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Time to put our house in order

Saturday July 11 2009

By NJERI RUGENE

A team of MPs led by Speaker Kenneth Marende leaves for the United States on Tuesday for a series of Congressional meetings but, most crucially, to attend an important conference on Kenya.

The meeting, hosted by the National Endowment for Democracy — the biggest democracy promotion agency in the US and which is funded by the Congress — comes at a time when the international spotlight is on Kenya.

This follows Kofi Annan’s handing over of the Waki List of suspected masterminds of last year’s post-election violence to the International Criminal Court.

Top US diplomat for Africa Johnny Carson, also President Obama’s adviser, is expected to be among the key speakers at the forum.

The Speaker and members of his panel, Gitobu Imanyara, Margaret Kamar, Jeremiah Kioni and John Lekuton, will join participants to examine whether Kenya has risen from the ashes or is still smouldering almost a year-and-a-half since the post-election shame.

“Kenya on the Brink: Democratic Renewal or Deepening Conflict?” is the question that the forum will seek to answer.

The conference is also expected to focus on whether Kenyan leaders have the political will to unite the country and prevent it from heading back down the path of self-destruction.

Though there have not been serious cases of political and ethnically fed violence, there is growing restlessness in the country.

This is informed by the fear that the conduct of the political elite and pattern of chauvinism could re-ignite similar hostilities.

Mr Marende and his team will also be asked to shed light on the role of the 10th Parliament in addressing the aftermath of the election violence with the aim of returning the country to sanity.

Essentially, this meeting appears to be part of the international effort to put pressure on Kenya to act on impunity.

Though the one-day meeting is well meaning, it magnifies what has become a disturbing trend in which Kenya has become the focal point of debates at international fora because it has taken too long to put its house in order.

With the handover of Kenyan suspects to an international court — from a country which purports to have a functional judiciary — such foreign driven discussions and forums where we are lectured on our bad manners raise concerns as to whether Kenya is fast degenerating into a failed state.

A major debate on this is currently taking place on www.nation.co.ke, triggered by the latest rankings of failed States by the US-based Fund for Peace, which puts Kenya at position 14 next to Burma.

The debate centres on whether the peace deal that brought an end to the elections mayhem marked the country’s turn back to normalcy or for worse.

Significant
Mr Imanyara, who in 1993 became one of the first Africans recipients of the Democracy Award from National Endowment for Democracy, says the Washington meeting is significant.

“We expect to make a case that the US administration should strongly support efforts to bring perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice and also support the efforts by Prof Phillip Alston for ICC to also open investigations in Kenya on extra-judicial killings,” says the Imenti Central MP.

Mr Imanyara says he will also lead in “pressing friends of Kenya” to hold the Kibaki administration accountable for those crimes.

There have been some attempts at preaching peace by a few politicians such as retired President Moi in pockets of Rift Valley- the epicentre of the violence. Insiders say Mr Moi’s efforts mainly targeting the youth are meant to create harmony between communities to prevent similar flare-ups in the count-down to 2012.

However, Mr Moi’s moves are greeted with suspicion by critics and Rift Valley politicians, particularly from ODM, who view them as a way of seeking political relevance.

Not sincere
“Moves such as those are not sincere. He is not a crusader for peace but only helping to disengage the community,” says Mt Elgon MP Fred Kapondi.

According to Mr Kapondi, it is possible for the country to heal “properly” by the next General Election if politicians and religious leaders work together to bring about integration of various communities.

For such efforts to succeed, political leaders and the clergy must speak in tandem while keeping out vested interests.

“Religious leaders should for instance stop calling for fresh elections because this will be counterproductive — it will generate political heat and raise temperatures when the wounds are still festering,” Mr Kapondi notes.

The general assessment is that these thorny issues can only be sorted out through a new Constitution.

As such, says Mr Kapondi, President Kibaki, who will not feature in the next elections, should show political willingness to ensure a new constitutional order and put to an end decades of agitation for the same.

Ms Rugene is the Nation’s Parliamentary Editor [email protected]