity, which has deep roots in central Kenya where the majority of the displaced originally hailed, is under pressure from his own people. They look upon him, armed with the instruments of government to resettle them.

He also has the onerous task of re-inventing himself, following the mud thrown at him by the disputed election, to vacate office at 2012 proud of his legacy.

Raila is in Government but not everyone is happy to have him around. He has the gargantuan task of “supervising and co-ordinating’’ ministers and their work. But even the President is not keen to show the nation the way; is he senior or junior to Kalonzo.

His supporters believe he has lost out in the power sharing accord. Though in Government, some still want to see his ‘rebellious’ streak, particularly on land and resettlement. He too, like them wants inter-communal reconciliation to take precedence.

Different language

But the President wants it done immediately under the watch of the police and other security agencies. Kibaki’s troops are not talking the same language as Raila’s allies – and again they are in one Government!

Raila, too, has the eye on the presidency which he feels was his for the taking, and so he has to spread his tentacles outside ODM without looking like he has one leg out.

But serving the interests of ODM, keeping Kibaki-Kalonzo in check, and curving out the image of a presidential material, might not just be easy to juggle. That is what the events of the last few weeks have shown. He is under siege within and outside ODM.

Kalonzo is just beginning to taste the bitter fruit of Kibaki succession, coming in the form of confusion over who precedes who in matters protocol.

At his Ukambani stronghold, opponents are asking questions if it was worth throwing himself up at Kibaki in exchange for three Cabinet positions. Then there is Water Minister Charity Ngilu and Kilome MP John Harun Mwau, abrasive and resilient, keeping the VP busy fighting the fires at the regional level.

Kalonzo still also has to work with Kibaki without appearing to be subservient to his political interests, and therefore putting himself in the line of fire targeting at the President. As he juggles all these, he still has to keep the eye on the presidency.

Last year, Kalonzo came out a distant third, there was nothing much to talk about the miracle he had promised.

It is the story of three men and the silent war playing out among them. To their credit, they each have vicious supporters.

Kibaki can count on the cast in the Cabinet from central Kenya, especially Mr Uhuru Kenyatta’s Kanu and Kalonzo’s ODM-Kenya.

Kibaki facing biggest test

Raila has the Pentagon squad –youthful, and energetic. For now it is a Kibaki-Kalonzo-Uhuru axis against Raila.

As things stand Kibaki is just beginning to face his biggest test.

Resettling the tens of thousands of people displaced in post-election violence is an issue on which the President may not count much on his coalition partners to help him with.

Even some members of the coalition who accompanied him in his three-day tour of the Rift Valley believe resettling the displaced is the President’s headache. They will at best lend only cosmetic support and keep him company.

In Central Province, the President is under pressure to resettle members of his community who were displaced in the violence that erupted in far-flung lands over the December polls.

In the Rift Valley, MPs are equally under pressure to satisfy the demands of constituents who want the land ownership issue, which has been simmering for ages, resolved.

The MPs from this region, including Cabinet ministers, say it is too risky to ask for the victims of violence to be resettled unconditionally.

The President on the other hand, together with MPs from the Rift Valley, “want resettlement yesterday.’’ Most of the over 100,000 people living in tents and relying on food handouts fear returning home until their security is guaranteed.

The Government has responded to the fears of the displaced by putting up more police stations across Rift Valley.

In January, Internal Security minister George Saitoti said 32 police stations would be set up to ensure security once displaced people return to their homes. He said the stations would be built in areas that were worst hit by post-election violence.

But Eldoret North MP William Ruto told the presidential rallies the police stations could only supplement, not guarantee the safety of the displaced. He wants the country to first get to the root cause of the perennial clashes.

Saitoti said the Government would ensure people who participated in post-election violence are arrested and charged.

Observers say police cannot restore peace and security in this kind of conflict.

In an interview published elsewhere in this paper today, US Ambassador in Kenya Michael Ranneberger said police would not do in resettling of the displaced. While he shared the President’s position that the resettlement could not wait, the ambassador said the displaced could only return if it is safe to do so.

“You do not achieve that by building police stations. People have to reconcile,” the ambassador said.

He called for the involvement of elders in the reconciliation and talked of the need to convince all parties to the conflict that there would be benefits for all when people are resettled.

The protocol war may not end soon, and even if it does, the Kibaki-Raila catfights may continue. On June 11 five parliamentary by-elections take off, and each will have to go his way to try and bolster the numerical strength of their parties.

For now ODM is ahead of PNU by about five seats. It will be another test for the Grand Coalition, just as the pending business of uniting the country and tackling ethnicity and governance issues.


About SG

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


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