Why Kenya cannot be a spectator over Sudan

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By Moses Kuria

There is something spectacular about the way Americans conduct their politics. Every two years, Americans go to the polls in congressional, gubernatorial or presidential polls. For a country of 200 million voters, you might wonder when they ever have time to do anything else, let alone build the largest economy in the world.

In these elections, there is fierce competition between the Republicans and the Democrats, spiced by occasional drama from the likes of Ralph Nader and Ross Perot. Despite this cut-throat competition, there are some issues that are so American that they remain ingrained in American DNA irrespective of who is calling the shots at Capitol Hill.

These issues include a clear view of what constitutes threats to America, say like North Korea and Iran, the long term commitment to their adopted rogue child that is Israel, how to deal with the growing economic might of China and preservation of historic ties with Britain. The unanimity with which American people approach this issue has survived the see-saw contests for control of the White House and the Congress.

When it comes to Kenya, the blind ambition for political power and control of Parliament and State House does not know any national red-lines. It would appear there are no issues which we as Kenyans agree to cushion against political shenanigans. In our quest to control power and resources, we do not draw the line between politics and nationhood. This is very sad indeed.

I see three issues which should be embraced by all the sides of the political divide. Firstly, there should not be any shred of doubt that Vision 2030 is our national road-map for the next two decades. Political competition should be directed towards who best can implement Vision 2030. We should be crying tears to prove that our side of the political divide is the one which loves the good vision better than the others and we are better pre-disposed to implement it better than the other side.

Secondly, the issue for our beloved country should not be whether we will implement the new Constitution; it is how fast we will do so. I therefore expect the three main parties, PNU, ODM and UDM to be taking to the mountains to tell Kenyans that their party is committed to have the constitution implemented fully by Easter Monday, 2011.

Forget the five years that we are allowed by the new Constitution. That way, the likes of Isaac Ruto who are playing a dangerous ping pong game with the constituency boundaries and stopping the Commission for Implementation of the new Constitution on its tracks through parliamentary hubris will be shunned by Kenyans like the plague.

Their patriotism will be called into question and Kenyans will agree that the new Constitution is a scared issue that should be above the foray of competitive politics.

Thirdly, I would expect that when it comes to security of our borders and our geo-political strategic interests, there is no PNU, ODM nor UDM. When our regional interests are under threat, there can neither be a Red coalition nor a Green Alliance.

There is no greater issue of concern today than the January 9, 2011 referendum in Southern Sudan. Whilst Kenya had taken a leading role in the Sudan culminating in the Naivasha peace accord, we seem to have let the Sudanese ball slip between our fingers.

Yet Kenya cannot afford to be a spectator in the Sudan. We have invested substantially in Southern Sudan to outsource our interests to others. I was saddened when Kenya succumbed to the American-ICC pressure on the minor issue of Al Bashir to cede the right to host the IGAD special summit on Sudan to Ethiopia, despite Kenya being the current chair of IGAD.

The January 9 referendum can turn out to be very good for Kenya if it is held peacefully in a free and fair environment. There are growing concerns that Khartoum may postpone the plebiscite for self-determination of the Southern Sudanese people.

During the Addis Ababa special summit, Bashir and Salva Kiir committed themselves to respect the results of the referendum. That remains to be seen. Even more ominous is whether the parallel referendum in the oil-rich Abyei region will take place at all. One can only hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Despite the anti-Bashir ranting, the USA has pulled out a raft of sweeteners to the Sudan. Both Sen. John Kerry, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and Johnie Carson, Under-Secretary for Africa at the State Department have offered to remove Sudan from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism and an array of new investments in the Sudan if the two referenda progress smoothly. Yet the USA is so far removed from Sudan.

As neighbours to the Sudan, Kenya needs to concretise its bi-partisan position in regards to January 9.

It is good to want to be seen to be the good jolly boys by the ICC. It is another thing when our large porous border remains amenable to influx of small arms, as small an arm as AK-47\’s. It is yet another thing when our investors in South Sudan remain vulnerable to disruptions of business and possibly loss of lives if things go awry on January 9.

At all times, we should be guided by what is within our national interests. The President and the Prime Minister should convene an urgent bi-partisan forum to come up with a national consensus on how to deal with the Southern Sudan and Abyei referenda.

The price we pay for peace and freedom is eternal vigilance.

(The author is the spokesman of the Party for National Unity. The views expressed herein do not represent the position of the PNU. [email protected])

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