Sunday, March 28, 2010

Towards Anarchy?

The Constitutional Review Process is entering its final and, potentially, most contentious phase. Prime Minister Odinga and President Kibaki have staked out their positions. William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta and their fellow-travellers are staking their claims to the future. No one seems to be concerned that perhaps, just perhaps, the Draft Constitution is not the New Canaan we were promised some 20 odd years ago. Much blood has flowed down the Rubicon since the halcyon days of Saba Saba. Kenneth Stanley Njindo Matiba is a pale shadow of his former, dynamic self. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga is no more. Martin Shikuku is a political punch-line. These heroes of the Second Liberation have been replaced by paper tigers without a shred of perspective. Kiraitu Murungi, Koigi Wamwere, Kabando wa Kabando, and their former comrades-in-arms have not delivered the change that Kenya so desperately needed.

However, there are some dim slivers of light in the abyss. It is becoming clearer that not all the political calculations that have been made in the past six months have had the political impacts their authors anticipated. The original drafters of the Constitution of Kenya Review Act could not have predicted the huge influence they would wield by denying the known stumbling blocks a role in the drafting of a new constitution. By insulating the process as far as they could from political and civil-society interference, they have given us the best chance at a new constitution. And make no mistake - this is our last chance.

The debate revolving around the question of devolution and abortion is mere smoke-and-mirrors. The true struggle is on the transitional process, especially the powers of the Prime Minister. There is a section of the political class that fears Prime Minister Odinga may be a stumbling block to their political ambitions if the transitional clauses are retained in their current form. It is increasingly clear that the future of this country lies in how PNU politicians, especially those from Central Kenya, and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka deal with the juggernaut that is the PM. He has of late wrong-footed them at every stage of the review process. They need a plan to contain him before, during and after the referendum and more crucially, during the 2012 General Elections. His transitional powers are just one facet of the conflict.

Mr. Odinga has proven adept at crafting alliances in unlikely places. While Kenyan politicians are notoriously ungrateful and fickle, no one should underestimate the political favours that Mr. Odinga is owed by many Members of Parliament. To do so would be the greatest of political suicides. While Mr. Kibaki is no longer a candidate in 2012, his influence on the process should not be underestimated either. It is what one or the other does in the period between that will determine the success or failure of the review process. Mr. Kibaki's perceived weaknesses and Mr. Odinga's alleged stubbornness led to the bloodshed of December 2007 to February 2008. Their alleged differences today are still a potent ingredient in the Kenyan political scene. Anyone who doubts this should witness the impacts on their allies and foes alike when they intervene in the political scene. This will be in stark display next week when debate in the National Assembly will determine whether or not amendments will be made to the Harmonised Draft Constitution.

These events will shape the referendum and the General Elections. They will re-create alliances and political parties. They will reveal once more that when it comes to political machinations, our MPs, their backers and their constituents play dirty just like any others worldwide.

They all fall, eventually

The member of the National Assembly for Mumias East is a spectacularly unpleasant character. But he is not unique. A former member of the Na...