Date: Fri May 29 2009 - 18:46:13 EDT
Can Kenya's coalition carry on?
By Wangui Kanina
Nairobi - Wrangling in Kenya's dysfunctional coalition government has been
cited as a major factor dragging down east Africa's largest economy.
Here are possible scenarios for the government:
# Despite alarmist headlines and threats by politicians, most analysts
expect President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga's factions to
stick together - albeit chaotically - until campaigning starts for the 2012
# They came together in April 2008 to end post-election violence that
killed more than 1 300 people, displaced several hundred thousand, and
battered key sectors of the economy.
# Growth in 2008 was 1,7 percent, down from 7,1 percent in 2008. It is
projected at 2-3 percent in 2009.[ID:nLL206723]
# Economists, businessmen and even some politicians say quarrelling within
the coalition has been a major factor in Kenya's sluggish performance,
along with the impact of the global slowdown and the post-election crisis.
# Kibaki and Odinga's supporters have bickered over the pair's comparative
authority and duties, appointments in the civil service and parliament, and
responsibility for a raft of new corruption scandals in the maize, tourism
and oil sectors.
# The quarrelling has delayed Cabinet meetings and effectively paralysed
parliament at a time when the coalition is supposed to be driving important
political reforms such as writing a new constitution.
Critics say the government has also failed to combat food shortages and
mitigate the effect of the global slowdown on tourism, horticulture and
other crucial sectors.
# The government has, at times, appeared close to splitting, especially
when Odinga demanded new elections if he was not given the post of leader
of government business in parliament.
# Some civil society activists, and influential Anglican Church leaders,
have also called for new elections.
# Most analysts, however, believe that Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement
(ODM) and Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU) members know that at the
end of the day, the consequences of divorce are far worse than those of an
The parties have actually come together on a few telling issues, to protect
their mutual interests, such as protecting benefits for members of
parliament and shielding them from paying tax.
# Public disillusionment is so high that many legislators would have no
chance of returning to parliament should their seats come up for grabs
before time is up in 2012.
Kiss and make up?
# The relationship between Kibaki and Odinga goes up and down. Sometimes,
they are seen smiling together at joint appearances or having cosy, private
At other times, Odinga has criticised Kibaki in public while the
president's top aides have fired back in kind.
# Even in the unlikely scenario of the two reconciling completely, distrust
among their aides runs so deep that the parties are likely to remain far
apart. Experts say nothing short of a gun put to their collective heads
will force the two parties to make up.
# Kenyans say neither party has done much to forge unity and end animosity
between tribes, and tackle issues of land reform and poverty at the heart
of the flare up in early 2008.
# Two months of unprecedented violence in 2008 traumatised Kenyans and
indelibly affected its image abroad. The spectre of more violence hangs
over the political arena at all times.
# On the one hand, some analysts warn that if Kenya's politicians do not
bury their differences and attend to the real problems bothering the
public, then violence could flare again.
# Others say, however, that 2008's events - which saw neighbours turn on
each other with machetes and clubs - were so horrific that they will act as
a deterrent to any more.
# The mood this year is far less militant than last, when politicians had
whipped up tribal emotions and made electoral promises they eventually did
not keep. This time round, there is a sense of disgust from the public
towards all politicians.
# Any violence may be of a different nature, such as riots over food and
oil prices. Public discontent has been rising this year, with sporadic
demonstrations over human rights violations such as extrajudicial killings
by police. [ID:nL6369462]
# Insecurity is rife. Last month a feared criminal gang, Mungiki, killed
dozens of villagers, who had formed vigilante groups to protect themselves
against extortion and other violent tactics of the gang in central Kenya.
Analysts say the group, described as Kenya's version of the mafia, was used
as hired muscle during the post-election violence. Its ranks are drawn from
Kenya's young and jobless. - Reuters
Published on the Web by IOL on 2009-05-28 11:42:17