Saturday, March 9, 2013

Uhuru must strive to detribalise politics and power in the country

 

By AHMEDNASIR ABDULLAHI

The 2013 elections are over. The excruciating but necessary postmortem on a number of germane issues by diverse interest groups will start soon. Losers and winners across the board will reflect on their fortunes and ill luck.

For the new kids on the block, President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President-elect William Ruto, what should be their agenda and urgent priorities for the country?
The new administration faces a number of pressing imperatives and startling national and international priorities.

Of course, they both face the trials at the International Criminal Court.

Their joint victory must be seen as a powerful slap in the face of sponsors of the ICC cases, their local surrogates and the Western powers that invested so much in terms of time and resources on the case.

This notwithstanding, Uhuru and Ruto must hit the ground running, and soon. A few things are going for Uhuru and Ruto.

It is fair to say that they have a clear and very strong mandate from the Kenyan electorate. Being the first chief executives elected under the new Constitution means a lot and carries with it many bragging rights and responsibilities.

They got votes across the entire country. They are youthful and energetic politicians with an admirable track record.

One curse they should avoid at any cost is to have differences and suspicion between the two of them that could derail their agenda.

Kenyans have in the past witnessed the sickening scenes of political infighting, breach of coalition agreement and the emergence of political “mafia” and informal gatekeepers that create a wedge between political partners. Uhuru and Ruto must take coalition partnership to a new level of mutual trust and cohesiveness.

The country is ethnically polarised. The big tribes, who in essence are the cause of Kenya’s historic ethnic disharmony, have yet again voted along tribal lines. In a way, there is nothing inherently wrong with that. It is a mere expression of the collective will of the tribe to vote in one direction.

African-Americans, Latinos and Jews always vote as ethnic groups for democratic presidential candidates in America.

Still, it must be high on the priorities of the new regime to bring Kenyans together.

They must strive to improve ethnic cohesion. The new administration must prioritise ethnic harmony and de-ethnicise politics and power in the country.

An administration that will make all Kenyans feel they have a stake in the affairs of the country will be helpful. On the home front, Uhuru and Ruto should prioritise the revival of the economy and job creation for the unemployed.

This is a critical challenge for the new administration. An integral component of reviving the economy should be a new approach to agriculture.

We should not only be self-sufficient in food production, but must engage in agricultural export. New manufacturing industries and greater support for information technology will be important.

Law and order must be high on their list of priorities. We have seen the enormous benefits of judicial reforms. The peaceful conclusion of the election was greatly helped by the reformed Judiciary under the stewardship of Chief Justice Willy Mutunga. Uhuru and Ruto must unreservedly support judicial reforms.

In addition, the police and prosecution departments must be radically improved.

Fighting corruption and ingraining a culture of national accountability in the administration of the affairs of the state is very important.

President Kibaki gave lip-service to this fight. Uhuru must personally lead the war against graft from the front.

Successful prosecution of the corrupt has never occurred in Kenya. Uhuru has an opportunity to make history. The implementation of the new Constitution must be hastened by the new administration.

The next phase of implementing the Constitution is critical. We are past the first phase. The next phase will internalise and deepen the penetrative level of constitutional values. An important aspect of constitutional implementation is devolution.

Kenyans want power and resources to devolve to the regions. Uhuru and Ruto must lead that process. There is a general theory that those at the central government never like devolution. Uhuru also faces another challenge in regard to his approach to devolution.

As a member of the Kikuyu community which is the largest in numbers, most powerful politically and economically, Uhuru must spearhead devolution and ensure that regions are not suffocated by the central government.

He must debunk the national myth that his community has a collective hegemonic dominance as its agenda.

He is the best person to do that. A region that should be very high on the priority of Uhuru and Ruto and which has been crying for national attention is the coastal region.

They scored very dismally in the region. Principally because their two point men, Najib Balala and Chirau Ali Mwakwere, were essentially unpopular paper tigers.

Equally importantly, the land issue remains unaddressed in the Coast. And as important is the feeling in the region that the people of the Coast are marginalised and neglected.

Uhuru and Ruto must engage with the people and leaders of the Coast. An important entry point to the region is the new governor of Mombassa County, Hassan Joho and Senator Hassan Omar.

On the international front, Uhuru and Ruto must address a number of important issues. The new Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs will be a very important choice. Kenya needs its number one diplomat to be a woman or man of international stature, substance and with gravitas and charm.

We don’t need colourless characters like some of the past occupants of the office who were clueless on our national agenda. As a starting point the new government must write a white paper on our foreign policy.

The new government must reset and recast our relationship with the West, especially members of the European Union. Countries like Britain act as if Kenya is still part of her majesty’s imperial colonial territories.

It must be an urgent priority of the new Secretary for foreign affairs to reset this relationship on mutually beneficial parameters.

Somalia should be high on the new government’s priorities. We have our army doing an excellent job in the southern part of Somalia. We need to play a more robust role in the reconstruction of Somalia and take advantage of the many opportunities that await investors in the country.

Again we need a foreign secretary who can lead that foray into Somalia. We need to take our teachers, doctors, nurses and skilled labour to go there as part of the work force and develop a mutually symbiotic relationship.

The challenges and opportunities facing Uhuru and Ruto are enormous. They must have the clarity of vision and sheer personal determination to take Kenya to the next level. They must put in places of authority men and women who share their vision and have the integrity and capacity to bring chance and prosperity.

They must overthrow the sterile status quo they inherited from Kibaki and Raila Odinga. Lastly, they must be alive to the threats and interests of the West in Kenya.

The writer is a Senior Counsel

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