I was among tens of thousands of Kenyans who spent hours on Sunday, April 6, 2008 glued to their respective television sets.
This was the day when the much awaited Grand Coalition cabinet would be finally named.
As a member of both Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice (KPTJ) as well as the National Civil Society Congress (NCSC) , I was of course, seething with indignation at ODM/PNU consensus of an obscenely huge government consisting of a President, a Vice President, a Prime Minister, 2 Deputy Prime Ministers, 40 Cabinet Ministers, at least another 40 Assistant Ministers-not mentioning the Permanent Secretaries and the rest of the bureaucracy.
All the same, it was supposed to be a pivotal moment in Kenya’s breath-taking political developments over the last three months.
After hanging on at the edge of our seats, we were slapped with an anti-climatic announcement that there would be no announcement.
On Monday, April 7th, again, after another spell of tenterhooks we saw members of the ODM Pentagon hand deliver a note to President Mwai Kibaki at his Harambee Avenue offices.
At a later press conference that same day, held just before the 7 O’clock Kiswahili television evening news casts, Prime Minister Designate Raila Odinga told the Kenyan and international public why he had opted NOT to attend a scheduled Harambee Avenue one on one shin dig with the besieged Kenyan President. Raila revealed how the PNU side had reneged on and retracted from all the agreements on portfolio balance and setting up the Grand Cabinet that had been negotiated over the last couple of weeks. The Prime Minister Designate exposed the insatiable greed for power that had seen Kibaki’s cronies insist on hanging on to ALL the crucial and strategic ministries even after ODM had conceded the Finance, Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Internal Security and other portfolios. The determination of PNU to claw back Local Government, Foreign Affairs and some of the infrastructure dockets was among the main reasons why Raila and the ODM side had concluded that Kibaki and his side kicks were bargaining in bad faith. Raila underlined that ODM was not prepared to be a mere passenger or junior partner in the proposed Grand Coalition because the provisions of the National Accord had predicated the formation of the new cabinet on the principle of equal partnership. It is in this context that Raila had urged Kibaki to DISSOLVE the so called “half cabinet” foisted on the traumatized Kenyan people on January 8, 2008, at the height of the violent post election crisis.
Mwai Kibaki, in a swift live rejoinder via a temporary lectern set up at the entrance of his Harambee Avenue office blamed Raila for the impasse, claiming that he had waited all day for the PM Designate so that the details of the incoming cabinet would be worked out between the two of them. He did say one thing which was revealing when he referred to an “expanded cabinet” rather than the formation of a brand new one based on two partners- ODM and PNU.
Let me quickly say this:
I am GLAD at the current stalemate rather than peeved. In other words, I am not on the verge of dying from anguish. I was more worried when the prospects of ODM entering into a Grand Coalition on the terms prescribed by the intransigent PNU hardliners.
It is a GOOD thing that PNU has proved once again, their power hungry, selfish, undemocratic and two-faced credentials, reminding Kenyans why Kibaki and his kitchen cabinet CANNOT be trusted to keep their word- a trend we started observing way back in January 2003.
It is IMPORTANT to refresh our memories about how Kibaki and his current half cabinet came to be where they are today- it appears that many of us as Kenyans are suffering from a serious case of political amnesia.
There was an election held in this country on Thursday, December 27, 2007. Millions of Kenyans came out to vote and they did so peacefully and largely successfully.
ODM won overwhelmingly in the civic and parliamentary contests. ODM’s Presidential candidate Raila Odinga was leading by more than a million votes when a series of bizarre happenings- returning officers who did not return phone calls; results which were held back; forms which were not filled out properly; strange voters who opted only to vote for the President and not for their MP or local councilor; demented tirades from the ECK chair; claims by ECK employees of vote tampering; Kibaki ministers (e.g. Saitoti, Kamanda, Mugo, Mwakwere) being caught with their pants down supervising the tampering with ballot boxes; the raucous scenes at the KICC; bayonet and rifle wielding GSU militias ordering journalists out of the media centre; a state ordered literal black out- all culminating in the announcement of a blatant, cynical civilian coup installing the defeated Mwai Kibaki as the illegitimately and illegally “elected President” of Kenya.
This announcement, as we recall sparking of a ferocious, spontaneous nationwide orgy of mass anger which quickly turned not only violent but a conflagration with heavy ethnic overtones leading to tragedies like the human infernos in Eldoret and Naivasha where innocent Kenyans lost their lives solely on account of their tribal backgrounds.
We also remember vividly the mass murders and daily brutal atrocities by the police as they shot unarmed innocent civilians included pre-teen kids and brand new infants.
And as all of this was going on, Kalonzo Musyoka- yes the very one who claimed to be Kibaki’s most formidable opponent coming out in his true treacherous colours as Kibaki’s controversial deputy.
This followed a few days later by the pornographic announcement of a "half cabinet" consisting of Kibaki’s cronies- including at least two people openly accused on fanning the violence by bankrolling the murderous goons who went on a panga slashing spree in the informal settlements of Nairobi, Nakuru and elsewhere targeting innocent Kenyans whose only crime was sharing an ethnic background with Raila Odinga, William Ruto, Musalia Mudavadi and other ODM leaders.
Yes it is important to remind Kenyans and the world that Mwai Kibaki STOLE the Presidential vote and then ILLEGALLY announced an ILLEGITIMATE "half cabinet".
In other words, Kibaki and PNU are currently holding state power because they perpetrated a COUP against the Kenyan people.
They should be in court answering charges of TREASON.
Instead, courtesy of the peace-loving Dr. Kofi Annan and intense international pressure from George Bush, Condoleeza Rice, Gordon Brown, Dr. Merkel, the European Union and others, democracy seeking Kenyans were arm-twisted into FORGIVING Mwai Kibaki and PNU for their crimes against the Kenyan electorate and further prevailed upon to accept a peace deal.
But far from being contrite and relieved at the national reprieve, the PNU gang led by Mwai Kibaki proceeded to saunter and swagger on, completely oblivious at the nausea and disgust they were attracting from millions of Kenyans. Within a few days of their being sworn in, two rookie ODM MPs were assassinated in circumstances that did not rule out the complicity of the PNU controlled state organs. Despite attempts to bribe the other side, Kibaki witnessed his forces vanquished in a televised triumph for ODM during the elections of the Speaker and his Deputy.
Quickly assuming the status of an international pariah, the Kibaki led junta found some of its key members facing visa and travel bans to the Western capitals of capital where the Kenyan comprador bourgeois elite loves to stash its ill gotten swag, vacation in and educate their brats.
The National Peace Accord and the ensuing passage of legislation came into force to avert a possible descent into violent civil war largely PROVOKED by war mongers FROM THE PNU SIDE.
I find it CRUCIAL to reiterate these very well known facts because of a startling amnesia in the most unlikely of places- WITHIN THE ODM CAMP.
It appears to me that Raila Odinga and ODM are somehow FORGETING that THEY IN FACT, WON THE 2007 CIVIC, PARLIAMENTARY AND PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
It appears to me that Raila Odinga and ODM are forgetting that they still have the overwhelming support of the vast majority of the Kenyan people.
It appears to me that Raila Odinga and ODM are forgetting that regionally, continentally and across the world, they still retain the higher moral ground because it is evident that they were robbed of a rightfully won election.
Why do I say this?
I say this when I contemplate the series of OUTRAGEOUS COMPROMISES and CONCESSIONS that ODM has made to the PNU side.
It was bad enough having to countenance Kibaki being referred to as "President" when he in fact was the runner up.
It was terrible enduring the daily smirk of the turncoat so called "Vice President" Kalonzo Musyoka or enduring the barrage of content free propaganda from Dr. Alfred Mutua and the lectures from the illegal half cabinet.
What ODM should NOT have done, is to quietly agree that the Grand Coalition was a more or less PERMANENT arrangement lasting the full mandate of five years- rather than a TRANSITIONAL ONE put in place as arrangements were made to hold FRESH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS within eighteen months or two years at the latest.
ODM should have DEMANDED, from the very outset, the IMMEDIATE DISSOLUTION of the ILLEGAL HALF- CABINET as one of the PRECONDITIONS for jump starting the Grand Coalition government.
ODM should have RESISTED STRENOUSLY, PNU's obscene insistence on a bloated 40 member cabinet. Because it did not do so, ODM’s credibility as an alternative voice for serious change has tumbled down to the abyss and ODM must do a lot of work to repairing this unnecessary damage to its image.
ODM made a serious mistake in cutting itself off from its mass base as it reduced its negotiations with Kibaki and PNU to a very secretive technocratic and bureaucratic affair hermetically sealed from the public scrutiny of the millions of Kenyans who voted for Raila and ODM; the thousands of Kenyans who were killed and injured demanding “Haki Yetu!” and chanting “No Raila, No Peace!”. Because it did not put in place an mechanism of explaining to the people its rationale in making certain serious concessions, it was no wonder that soon many of ODM’s very supporters started getting very disillusioned, convinced that after all the political rhetoric, ODM was really NO DIFFERENT from PNU because both appeared to wananchi to be more obsessed about political power and personal aggrandizement.
Raila Odinga SHOULD NOT HAVE agreed to be showered by the trinkets and trappings of apparent clout (the over-excited security detail, the convoys, the sumptuous lunches with PNU hawks like Karua and Kimunya) BEFORE he was DULY SWORN in as Prime Minister with ALL HIS EXECUTIVE POWERS.
ODM should have maintained the IDEOLOGICAL OFFENSIVE instead of acquiescing to this ridiculous suggestion from PNU that their respective manifestos should be"harmonized". PNU’s credo is unabashedly NEO-LIBERAL in orientation and in practice. ODM’s manifesto projects the party as pursuing a SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC ORIENTATION.
Why should Kenyans be prepared for a wedding between a night runner and his nocturnal victims?
ODM should have soberly analyzed the TRUE OBJECTIVES of the United Stated and her Western allies. It is becoming abundantly clear, especially if one carefully studies the utterances of Ambassador Ranneberger, that the US is more interested in a superficial “peace” (read political stability) rather than a sustainable JUSTICE and that is why the Nairobi-based diplomat had no serious qualms with the proposal for an overweight cabinet.
Because of the above miscues and serious errors, ODM came on the brink of ceding ALL POWER to the gang they had decisively vanquished at the 2007 polls.
It is therefore something of a very mixed blessing that Kibaki and his PNU cronies have decided to reveal themselves even further.
The current impasse thus gives ODM, and especially its kinara Prime Minister Raila Odinga, a very welcome BREATHER which will allow ODM to RECOUP, REGROUP and REPOSITION itself.
Given what I have said above, it is obvious, at least to me, what steps ODM should take.
The first thing ODM should do is to APOLOGIZE to its followers, and indeed to the Kenyan people of allowing itself to be hoodwinked into this conspiracy for a bloated cabinet. If ODM, especially through Raila Odinga, does so immediately, publicly and unequivocally, it will recover a lot of lost ground and regain the goodwill of large sections of the Kenyan populace.
Secondly, ODM should carry out a national campaign to sensitize the public about its position in the ongoing negotiations to put a Grand Coalition into place. They should continue exposing the duplicity and chicanery of the PNU clique.
Thirdly, ODM must insist that the Grand Coalition is a TRANSITIONAL measure with a shelf life not extending beyond two years from now and that it must be a preparation for FRESH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS giving either ODM or PNU or any other party for that matter an UNDIVIDED MANDATE to govern Kenya.
Fourthly, ODM must LEAD the process of coming up with a new democratic constitution WITHIN THE NEXT 12 MONTHS.
Fifthly, ODM should pursue the serious case it has launched against the PNU leadership in the Hague- provided of course, that it does NOT have MORE skeletons in its closet.
Sixthly, ODM must avoid the stigma attached to MDC in Zimbabwe by not appearing to taking all its cues from Washington, London, Berlin and other Western capitals.
Seventhly, ODM must ratchet up its interventions within the African Union and other Pan Africanist platforms within the continent and the African Diaspora.
In the Eighth place, ODM must clearly articulate its vision when it comes to unemployment, poverty eradication, gender oppression, the rights of marginalized Kenyans and most crucially its approach to peace building and conflict transformation. For instance ODM must NOT be seen to ENDORSE the current bloodthirsty Kibaki policy in dealing with the situation in Mount Elgon or the indiscriminate rounding up of Agikuyu youth on the pretext of flushing out alleged Mungiki members.
In the Ninth place, ODM must persuade the Kenyan people that WANANCHI TOO are SHARING POWER- not just a handful of the elite belonging to two mainstream political formations.
In the TENTH PLACE, ODM must place on the PUBLIC AGENDA the possibility of walking out of the Accord and seeking a fresh mandate from the people through PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS should the present PNU created quagmire persist for another two weeks.
Those are my suggestions. I am sure that NOT EVERYONE AGREES WITH ONYANGO OLOO on this one.
But then again, what else is new?