Media reprieve for Kenyan politicians

With saturation coverage of Barack Obama’s victory in the US presidential election, Kenyan politicians must be breathing easy as attention is focused away from them.

And with unfolding events in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the media has moved its focus from the 33 tanks held by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. Clearly, General Laurent Nkunda is a much more flamboyant character than the faceless pirates of Somalia.

For sure, the past one week was a godsend for Kenyan personalities whose names feature in the Waki Report. It was no longer necessary to hold press conferences and rallies to defend their names as the media – and Kenyans at large – were simply not interested as Obamania swept the world.

As excitement with Obama’s victory recedes, Kenyans will refocus their attention on their quasi-leaders. The approaching tsunami sparked by the Waki Report is producing aftershocks as civil society and religious leaders call for its full implementation. Diplomats from the United States and Europe have also supported the recommendations of the Waki Report.

Politicians led by President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have stated that they will not implement the Waki Report. Why? Because they and their supporters will find themselves in jail for the rest of their lives after answering charges for murder, rape, incitement to violence, arson and genocide. At the very least, Kenya’s rulers fear being shunted out of the mainstream as a new crop of clean leaders emerge to fill the inevitable void carved out by the Waki recommendations.

Waki proposed that the perpetrators of violence that rocked Kenya early this year be brought to face the wheels of justice. According to Waki, violence in Kenya is a consequence of years of impunity where people commit crimes and walk around freely.

The most blatant cases of impunity were those related to ethnic clashes between 1992 and 1997 and whose deaths have never been documented for fear of antagonizing perpetrators, most of whom were in powerful government posts.

Out of political sensitivity, Waki declined to name the principle suspects in the violence. He handed a secret list of ten names to former United Nations Secretary General Koffi Annan. It is this secret list that has gotten Kenyan politicians breaking into a cold sweat.

Politicians who just a few months ago were urging Western nations to intervene in Kenya’s politics are now playing the sovereignty card. President Mwai Kibaki, who supported prosecution has changed his mind after his ethnic and business partners were linked to the chaos. People who, in January, dismissed the Kenyan judiciary as incapable of delivering justice now say that there is no need for an international tribunal because our courts are competent enough.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga has made several flip-flops of his own. Initially, he was opposed to prosecution but after the Waki Report was released, Raila supported trials for perpetrators of violence. In his statements, Raila recalled the Naivasha attacks where members of his Luo tribe were attacked by the Kikuyu ethnic group, which supported Kibaki. However, Raila eventually realized that the formation of a political crimes tribunal would affect his own supporters in the Rift Valley province.

Rift Valley MPs, many of whom were implicated in violence, say that they were responding to Raila’s urging for country wide protests and that Raila should also face prosecution as ODM leader.

The drama gets more intriguing because the terms governing the Waki Report state that if the Kenyan government fails to conduct trials, the matter will automatically move to the International Court at the Hague. Kenyan politicians will have no say over the international court’s proceedings unlike those of local courts.

Judge Philip Waki led a Commission of Inquiry to investigate violence that followed disputed elections in December 2007. Supporters of Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his ODM party clashed with security forces and ethnic groups loyal to President Mwai Kibaki. Over 1,000 people died in the clashes. Half a million were evicted from their homes by gangs linked to politicians.

Reformers in Kenya believe that implementing the Waki Report is the best way of peacefully getting rid of a political class that has run the country into the ground. The alternative would be bloody revolt by a citizenry pushed to the limits.

Raila, Kalonzo reject Waki Report

BY Michael Mumo and Bernard Momanyi (Capital FM)

The Waki report on post-poll violence got further bashing on Thursday, after Prime Minister Raila Odinga beat a hasty retreat and led 75 Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) MPs in rejecting it.

Mr Odinga, who has been vocal in pressing for the full implementation of the report, chaired a four-and a-half hour ODM parliamentary group meeting which declared that the report had “incurable errors, defects and fundamental constitutional contradictions.”

The Prime Minister sat to the right of the Parliamentary Group Secretary Ababu Namwamba as he read out the statement. Mr Namwamba said contents of the secret envelope that was handed over to the chief mediator of the Kenya peace talks former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan could not be subjected to legal proceedings or investigation within or outside Kenya.

“ODM being part of the coalition government will resist and stop any rendition or surrender of Kenya citizens to a tribunal outside its territory as the national jurisdiction and national systems have not collapsed.”

The position taken by ODM came barely hours after the American and German Ambassadors urged President Kibaki and Mr Odinga to implement the Waki report in full as a way of ending the culture of impunity in Kenya.

But speaking elsewhere, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka appeared to take the same route as ODM, saying report should not be implemented in full since it would open up wounds that had started to heal.

Mr Musyoka said it was regrettable that several people were killed during the post-election violence but warned that if careers of politicians implicated in the violence were destroyed it would be detrimental to the healing process in the country.

More on this story from Capital FM news >>

Rejection by Kenya’s government of the Waki Report on post election violence is likely to cause discontent among a public eager to see justice amidst rising ethnic tension sparked by a fractious ruling elite.

The Commission of inquiry into Post Election Violence implicated senior politicians allied to President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga in ethnic clashes that killed over 1,000 Kenyans early this year. The violence was a result of disputed elections between Kibaki and Raila. International mediation efforts led by Koffi Annan brokered a coalition between the two in March. However, blame over the violence continues.

The Commission was chaired by judge Philip Waki who recommended the prosecution before an international tribunal of all politicians linked with ethnic incitement and financing of the clashes.

Raila succumbs to ODM job promises

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, must be ruing that day in December when he promised top government jobs to the ODM rank and file.

“The government is very big and there are enough jobs for everybody in ODM,” said Raila in Kiswahili when he was running for the presidency. ODM aspirants who had lost the party primaries would be employed in the civil service, diplomatic corps, judiciary, security services and state-owned corporations.

It is because of this promise that rumbles are being experienced not only in the civil service but within the ODM party. Its obvious that some people currently in top public positions will have to give way to political appointees. On the other hand, its also rather obvious that there are only limited positions to be distributed among ODM hopefuls.

Matters are made worse by the fact that ODM is in a coalition with President Mwai Kibaki’s PNU and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka’s ODM-Kenya. They are all eyeing the top jobs in order to reward their own followers.

Its largely because of delays in awarding government jobs that ODM is experiencing a crisis. Indeed, the Grand Opposition of legislator Abaabu Namwamba is a product of politicians disappointed at being left out of the cabinet. Amidst growing dissent, ODM is moving fast to assuage discontent within its masses.

With impending retirements and reshuffles within the public service, the party may have found the opportunity to deliver on its December promise. Top jobs at the Kenya Revenue Authority, KenGen, Posta among other large state-controlled organizations are up for grabs. The party also wants to appoint permanent secretaries, diplomats, military commanders and judges. Already, ODM friendly lawyers are lobbying for the removal of Chief Justice Evans Gicheru.

Recent changes are a pointer of things to come. Kenya Ports Authority’s Abdullah Mwaruwa was retired last month and a replacement is yet to be found amidst lobbying that the job should be taken by someone from a coastal ethnic group.

At the Rift Valley Railways, South African Roy Puffet, was fired and his seat given to ODM backer, Mr Brown Ondego. Meanwhile, the government declined to extend the contract of a Canadian chief executive at the Kenya Power and Lighting Company. Mr Don Prescott’s job went to a Kenyan from the president’s ethnic group.

Last week’s debacle at the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) over its chief executive provided a glimpse of the tussles within government over political appointments. Labour Minister, John Munyes, used corruption allegations to dismiss NSSF Managing Trustee, Mrs Rachel Lumbasyo. The Labour Minister immediately appointed Mr Fred Rabong’o in her place.

The decision was met with uproar by NSSF’s staff. While Mrs Lumbasyo had spent years at the corporation before her appointment as Managing Trustee, Mr Rabong’o is a public relations consultant with no known experience in pension funds administration.

NSSF’s board of trustees, consisting of the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) and the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) immediately rejected the appointment by Munyes. The situation became complicated because a Managing Trustee in NSSF cannot make decisions without the approval of COTU and FKE.

The matter went to Raila’s office at Treasury Building and it was resolved that Mrs Lumbasyo complete her term at NSSF. However, almost immediately, Raila overturned the consensus and sent Mrs Lumbasyo packing. Raila instructed Munyes to recruit a new Managing Trustee in coming months. Canvassing for the job among the pool of political appointees is in high gear.

Within the same week, the government swept out the command of Kenya Prisons and replaced it with outsiders. The new prisons commissioner, Mr Isaiah Osugo, was an officer with the Criminal Investigations Department (CID). He will be assisted by former Administration Police commandant George Macgoye. Reaction from prison warders has been muted so far. The warders went on a mutiny several months ago protesting poor housing and corrupt leadership.

The Kenyan people are concerned that politicians are sacrificing merit and technical ability for the sake of pleasing their cronies. Truth is that the ordinary Kenyan is unlikely to get a civil service job any time soon. Majority of people whose names are being floated for top government jobs are individuals who were in public service since independence and who were previously fired for mismanagement.

It is these same individuals that are responsible for Kenya’s downturn as indicated by depressing economic and social statistics. State corporations took a downward plunge from which recovery has been difficult, if not impossible.

A large percentage of candidates being mentioned for political reward appointments have been implicated in corruption scandals that led to the collapse of strategic organizations. The irony is that these individuals are extremely wealthy and they don’t really need their old jobs back.

It appears that political appointees will get their wishes while qualified and hardworking citizens stagnate in the morass of unemployment. For such is the state of Kenya.

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