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Lead us not back to war, but unto lasting peace
Editorial: Sunday Nation - 18 May 2008
President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the parties they lead — Party of National Unity and the Orange Democratic Movement — have taken their eyes off the national dialogue ball. Consequently, they risk leading Kenya back to civil strife and political instability.
The political leadership has shifted its focus from the national dialogue and mediation efforts to official duties in the new government.
The lack of interest is so serious that the eight negotiators from both parties are no longer attending the mediation meetings, despite the fact that the international mediation team feels that three or four meetings more would conclude the talks and take the process to the implementation phase.
But even on issues that have been signed off, implementation has been far from encouraging. Agenda One, the first thing agreed on, dealt with the cessation of violence which has successfully taken place.
Under this agenda, there were also supposed to be joint peace meetings, political leaders were supposed to be kept informed on what was going on and militias were to be demobilised and disarmed.
THE RALLIES IN RIFT VALLEY, LED by the President and Prime Minister, did not go exactly as planned because of tensions between Mr Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka over who was second in the pecking order.
It is not clear whether follow-up meetings are planned, even though it is increasingly apparent that tension persists in some parts.
Agenda Two dealt with the humanitarian crisis. Parties committed themselves to caring for and ensuring the return of displaced people, the restoration of liberties, investigating allegations of police brutality, among others.
Curbs on the media have been removed, public rallies are permitted, schools have reopened and some displaced persons are back on their farms.
It is not clear what progress has been made in investigating police excesses, and the return of IDPs is actively resisted by some community leaders. Preparations for the return have also been largely inadequate, and many IDPs have refused to be resettled for fear of new attacks.
Agenda Three bound PNU and ODM to resolve the political crisis, specifically to share power and restore the functioning of the institutions of State and change the laws to make way for a coalition government. A lot of work has been done here, and the government is up and running.
Agenda Four has six items all intended to attack the causes of political instability over a longer period of time. Leading items are constitutional and institutional reform, tackling poverty, inequality and regional development imbalances, consolidation of national cohesion and unity, land reform and, finally, questions of transparency, accountability and impunity.
PNU and ODM have chosen to cherry pick which agreements to implement and which to ignore. Generally, they prefer to deal with issues that bring short-term political benefit and put off the tough tasks required to heal the nation.
The political dynamics within these parties are also complicating the resolution of long term problems. In the past, the eight mediators would come to the table as representatives of the two contending parties.
Now they are coming as Cabinet colleagues and members of the same ruling political class, probably with shared short-term power interests.
This is a time of crisis for the country. Both Mr Odinga and Mr Kibaki must reflect very seriously on the consequences of their inaction. The preservation of a nation is more important than the political careers of a few people.
In this regard, the President and the Prime Minister must retake charge and re-energise the mediation process. They must relieve the eight mediators of all their ministerial responsibilities until the talks are concluded to the satisfaction of the dialogue team.
If that is too much of a sacrifice, more ministers must be drafted into the negotiating teams to ensure that there is always a quorum.
THE TWO LEADERS MUST GUARD against indiscipline in the Cabinet. They must also urgently control the unbridled, and ultimately destructive, ambition of some members of the Cabinet. They must not allow themselves to fall victim to political blackmail or be held hostage by tribal interests.
If they work together, as they should, and make it clear that they will sack Cabinet ministers unless they follow instructions and do their job, then they a stand a very good chance of doing what is right by their country.
Secondly, the two principals must provide direct leadership in the creation of institutions to implement the agreements dealing with long-term issues. These institutions must be independent of politics but should enjoy the unallayed support of politicians and their parties.
It would be a good idea at this stage for the process to establish a bipartisan inter-ministerial implementation committee to push forward the next phases.
There will also be need for some oversight of the entire implementation, which could be provided by a combination of Parliament and other stakeholders.
These are processes that must be carried out with clear deadlines and accountability. If dramatic gestures are needed to underline how seriously this work must be taken, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga can provide that by publicly signing any remaining agreements.
One of these days they could also put in a joint appearance at the talks venue. The repair of Kenya will not be an easy process. It requires commitment, sacrifice and patriotism.
Kenya is not yet out of the woods. A Grand Coalition Government is not just about an expanded group of ministers enjoying the perks and privileges of high office but about fulfilling its primary mandate which is to midwife the restoration of lasting peace and stability.
Unless that primary mandate is achieved, any other efforts the government makes towards economic renewal and infrastructural development could be futile because real peace will not be guaranteed.
One cannot over-emphasise the point that if the national dialogue process is allowed to drift, Kenya will slide back into the dangerous situation seen in January when the spectre of becoming another Somalia, Sierra Leone, Liberia or Cote d’Ivoire loomed.
This is not a matter of presenting a doomsday scenario; it is very real problem. Kenya erupted because so many lingering issues we had in the past preferred to sweep under the carpet erupted in the wake of the disputed presidential election. The same will happen if those same issues are not addressed and resolved.
A close analysis of the national dialogue process indicates that the once-a-week meetings would not really place unbearable demands on the time of the eight ministers.
Source: Sunday Nation