By Pheroze Nowrojee
Though President Kibaki states that he will not endorse any individual’s candidacy, he is in fact endorsing the candidacy of one ethnic group to the presidency. His endorsement of one ethnic group’s candidacy is an endorsement against other ethnic groups. This is an imminent danger to national cohesion. The newspapers are debating what the Kibaki legacy will be. Some posit an infrastructure of roads, others an increased freedom in society. The facts however give the impression that the only legacy that Kibaki wants now to ensure is a succession by the same ethnic group.
Kibaki’s refusal to order a correction of these matters is not a sign of his lack of leadership. To the contrary, it is a sign of his leadership – of these preferences. He is not sitting on the fence. He is squarely on the side of the preferred ethnic outcome. Events to this end take place under his silence.
In furtherance of this, Kibaki is trying an old and obvious trick : the Statute Miscellaneous Amendments Act. This is an Act of Parliament within which it makes amendments to many other Acts of Parliament. It has such a bland name and has so little publicity, that unless one goes through its contents with a tooth comb, one would not know that within it, quietly, many laws are being amended removing constitutional and hard won checks on Presidential or Ministerial powers.
This latest such bill is the Statute Law Miscellaneous Amendments Bill, 2012, which following the bad tradition has slipped in a bad amendment. It is that once their terms are up, (which will be soon), President Kibaki will be able to reappoint the chiefs of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission unilaterally, without Parliament vetting the reappointments or appointments. Since the Commission will control hate speech during the election campaign and can bring criminal cases against violators of the law, this amendment will obviously assist those who will campaign for the ethnic outcome preferred by the President.
Such a process is exactly what Kibaki used two months before the 2007 elections. That year, he unilaterally appointed and re-appointed all his own choices as Election Commissioners in the Election Commission of Kenya (ECK) under Samuel Kivuitu, and refused to allow the political parties to nominate them as previously done. The result of Kibaki’s insistence on his own choices was the disastrous Election of 2007 and the Post- Election Violence which brought Kenya to its lowest point ever.
Now again in 2012, Kibaki and the new elite around him do not care about the nation’s safety, but only about the result they want again - that the same ethnic group is declared winner of the election. Therefore they want the National Cohesion Commission not to prosecute any hate speech from their preferred ethnic group and its candidate, but instead to curb its opponents by prosecutions. For that they need their own appointments, not Parliament’s. Hence the amendment. The amendment must be opposed. Kenya does not want a repeat of a failed-state election or PEV, 2007-8 style.
This time the elite around Kibaki is divided. This is because his actions continuously assist a candidate from only one part of that one ethnic group. Hence the complaints that he prefers a southern candidate and forgets the fact that, “the Kiambu fighters entered the Aberdares several months after our people from Fort Hall and Nyeri had already established themselves there.”(Mau Mau From Within Karari Njama & Donald L. Barnett (1966, 274)
By this amendment only months before the elections, Kibaki is admitting publicly that there is a group that intends to violate the hate speech prohibitions in the National Cohesion Act, and needs immunity to achieve the preferred outcome. Therefore the independence and impartiality of the Cohesion Commission has to be removed before the elections. It also makes clear such a compliant Commission will be used against the opponents of the preferred outcome.
A legacy is what an ancestor leaves to his descendants. Who does Kibaki consider as his descendants? Just now it appears these descendants are only some of the people of Kenya. If he genuinely believes that his descendants should be all the people of Kenya, then he must move away from this ethnic succession. Such a legacy has the dangerously close potential to break the nation, as in 2008. Kibaki must return to and inhabit the centre of Kenya instead of Central Kenya. He must not ride the matatu we once used to see, that said, “Centralising the nation.”