It’s 2018, finally, and Kenyans are settling in to the humdrum grind of daily life. But as the year progresses, several news events are likely to remain a constant, at least until June. Nation looked at some of the personalities and issues that are likely to shape conversations in the country this year. Here are the seven news events to keep an eye on:
1. Raila Odinga/Nasa’s future
National Super Alliance (Nasa) leader Raila Odinga has started 2018 much the same way he ended 2017 — in suspense. Much as he declared that his coalition would not recognise the outcome of the October 26 presidential election, the former Prime Minister has largely remained silent, creating suspense in the national social, political and economic psyche.
He insists he will be sworn in, and possibly run a parallel government, if President Uhuru Kenyatta does not cede to calls for national dialogue.
Because of his own clamour to be sworn in, Mr Odinga is likely to shape political events in the new year.
The plan to swear in Mr Odinga got a boost towards the end of last December when his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka, upon returning home from a long sojourn in Germany, declared that he would participate in the planned oath if there is no genuine national dialogue.
Mr Odinga’s next step, whatever it will be, will make headlines for the better part of 2018. In his Christmas message, Mr Odinga promised his supporters that he would take oath as the people’s president “very early in the new year” or call for self-determination — in what might mean an escalation of the push for secession.
In his New Year message, Mr Odinga heightened his message when he said Nasa would unveil a civil disobedience programme if the Jubilee government persists in undermining calls for dialogue.
Just what happens next provides mouthwatering prospects for the news media, much as it will determine the future of Kenyan politics in the near future.
Closely related to the plans to swear in the two, is the future of the main opposition entity, Nasa. Unity among the constituent parties has lately been an issue of concern to some partners, who accuse ODM of being domineering and patronising them.
Signs of trouble emerged following the election of members to the regional assembly in Arusha and the election of chairpersons and their deputies to various committees of the National Assembly. ODM swept the leadership of all watchdog committees, to the chagrin of both Wiper and ANC.
The first cracks have emerged and how the coalition navigates this challenge will definitely make the headlines in 2018. Linked to this is the alleged plan by Jubilee Party to isolate Mr Odinga by ensuring that all his co-principals are appointed to the Cabinet.
2. New education curriculum
When schools opened Tuesday for the start of the 2018 academic year, the new education system developed to replace the 8-4-4 system also set to take off and is most likely to dominate discussions and news.
The system places emphasis on continuous assessment tests (Cats) over one-off examinations. The new system replaces the current Standard One to Form Four with Grade 1 to 12.
It has been categorised into three phases: Early Years Education covering nursery education to Grade 3, Middle School Education covering Grade 4 to Grade 9 and Senior School covering Grade 10 to 12.
A National Basic Education Curriculum Framework (NBECF) implementation plan developed by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) shows that the last Standard Eight candidates to sit the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination will do so in 2021, while the last Form Four to sit the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination will write the papers in 2025.
However, teachers and their unions have opposed the rush in implementation of the new system and called for systematic implementation of the programme. Knut has threatened legal or industrial action if the government does not shelve proposals contained in the new curriculum. It has demanded that the rollout be deferred to pave the way for “intensive and extensive” consultations.
Kuppet has announced it will use all means to influence the National Assembly to halt the implementation of the new system until all contentious issues are addressed.
3.Leadership wrangles in counties.
As the first-term governors settle into their offices, a number of the regional governments are set to witness leadership wrangles between the county chiefs and their deputies, as well as ward representatives as has been witnessed in Kisumu.
The wrangles mostly stem from a fight for control of power, tenders, jobs and resources, and could stretch to months and affect the delivery of services, just as witnessed in the first term of devolution.
Some of the deputy governors, who have previously criticised the law for assigning them secondary responsibilities, have also accused their bosses of sidelining them from decision-making in county policies. This is expected to continue in the second term of devolution.
This is while the MCAs have in the past been accused of blackmailing governors for favours such as foreign trips and kickbacks in tenders before passing legislation.
A number of government ministries and departments, both in the national and county levels, will be put to task to explain their expenditures as Auditor-General Edward Ouko and Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo release reports for the third quarter of the 2015/16 financial year.
The two levels of government have been faced with tough audit queries in previous reports, on expenditure on salaries and development, most of which have been flagged for exceeding the set thresholds.
The reports by Mr Ouko and Ms Odhiambo are also set to shed light on the expenditures as the country struggles to contain the ballooning wage bill blamed for eating into the development funds.
Consequently, it is through the reports that newly-sworn in governors as well as their colleagues, who were re-elected for the second term, will form the basis for hiring or freezing the appointment of new staff.
The Salgaa stretch on the Nakuru-Eldoret road, which has so far claimed at least 200 lives in the past month alone, will also be an area of focus as the government seeks to rein in road carnage.
Part of the focus will be the construction of the proposed Sh500 million dual carriageway that was announced by the national government last month after 16 people died at the black spot.
According to Roads Principal Secretary John Mosonik, the construction will begin in January or February, and will take six months.
The project will be done by the Kenya National Highways Authority. The PS said bumps would be erected on the road as a temporary measure, before the expansion begins.
The Elections Act obligates courts to dispose of all petitions within six months. A total of 348 petitions drawn from all elective positions were filed after the August 8 General Election in early September and the judgments are all due before the end of February.
Already, 60 of these petitions have been concluded and rulings delivered. In these 60 cases, at least three governors have survived and 17 others await their fate. It is estimated that two or three governors may have their wins nullified by the courts.
This could open the door for by elections that could bring with them long drawn and messy campaigns as well as all manner of political shenanigans that could be a reflection of the 2022 succession politics.
7.Court of Appeal judges
The Judicial Service Commission is expected to recruit more judges, especially at the Court of Appeal, to replace those who have either retired or been promoted to superior courts. For the past two years, five judges have retired, among them former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal and Justice Philip Tunoi of the Supreme Court.
The top three posts were filled almost immediately but JSC did not recruit judges for the country’s second highest court. Justice Isaac Lenaola is yet to be replaced in the High Court after he was promoted to the Supreme Court last year. Others who are yet to be replaced are Justice Joseph Mutava and Justice Nicholas Ombija in the same court.
At the Court of Appeal, the retirement of Justice John Mwera, Justice Anyara Emukule and Justice Festus Azangalala has left the court with only 21 judges out of the maximum 30 required in the court.
There are four Court of Appeal stations — Nairobi, Kisumu, Malindi and Nyeri. The court had a total of 3,387 pending cases by June last year, with the highest number of cases being in Nairobi. Five judges of the Court of Appeal are also between 65 and 69 years, meaning that more judges are set to retire this year.
In the recruitment, the JSC must ensure that not more than two-thirds of the members are of the same gender in compliance with the principle of regional and ethnic balance. The Constitution calls for equality, equity and ethnic and regional balancing in all public appointments. There are only seven women judges at the Court of Appeal.