Long, rugged and winding path to reforms

July 3, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 3 – One and half years after the 2008 post-election skirmishes, the country appears to be limping towards the much needed reforms to avert a similar crisis.

Signing the National Accord last year was the easy part. From rejecting the formation of the Tribunal to the sluggish land reforms, disarmament of illegal gangs, corruption, a Judiciary that is widely perceived to be reform resistant among others, presents a picture of a nation enjoying temporary stability.

Chief Mediator Kofi Annan who mid-wifed the power sharing arrangement is still holding onto a list of a few suspected masterminds of the violence that claimed 1,133 deaths, displaced over 500,000 others and billions of shillings lost in investments, as the political class haggle over the formation of a local tribunal to try them.

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) has never settled in the coalition amidst claims that there wasn’t genuine power sharing. Internal wrangles within ODM and even in the Party of National Unity (PNU) compromise efforts to reforms.

After monitoring the reform progress, South Consulting, a firm hired by the Panel of Eminent African Personalities to track the process, concludes that the coalition government has reneged on the reform promise as the 2012 succession politics take over.

Out of the four identified agenda items, the coalition government has not successfully finalised on any. Quick fixes took over as the underlying causes have been swept under the carpet.

We present key findings and conclusions of the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation Committee for the period between January and April 2009.

Agenda Item 1: Immediate Action to Stop Violence and Restore Fundamental Rights.

South Consulting notes that the most important achievement here is that political violence has generally stopped. However, gang or criminal violence and resource-based conflicts have been on the increase. Illegal armed groups have been mutating and taking different forms while their members have infiltrated the civil service. This infiltration, consultants warn, would broaden their network of operation and make it difficult to deal with them.

“Embedded in politics and crime, the groups now tend to hold hostage the same politicians who brought them up. The politicians can no longer control them but the groups’ engagement with politicians gives them a sense of false legitimacy.
The government has not done enough to address the problem. South Consulting warns that these groups will continue growing in number and expand their scope and coverage of operations as the government lacks a clear policy framework to deal with them.

“On the one hand, human rights defenders have been advocating respect for the sanctity of human life and on the other hand, citizens appear to publicly support extra-judicial killing of suspected militia members,” their report states.

It will be remembered that organised militia were key perpetrators of the skirmishes and failure to deal with them presents a time bomb for the country. Worse still the report warns that economic recovery is threatened by this failure.

Agenda Item 2: Addressing the Humanitarian Crisis, and Promoting Healing and Reconciliation.

On this second agenda, the government has been indicted for failing to address the crucial reconciliation process. The report finds that the government lacks ‘a broad policy framework that establishes linkages between high levels or national and local level healing and reconciliation strategies’.

“Healing and reconciliation requires political leadership and cannot be left to faith based and other civil society organisations at the grassroots level. And to provide national direction, it is critical that the two principals form groups to mobilise people at the national and grassroots level towards reconciliation,” is the call of the experts.

On resettlement, the government Programme ended in December 2008 with close to 350,000 displaced persons resettled through the help of development partners and donors.  The government and partners in the Shelter Cluster have constructed 47,253 houses for returning IDPs, mostly in Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza provinces.  However the humanitarian crisis facing IDPs is not yet over as a good number of them have never returned to their farms and most of them are living in transit camps where they have no access to basic services.  “Furthermore, many continue to face threats of eviction every time national elites are in conflict or disagree,” states the report.

Agenda Item 3: How to Overcome the Political Crisis (power sharing).

This is where the coalition government scores lowest. The report warns that the greatest threat to reforms and to future political stability of Kenya is the evident lack of unity in the coalition. The success of all other aspects of the reform agenda is hinged on this but there are few signs of unity of purpose.

“The government continues to lack cohesion and is still perceived as ‘two-governments-in-one’. Divisions between two coalition partners have continued to deepen and to be the main cause of disillusionment among the citizenry,” the report concludes.

Whilst a Permanent Committee on Management of Coalition Affairs was formed its utilisation is under question.

The only achievement in this agenda is the agreement to share positions and even this has never been settled. While the Partners shared Cabinet posts, recruitment of key government officers remains a thorn in the flesh.

According to the findings of the consultants the power sharing agreement appears to have acted as a ceasefire. For a lasting solution the team advises that more be done to address structural arrangements in the government.

“One lesson learnt is that power sharing requires some other arrangements, such as devolved system of government and proportional representation, to stabilise political institutions and politics. Otherwise, the winner-takes-all approach could ignite another cycle of violence,” the report states.

Agenda Item 4: Tackling Long-term Issues.

The country’s clamor for a new constitution appears well on course with the establishment of the Committee of Experts on the Constitution Review.  A closer look at this process however sends jitters of delays and distractions.

“The Committee has experienced delays in accessing government-allocated funds affecting the committee’s work plan and possibly will delay completion of the review process,” the report cautions. 

Secondly hard stances taken by politicians are a threat to a sober process.

The pace of reforms in the Police department, the Judiciary, Civil Service, Lands policies has also been questioned. The monitors blame the sluggish pace on lack of political leadership.

“This lack of direction exacerbated by accusations of corruption in the Grand Coalition, have undermined public confidence in the leadership’s resolve to push through the envisaged reforms,” the team states adding that there is reform inertia and public disillusionment with the entire institutional structure in the country.

In their conclusion the monitors warn that failure by the government to address fundamental factors that contributed to the 2007 crisis risks a worse replica of the same in future.

“Lack of cohesion in the Coalition Government and the political conflicts animating it are a considerable threat to reforms in the country. They have the potential to push the country back to another crisis and/or exacerbate animosity between communities. This suggests that nothing short of far-reaching socio – economic and political reforms – including constitutional and institutional reforms – will end the cycle of violence the country continues to witness,” the report concludes.


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