Friday, March 28, 2008
Cabinet Deadlock : Coalition Fails Before Starting
Following a lengthy meeting earlier today at Harambee House between ODM captain Raila Odinga and PNU’s Mwai Kibaki, Raila has been addressing a press briefing at Pentagon House this afternoon in which he, not surprisingly, apportioned blame on the PNU side who he says are insistent on keeping the current portfolios while also unreasonably proposing an increase of the cabinet size to an unprecedented 44 members!
Raila said that on its part, the ODM is proposing a cabinet of no more than 34 members with portfolios equally shared between ODM and PNU in accordance with the peace accord signed exactly a month ago in which the parties agreed to share government positions equally.
As if this is not enough, the two parties have been driven further apart by the controversial, and massive Kshs. 50b Safaricom IPO which was officially kicked off this morning.
Raila’s remarks are an indication that a cabinet is not likely to be named soon and even if it was; it would be without the consent of ODM which is a key partner in the grand coalition government. How long the country can hold without a properly constituted cabinet is another question altogether.
Although Kibaki has been quoted as being optimistic that the cabinet stalemate would be resolved soon, observers are casting doubts about this and are now questioning the very feasibility of the grand coalition government in which the parties have strongly disagreed on the formation of the government as well as the hurried Safaricom IPO.
Chief Mediator Annan has reportedly told the two leaders that power sharing and naming of an acceptable cabinet is within the mandate of the two leaders, but in reality that responsibility is largely in the hands of Mwai Kibaki.
The first casualty of this development is this week's proposed joint tour to clash-ton Rift Valley by Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki. While addressing parliament on Tuesday, V-P Kalonzo announced that the two leaders would be visiting IDPs in the Rift Valley in a show of unity and to preach peace. It is unlikely such a tour will take place under prevailing circumstances. The Rift Valley PC had earlier embarked on a largely fruitless effort to convince IDPs that security has been restored and that they should go back home so they can receive free government fertilizer, farming implements and other relief assistance.
Going by the recent bold demands (on fertiliser prices, exam council fiasco, Safaricom IPO and cabinet appointments) issued by ODM leaders , it is apparent that the party is slowly but surely resigning to the fact that the grand coalition is unworkable because of PNU’s insistence (read - superiority complex) on retaining key cabinet dockets, impunity and also exhibiting reluctance in sharing public appointments. The ODM is now facing up to the fact that this coalition may fail before it starts. As days go by, it is becoming more and more likely that the much hyped ‘coalition of new possibilities’ will not hold. Not because it was poorly constructed but merely because some egos have refused to let go.
One scary possibility is the return to violence and its socio-economic effects. Indeed, a cursory glance around the continent shows that the failure many African peace deals have resulted into even deadlier anarchy and in some instances, secession or splitting of territories or elimination of the leaders of one of the warring factions in order to achieve lasting peace.
The threat of violence is further enforced by the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008 which is unclear about if there will follow a general election if the coalition is collapses or is dissolved. Section 6 of Act says that ‘The coalition shall stand dissolved if: (a) the Tenth Parliament is dissolved; or (b) the coalition parties agree in writing; or (c) one coalition partner withdraws from the coalition by a resolution of the highest decision-making organ of that party in writing.
Because of the unorthodox circumstances by which the PNU grabbed power, ODM has in the past opted for mass action, diplomatic pressure and political propaganda. This was seen by the party as better strategies than the option of challenging PNU in a compromised court or even in parliament where it enjoys a majority.
Let the anxiety continue. Waswahili walisema: ngonja ngoja huumiza matumbo.