Saturday, December 10, 2011

It's time for them to resign

When President Kibaki and Raila Odinga, in a rare show of unity, exhorted Members of Parliament to approve a Bill to establish a local tribunal to deal with the prosecution of perpetrators of the 2007/2008 violence after the 2007 general elections, the MPs, led by William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta, scuttled the Bill. This rare show of unity ended and a period of coalition competition ensued where President Kibaki's side of the coalition and the Prime Minister's competed actively for political advantage. When the government invited Sudan's president to the Promulgation of the Constitution, Raila Odinga's ODM distanced itself from the invitation, even though Najib Balala, ODM's Minister for Tourism was despatched to hold Omar al Bashir's hand from the airport to Uhuru Park. It was mistake to invite the Sudanese president to the ceremony and Mwai Kibaki's wing of the coalition knew it. But rather than let the issue die down, they have now doubled down and invited him to an IGAD meeting that may or may not be held in Kenya, galvanising the International Commission of Jurists to obtain an injunction from the High Court that in effect orders the government to arrest Mr al Bashir should he set foot on Kenyan soil. Again, PNU and ODM have taken diametrically opposed positions on this matter: Moses Wetangula, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and speaking for the PNU wing, has declared that the government will not honour the court orders, but the ODM wing has once more distanced itself from the official position of the government.

Kenya went to war against al Shabaab of Somalia and has gained worldwide support for its operations in Somalia. For a nation that had eschewed military force to resolve region issues it came as a shock to our neighbours when Kenya demonstrated that it had the moxie to deploy a sophisticated military against its enemies. For a time, our position was unassailable. Then Mr Justice Ombija granted the orders that the ICJ had sought and everything started going wrong. Mr al Bashir demanded that the reversal of the orders, and thus the Hon Attorney-General has appealed to the Court of Appeal. Kenya's operations in Somalia are now in jeopardy; so it has decided to pursue its interests as part of the AMISOM, hoping to dilute the effect that the court orders have had on its relations with the Sudanese. In addition, Kenya led the rejection of Sudan's application to join the East African Community further souring relations between the two nations. In the meanwhile, Moses Wetangula is busy shuttling between Nairobi and Khartoum hoping to keep Sudan on-side in the operations in Somalia.

This situation could have been avoided had the government realised that the opprobrium it invited by the invitation of Mr al Bashir to the promulgation ceremony would not go away. The ICJ had been one of the most vocal groups to castigate the government for its decision to invite Mr al Bashir, arguing that the provisions of the Constitution are clear about Kenya's obligations to the international community to honour the terms not only of treaties it has ratified by the laws of Kenya. The dynamics between the PNU and ODM have also contributed to the escalation of the situation from bad to worse. The two wings of the coalition have gone out of their way to demonstrate that one side has a leg up over the other when it comes to questions of national importance. It also being demonstrated today in the way the doctors' strike is being handled. Uhuru Kenyatta (from the PNU) is in charge of the purse-strings while Prof Anyang' Nyong'o (of the ODM) would like to resolve the issue quickly. If the two do not work together, more Kenyans will suffer as the doctors' strike continues. So too will the deterioration in the diplomatic relations between Kenya and Sudan if the coalition partners do not pursue a common agenda.

The situation is absurd, even by Kenyan standards. Raila Odinga and Moses Wetangula are all presidential contenders. Their interests, it seems, have overridden their obligations to the country at crucial times in the past and are doing so today. Mr Odinga would like to create the impression that he has a firm grip on the foreign policy of Kenya. So too would Mr Wetangula. Rather than act together to resolve Kenya's diplomatic challenges, they are both going off on their own tangents to prove to the other that he is better. As a result, Kenyans are constantly on tenterhooks about the likely outcome of its diplomatic and national security forays. This uncertainty must surely contribute to the nervous state of foreign investors; if they are unsure of the stand the government will take over such matters, they cannot guarantee the safety of their investments. It is time that the members of the Cabinet who have declared an interest in the presidency to resign, regardless of the provisions of the Elections Act and the Political Parties Act. It is the only way that the Cabinet can speak with one voice and act with singular resolve.

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