Sunday, September 05, 2004

Political instability

" Some prophets of doom have predicted a vicious in-fighting in following this victory. I want to assure you that they will be disappointed. When a group of people come together over an idea or because of a shared idea, such a group can never fail…" President Kibaki inaugural address. Well the prophets of doom were right. In the last eleven months the NARC coalition (an amalgamation of 15 political parties, with the NAK – National Alliance of Kenya – and the LDP - Liberal Democratic Party – as the principal warring factions) has been tittering on the brink of collapse. The shared vision that held the coalition together in the election (defeating KANU) no longer exists and the divergent ideologies and egos have taken over. This has resulted in the defeat of the government in parliament (most recently in a bill to form a Parliamentary Budget Office, that it opposed). The effective functioning of government has also been under threat. Government ministers not being able to see the president (as they’re perceived to be disloyal) and near fisticuffs are just two examples of a government in turmoil: "But for cabinet ministers to fail to attend official government business abroad because State House cannot clear them for the trips is a new dimension to the rivalry and intrigues in the ruling coalition." (Ministers)
The government’s reform agenda has also been side tracked. Most notably is Constitution reform, which NARC had promised to complete within the first 100 days. In addition the economic reform has been adversely affected: " In calling a truce, Mr. Joe Khamisi (an LDP MP) said the governments economic recovery agenda had been put on hold as the different factions flexed their muscles. Mr. Khamisi said once the wrangles are resolved, the country could start another healing process from the nine months wasted in fighting and name calling." (Ngumbao)
The president needs to step in to the fray and provide a new vision and shared idea, to ensure that the government does not collapse. The president has remained too quiet through the turmoil and though he would like to stand above the fray, this situation calls upon him to act: " The most glaring incident ( of the president’s leadership being sought) was nominated MP Cecily Mbarire’s quip that the president was wanted to give direction. Here is a young member of Kibaki’s NARC literally pleading with her own boss to do something about their burning house." (Ouko) The president also needs to call a conference for all NARC MPs and leaders to chart out its future. Ad it stands, NARC has no formal organs, has no officers and has never had grassroots elections. In the conference the interested parties should come to a final resolution on the sharing of power, and whether or not the constituent parties should dissolve into one party: " He (Prof. Kivutha Kibwana, assistant minister and NAK MP) also notes that since NARC came into existence, it is yet to define its vision wither as a single entity or a group. ‘ we must therefore, debate candidly what form our coalition should take.’" (Ogodo)
The most important step that the president can take is to ensure discipline within his cabinet. Any feuds that may exist should be sorted out in the cabinet room and not in public. Moreover, ministers should be barred from making any unilateral proclamations of government policy and should be above the political wrangling. The infighting not only reflects negatively on the ministers but on the president and the government


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