A stormy debate is raging on whether political party coalitions should be formed before or after elections in a volatile political atmosphere. However, the time at which these tribally based alliances in Kenya should be constituted is immaterial. What should be of interest to the general public and the electorate is the purpose for which such groupings are formed.
A casual review of historical experiences is replete with examples of caucuses formed with selfish motives without tangible benefits to the nation. More recent such groupings include the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), the short-lived merger between the then ruling party, Kenya African National Union, (KANU) and the little known National Development Party (NDP) in 2002, Gikuyu Meru Embu Association (GEMA) and Kalenjin Maasai, Turkana Samburu Association (KAMATUSA) amongst others.
NARC, a conglomeration of Kanu rebels and opposition parties could not last after 2002 general elections in which it emerged victorious. The coalition partners failed to agree on the need to deliver a new Constitution as per one of the electoral pledges. NDP-KANU merger could not hold together over the choice of a presidential candidate, prompting an exodus of some veterans and new members exodus to NARC and other parties, GEMA was overwhelmed by the historical forces that catapulted Moi to power and KAMATUSA never took off for reasons yet to be explained.
Other coalitions swallowed and digested by dominant organisations were pre-independence political parties, African Peoples Party (APP) and the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU). For good, they lost their identities in the merger with the indomitable Kanu.
From the foregoing, it is therefore safe to conclude that the Kikuyu, Kamba Kalenjin (KKK) which has undergone a metamorphosis into a group of seven and is cloning into United Democratic Front (UDF) and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) is just another exercise in futility.
The sole purpose of G7 is not only to frustrate the presidential bid of one aspirant but also to block the same Prime Minister, Raila Amolo Odinga from succeeding President Mwai Kibaki whose second and last term ends sometime in 2012. The group contemplates mobilising their respective communities to vote as a bloc in the next general elections against an individual reminiscent to another amorphous group that campaigned for amendments to the constitution to stop a vice president from automatically acting for 90 days in the event of incapacity of the the office holder. That was a tribal plot to stop the then Vice President Daniel arap Moi, a non Kikuyu from succeeding the late President Jomo Kenyatta.
The G7 manifesto, ideology and clarion call of a nobody, but Raila is not a glue that can hold Kenya together in the foreseeable future , neither can it be converted into a programme of action to spur national development and prosperity. Like others before it,G7 will only serve short term interests. Like other coalitions before it, G7 has no national agenda and will only serve the interest of a few in the short term.
The latter day Grand Coalition government, despite its many difficulties and shortcomings has only survived due to pressure from the international community, informed populace and vibrant civil society groups. The coalition is a creature of cross party negotiations following post election violence in which more than a thousand people perished and more than half million uprooted from their homes mainly in the Rift Valley region.
Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan presided over the inter-party peace talks on a bungled presidential elections. A raft of radical proposals were drawn amongst them, extensive consultations on the day to day administration of the state and delivery of a new constitution. Contrary to the spirit and letter of the National Accord on Peace and Reconciliation, consultations are rare except in crisis situations.
The ongoing cacophony in the coalition aptly explains the fragility of amorphous alliances previously formed without clear cut national aims and objectives. Betrayals are common place in groups of all shades and persuasions that come into being notably when elections approach but crumble soon after. They are ethnic outfits founded on no known or firm ideological principles.
One such alliance that disintegrated soon after trouncing the oldest political party Kanu was NARC. Its flag bearer, Kibaki presided over a crisis ridden government because coalition partners were pulling in different directions. In the 2005 referendum, a coalition partner spearheaded opposition to the enactment of a doctored draft constitution. Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ministers lost their cabinet status when the cabinet was dissolved, reconstituted and renamed Government of National Unity(GNU).
When it became apparent that Kibaki was not likely to defend his seat on a NARC ticket, the president abandoned ship and helped launch the Party of National Unity (PNU) that brought together patches from Ford Kenya, Kanu, DP and NARC Kenya amongst others. Without saying much about fragility of non ideological outfits, PNU is in no doubt going to be a casualty of betrayal that characterises the country’s politics. Meanwhile, PNU founders are either in newly crafted outfits or going solo.
At the core of these alliances is nothing else but succession. One cabinet minister said as much in 2003 when he remarked that ‘we do not need a constitution now that Moi and Kanu are not in power and one of our own is at the helm”. But, succession debate without healing the wounds of post election violence is sacrilegious. Tribal based groupings should be condemned in the strongest terms possible for they promote xenophobia and reduce other Kenyans to mere voters and not participants.
The writer is a former cabinet minister and secretary general of two national parties including the oldest political party, Kenya African National Union (KANU) Email. [email protected]