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Coalition government condoning impunity

Published on June 5, 2008, 12:00 am

Comment by Standard Group

As we emerge from perhaps the worst ever political crisis since independence 45 years ago, Kenyans remain deeply optimistic about the future because the country certainly has no shortage of leaders.

But when these good people, whom we rely on to bring about change, suddenly get afflicted by what psychologists call bystander apathy — the tendency to just watch and do nothing — then they embolden the forces of evil.

Soon after the peace deal was brokered and a Grand Coalition Cabinet picked, the quest for resolving the perpetual problems facing the country took the back seat. ODM and PNU representatives at the Annan peace initiative started skipping the talks on the long-term issues in the National Peace and Reconciliation Accord.

Suddenly, it seemed like nothing mattered anymore.

Apart from the distant rumblings across the valleys of the voices of MPs, who did not make it to the Cabinet then later regrouped to pursue their quest for a grand opposition, it was eerily quiet.

The pace of other important agenda in search of a permanent solution to the problems that plunged the country into the crisis that consumed it for three long months, quickly slackened.

It would seem then that these politicians had finally got what they wanted — power, or to be precise, a share of it.

Other matters were quickly relegated to the bottom of their priorities agenda.

For newcomers to the august House, big cars — duty-exempt, thanks to the taxpayer — would soon be on the high seas. Invariably, this would be followed by visits to real estate agents in search of houses to buy in leafy suburbs of the city.

President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s public disagreements on amnesty for the post-election violence suspects doesn’t help the situation either.

Sucked into the vortex of sectarian interests and in pursuit of self-aggrandisement, the political leadership’s focus has been removed from the real reason we are where we are today — the need to reform national institutions.

There is even the sickening talk of the 2012 General Election.

Political parties were initially on the forefront calling for the resignation of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) commissioners. The calls soon petered out and when the by-elections were called, the parties nominated their candidates for the poll.

So for Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, the ODM secretary-general and Medical Services minister, to call a press conference to allege an elaborate plot to rig the by-elections is, therefore, both a shame and an insult to the intelligence of the electorate.

The verdict of virtually every group that observed the December 2007 General Election, including the Government’s own rights watchdog is that it was deeply flawed, even questionable in many respects.Little has changed

Sadly, by agreeing to take part in the by-elections set for June 11, ODM and other parties gave legitimacy to the process and with it vindicated an electoral body whose handling of the elections is a subject of investigation.

Thirteen members of the local diplomatic community, among them from British, United States, Germany, Canada and France, did not help matters either, on Wednesday, with their stand on the by-elections.

Even though the diplomats denied in a statement that accepting an ECK invitation to participate as observers in the polls should in no way be seen as their endorsement of the electoral body, it amounted to just that — endorsement.

Owing to this, therefore, it is not clear whether they really want their counsel to the media to be objective while covering the by-elections, and to the ECK to observe the law, to be taken seriously.

The point is that just like last year, the ECK still has every opportunity to abuse the process and trigger further chaos. In such circumstances, journalists can only hope to make the best out of a bad situation.

The tragedy of our situation is that Mr Samuel Kivuitu and his commissioners are still sitting easy, at Anniversary Towers.

The ECK chairman has refused to ascribe to the basic tenets of decency and moral rectitude and step aside to pave way for an impartial probe into how the team he leads conducted the presidential poll. And the President has found no reason to ask ECK commissioners to step aside.

For the rest of the commissioners, it does not seem to matter that, because of a monumental error of judgement by their chief executive and the general incompetence of the rest of them, about 1,200 people died and up to 500,000 others displaced.

The displaced are still out there cold, hungry, sick and frightened. In their own homeland, they have become refugees and subjected to terrible ignominy.

Yet, with each passing day — having weathered the initial storm that threatened to sweep them away as the post-election crisis tore the country apart — the commissioners whose blundering is directly responsible for their plight, are being emboldened.

On Wednesday, the commissioners went to court to gag the Standard Group for demanding accountability.

High Court judge Justice Hatari Waweru dismissed the application after the commissioners and their lawyers failed to appear for the hearing.

In this, one begins to see a trend to suppress independent opinion, thereby going against the very tenets of Press freedom.

It is the business of this media group, and others, to report and air what is in the public interest. To begrudge the Press this role under whatever pretext sets a dangerous precedent.


About SG

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


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