Blame sharing in Grand Coalition

Published on 29/03/2009

By Standard on Sunday Reporter

What began as a reluctant decision to share power between President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga is acquiring a new face – blame sharing.

If it is not about who muddled the 2007 presidential election, it is about whose side is more corrupt. When one side accuses the other of inability to lead, the response from the other end is that you, too, are ineffective.

But there is a new side to the blame game. Enquiries reveal that within Raila’s Orange Democratic Movement there is growing fear that by 2012 in the eye of the public, there would be little difference between it and President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity.

That is how the dismissal of President Kibaki as ‘moribund’ and Raila as “ineffective PM” by the National Council of Churches of Kenya was received.

ODM sees the latest attack on Kibaki and Raila, in equal measure despite the fact that executive authority rests with the President, as a ‘blame sharing’ strategy.

ODM secured a place in government on the platform that Kibaki’s victory was illegitimate while the country fought. It fought the election on the platform of change and anti-corruption.

The more the tag both sides stole the elections takes root, the faster ODM loses the moral high ground it claimed when it entered government.

It is also true that the more the country resigns to the fate that both ODM and PNU ministers are ‘eating’, the less the differences between the two blocs before the eyes of Kenyans.

Bait, line and sinker

Then there are those in ODM who think their precarious position – in which they feel the 50-50 per cent sharing of power exist only on paper – is deliberate and their ‘captain has swallowed the bait line and sinker.

They point to the gusto with which he has promised changes and sackings that are yet to come, and the enthusiasm with which he first went about the proposed Mau Forest evictions – which is expected to hurt him politically.

Though its strategic importance as the main water tower is not debatable, the question in ODM remains why Raila ‘accepted to be used’.

Rating of government

Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang’ said a few months ago, the party was fighting and would be hurt by someone else’s war. He pointed out that it was PNU that re-invited the inhabitants of Mau Forest during 2007 campaigns and so should be at the forefront in sorting out its mess.

Appreciating the magnitude of the problem it has stirred, Raila this month said he was not like a dog that gives birth and eats its puppies. He meant he would not turn against his supporters, who form the bulk of those who could be evicted from the Mau Forest.

The foundation of the ‘blame-sharing’ is the perception the coalition has failed, the rating of government continues to plummet, and already calls for fresh elections have been made. The situation has been aggravated by President Kibaki’s laidback style of management and perception that he lacks the fire in the belly to confront corruption and impunity – the two pillars some argue his regime is built on.

In ODM the frustration stems from the fact that the Civil Service remains intact and the PM has only pushed through a negligible number of appointments.

On the other hand, the President’s old friends, including former ministers, remain the beneficiaries of key appointments. They include Mr Raphael Tuju, Mr Kipruto arap Kirwa, Prof Kivutha Kibwana, Mr Rashid Shakombo and Mr Njeru Ndwiga.

This is the flipside of the coalition that on February 28, last year, brought together political adversaries who could literally strangle each other if put on one table. Today the more they accuse each other, the more they look and sound the same.

Between ODM and PNU there is an equal measure of alleged corrupt deals, mismanagement of resources, and politicking. And although the poll-rigging claim was initially associated with President Kibaki and PNU, this perception is slowly changing over time. ODM has gradually lost the propaganda war and Raila, whose poll lead of over a million vanished within hours in highly suspicious circumstances, is today swimming in the same dirt.

Loser in the game

The Minister for Justice Martha Karua, borrowing the verdict of South African retired judge, Johann Kriegler, told students at Moi University that the two principals were — “as per Kriegler report — guilty of poll rigging. NCCK followed it up by calling for fresh elections and is currently collecting at least one million signatures, to push for this.

ODM is struggling to retain its identity as it sinks deep in the abyss of an increasingly unpopular government. While Kibaki is serving his last and final term, the real loser in the game could be ODM, and Raila in particular, who has his eyes set beyond the 2012 General Election.

“Kibaki as a lame duck president no longer appeals to Central Province. Agwambo (PM) was beginning to gain popularity among residents until he began repeating the same mistakes Kibaki made,” Kanu Secretary for Legal Affairs Justin Muturi, told The Standard on Sunday.

Curse of last term

He said the locals were on the verge of desperation and regretting why they voted for Kibaki. This feeling was accentuated by the new economic and political challenges. But like Kibaki, Muturi now observes Raila, too, has begun to disappoint. Assistant Roads Minister Lee Kinjanjui refers to what is happening as the “unfortunate curse of a last term president”.

“This is a political disease that happens everywhere in the world, including the US. A president’s last term is always far from perfect and there is a tendency of his lieutenants defying him to chart their own succession plan,” observes the Nakuru Town MP.

Whichever way, the overriding feeling on both sides is the 2012 General Election could be fought on platform of 2007 electoral theft.

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