Kenya’s leadership is at a crossroads and cracks within the coalition government need to be sorted out before the elections in 2012, says Dr. Adams Oloo, a senior professor of political science at the University of Nairobi.
“Given that the 2012 electoral cycle has started, and given that the two coalition partners are likely to be the same major players,” he says, “it is only natural that they will start pulling apart as each tries to blame each other of the negative, or to take credit of the positive in government. That’s to be expected.”
Problems in coalition government
He points to what he calls classic examples of the two parties to the coalition government failing to work together as specified in the national accord signed three years ago after the violence that followed the disputed results of the presidential and general election of 2007.
“One of the areas where the accord has not worked very well is what we can call the letter and the spirit of the power sharing,” Oloo says. “In the sense that the ODM wing of the government, that is the wing headed by Prime Minister Raila Odinga, has always felt that they were shortchanged as far as public appointments were concerned. They have always complained that the 50/50 power sharing arrangement has only been reflected in the cabinet positions but not in other public positions, such as permanent secretaries, ambassadors and public servants in general.”
He says Prime Minister Raila Odinga has repeatedly complained that he’s never consulted by the president on critical appointments to the executive, contrary to the provisions of the accord, which provides for power sharing between the two principals.
Oloo explains: “There was an occasion in parliament in which the president nominated the vice president to be the leader of government business while the prime minister argued that in the absence of the president in the national assembly then he should naturally be the leader of government business….”
Recently the two leaders were at loggerheads over the nomination of key judicial officers and the comptroller of the budget. President Mwai Kibaki had nominated names of officers thought to be his allies without what Prime Minister Odinga called “proper consultations.”
But he says there are lessons learned from the new arrangement. “In essence, we shouldn’t create a situation in which power sharing has to be forced on to a country. Remember this power sharing wasn’t voluntary; it was out of international pressure. And it set the precedent for the case of Zimbabwe, in which there’s also a power sharing agreement after the incumbent president was accused of rigging the election, and the current prime minister had to step in to share power.”
Oloo also referred to the situation in Ivory Coast, where incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo says he’s not leaving but will consider sharing power. “So let’s create the institutions, electoral and judicial institutions as well as governance institutions which are irreproachable to the extent that once they have conducted elections their verdict should be respected so we avoid situations in which we have power sharing which is imposed or arrived at simply to cool off temperatures of a country.”
Importance of ICC case to Kenya’s reforms
Oloo says the case before the International Criminal Court, in which six prominent Kenyans are suspected of having fueled the post-election violence, will be crucial in ensuring justice and accountability in a country whose past has been tainted with high-level corruption and impunity.
Two of the suspects are cabinet members and Oloo says if they’re indicted, “then definitely they are technically out of the race and their supporters will be disappointed, but that doesn’t mean that their supporters won’t have another choice.”
He says “the bigger picture to be looked at is how to end impunity in this country and how to bring justice to those who suffered the post 2007 election violence. At the moment, we can only say that the provisions of the new constitution are sound but we have to put them in place and operationalize them and that may not happen as fast as we think,” says Oloo.