Friday, April 10, 2009

Kenya: Kenyans fear unity government is unraveling

Kenyans are expressing worry that their unity government may be unraveling after Prime Minister Raila Odinga accused President Mwai Kibaki of being the stumbling block to necessary reforms. Tensions have reportedly being brewing between the two leaders after Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement party accused President Kibaki of unilaterally appointing government functionaries without following the guidelines stipulated in the 2008 agreement. That agreement, which was mediated by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, ended violent clashes that followed the 2007 general elections. Under the agreement the prime minister and president were to be equal partners in a unity government until fresh general elections in two years administered by an independent electoral commission. Political analyst Michael Tiampati tells reporter Peter Clottey that Kenyans feel betrayed by their unity government.

"It has come already late in the day because this has been in the offing since sometime last year after the coupling together of the unity government. Whereby according to the so-called Memorandum of Understanding or the agreement that was brokered by His Excellency Kofi Annan that sought to balance the power within the Grand National government of unity. And this has stipulated that fact that appointments would have to go undergo certain consultations and that all government business would have to be unanimously agreed upon," Tiampati pointed out.

He said there is growing discomfort among Kenyans that the unity government is not living up to expectations.

"What transpired is that some appointments were made unilaterally, according to the ODM (opposition Orange Democratic Movement) side. That appointment of party (Party of National Unity) officials as ambassadors, permanent secretaries and heads of parastatal organizations, were appointed without due consultations. So, that was the beginning of the fallout," he said.

Tiampati said the bone of contention between the president and the prime minister has to do with the prime minister accusing the president of not fully focusing on addressing the numerous problems facing ordinary Kenyans.

"The feeling is that the description of the prime minister that the president is somebody who is not in touch with reality with emphasis on the reality regarding the coupling together of the rules that govern or was supposed to govern the government of national unity due to the fact that the president appeared to be off track in terms of addressing issues. Like a case in point is where the president was accused of addressing his family issues as opposed to national issues like the current famine and hunger that is afflicting the country and matters that would appear to be of national interest. I think it is from this perspective that the prime minister felt that the president is off the national mark in terms of priorities and what he is supposed to address, and how and when," Tiampati pointed out.

He said it was apparent that the president is unlikely to abide by the dictates of the agreement signed that led to the formation of the unity government.

"The president has nothing to lose because of course this is his final term and in that regard he would not be subjected to another grueling elections. And that is why he would make arbitrary decisions without bothering to consult the prime minister, while the prime minister is supposed to be the coordinator of government ministries. So, there has been a disconnect between the role of the president and that of the prime minister and I think it is from that perspective that the prime minister is coming out strongly opposing the president. And saying the he doesn't have enough space to implement his duties and that the ODM feels it has the numbers in parliament, but decisions have not consulted the opposition," he said.

Some political observers say tensions between the two leaders are hampering the running of the government. This follows Prime Minister Raila Odinga's claims that President Kibaki was the greatest obstacle to reform and accused him of unleashing civil servants to undermine him and the coalition.

There are growing concerns that the reopening of Parliament in two weeks will spell further trouble for the coalition, particularly the Party of National Unity (PNU) that has been rocked by the resignations of Party stalwart and former Justice Minister Martha Karua and Medical Services Assistant Minister Danson Mungatana.

Meanwhile, Kenya's clergy has been vociferous in its call for the two leaders to reconcile and bury the hatchet. The Head of the Catholic Church John Cardinal Njue and his Anglican counterpart Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi urged the two to treat each other as equal partners.

Cardinal Njue reportedly warned both the president and the prime minister that history would judge them harshly if they allowed the situation to degenerate. He dismissed calls for fresh elections, saying they would be disastrous. Archbishop Nzimbi on the other hand told Prime Minister Odinga to stop complaining in public about Kibaki because the President was his equal partner.

Published with the permission of Voice of America
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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