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Kenyan leaders insincere on reforms

Chest thumping and self praise are matters of grave concern to anxious and war weary Kenyans, development partners as well as civil society and religious organisations.

None other than the Chief Mediator in the 2007 bloody election dispute, Kofi Annan added voice to the citizens’ frustrations over the slow pace of reforms negotiated and agreed upon by the two principals President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister, Raila Odinga in the post election  disturbances aftermath.

Fundamental problems lie in the electoral process and system of government, the negotiators across the political divide concurred. Consequently, the team drafted proposals on reforms to be undertaken before the next general elections. Delivery of a new constitution, the probing of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) trials of the post election perpetrators, investigating past injustices, reviewing  of electoral and administrative boundaries were among the key and crucial proposals. 

As soon as the National Accord on Peace and Reconciliation was signed, the negotiators abdicated their role as trustees of peace and confidence. The  seriousness of the violence that rocked the nation and perpetual impunity have been downplayed  by the fragile  coalition leadership – hence the slow pace of reforms that guaranteed peace and restoration of nationhood.

Coalition partners bought a full page advertisement in the daily newspapers to outline achievements of the 19-month old government  before the lapse of the National Accord in an attempt to demonstrate to Mr Annan that reforms were on course.  But stakeholders locked out of consultations with the principals laughed off  the scorecard that smacks of cheap public relations.

The Ghanaian former UN Secretary General is not ruling out worse violence in the next general elections without comprehensive reforms, which he reckons are rather slow except action on the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) that has since been disbanded for bungling the 2007 elections.  Mr Annan  told the Kenyan leadership to listen to the governed, in an apparent echo of a similar message   to Kenyans by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The leaders don’t share the public fears even in the face of allegations of weapons stockpile by communities whose relatives and  friends lost more than 1,000 people and more than 500,000 uprooted from their homes. Even a fool would confess that future general elections would be bloodier than the 2008 post election violence without radical changes in the electoral system and system of government.

Mr Annan has left the country and it is business as usual again in anticipation that time runs out faster to 2012 so that nobody bothers   the leadership with the implementation of the Agenda IV after the sunset.

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National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende has broken the silence on constitution delivery, an issue many of the present day leaders cleverly avoid. Mr Marende shared the views of many in pressing for more than one draft to be presented at the referendum rather than have one approved by the Executive or the Legislature. Many Kenyans share the Speaker’s sentiments.  Had more drafts been presented at the illegal referendum in 2005, the 2008 electoral violence could have been avoided.

It is hoped that the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional Review and the Committee of Experts will heed the advice of the Speaker whose rulings on sensitive issues always reflect the views of many across the political divide.

The two schools of thought on the system of government Kenya should adopt would be given a chance to campaign for either a parliamentary or presidential system before the referendum as espoused in more than one draft. Experts are free to fine tune the  parallel Bomas and Kilifi drafts but should not forget that Kenyans wanted a constitution yesterday, and indeed would have one by now,  had the two documents been presented at the referendum.

(The writer is a former Cabinet Minister, MP and official of two major political parties. Email:


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