“We do have a deal.”
These were the memorable words of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the steps of Harambee House on that February 1, 2008 afternoon after days of marathon negotiations between PNU and ODM that ended the close to two months of fighting and the untold human suffering.
The Serena talks, as they were informally known, had dragged on as PNU and ODM negotiators held firm their positions after the disputed December 2007 presidential election.
Formally, the negotiations were known as the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation (KNDR).
Mr Annan was leading the African Union’s Panel of Eminent African Personalities that also included former Tanzania President Benjamin Mkapa and former South African First Lady Graca Machel.
As the talks dragged on ordinary Kenyans continued to be killed or driven from their farms and businesses.
The deal, which Mr Annan announced as the chairman of the Africa Union’s Panel of Eminent African Personalities, therefore came as a reprieve not only to the ordinary Kenyan who had borne the brunt of neighbours turning against neighbours but also to the country’s economy which had been badly battered in the course of the nearly two months of violence.
Eventually, KNDR gave birth to the National Dialogue and Reconciliation Agreement (National Accord) which was signed in Nairobi on February 28, 2008.
The National Accord had four main agendas namely: Agenda Number One which called for immediate action to stop violence and restore fundamental rights and liberties, Agenda Number Two on immediate measures to address the humanitarian crisis, promote reconciliation, healing and restoration, Agenda Number Three on how to overcome then political crisis, and Agenda Number Four which was looking at long term measures and solutions such as constitutional, institutional and legal reforms, land reform, poverty and inequity, unemployment particularly among the youth, consolidating national cohesion and unity and transparency, accountability and addressing impunity.
A decade after the violence broke out Agenda Four item still remains a major talking point.
“The idea of Agenda Four was that ten years later people should have seen more inclusivity, non-discrimination and all those things that people were at the time unhappy about. Agenda 4 was for the obvious reason that Kenya’s electoral problems were symptoms of the deep seated entrenched historical inequalities,” says Ms Florence Simbiri-Jaoko, who at the time of the violence was the chairperson of Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).
“As far as inclusion and cohesion unfortunately the country is so polarised. How tragic that ten years down the same script of citizens killed for protesting electoral malpractices has played again as though we were ‘celebrating’ (pun intended) the 2007 PEV,” added Ms Jaoko.
The elements that formed Agenda Four — constitutional, institutional and legal reforms, land reform, poverty and inequity, unemployment particularly among the youth, consolidating national cohesion and unity and transparency, accountability and addressing impunity — were to address what the Serena team identified as underlying causes of the 2007/08 post-election violence.
While a number of reforms have been undertaken including promulgating what has been hailed as one of the most progressive constitutions in 2010, Ms Jaoko says a lot still remains to be done.
“There is so much that remains to be done. People are more polarised than ever before. Institutional reforms have stalled due to lack of leadership and political commitment to the letter and spirit of the Constitution,” she said.
That polarisation has been exacerbated by the recent presidential elections on August 8 and the repeat one on October 26.
After the Supreme Court nullified the August 8 election, the opposition National Super Alliance (Nasa) called on their supporters not to participate in the repeat election on October 26. As a result, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) cancelled voting in at least 25 constituencies citing violence.
Nasa leaders have vowed not recognise the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, almost taking back the country to where it was in 2007/08 period.
“The electoral crisis in Kenya has been dragging on for months now. It has caused serious economic dislocation and financial suffering. And with each passing day, it is also deepening divisions, polarisation and radicalisation across the country,” Nasa leader Raila Odinga said at Chatham House UK where he had been invited to give a talk on Kenya’s Next Test: Democracy, Elections and the Rule of Law on October 13, 2017 just two weeks to the repeat elections.
The lack of national cohesion is also acknowledged by National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) chairman Francis Kaparo who accuses the political leadership of letting Kenyans down.
“As a country we have never made any serious effort to integrate our people since independence. On the contrary, political leadership have had very different views to preserve their political base. And that applies to all sides of the political divide,” said Mr Kaparo.
The NCIC chairman also says Kenyans failed to embrace his commission because “it wasn’t home grown”.
“We did not create it because we had a true desire to integrate the Kenyan people. It was part of an agreement to stop the violence. But we never followed through to ensure we put in place mechanisms for lasting peace and cohesion. That is why we have trademarked foul mouth and rewarding those involved in it by electing them into powerful political positions,” said Mr Kaparo.
Mr Kaparo also faults the Serena talks of placing more emphasis on sharing of positions in government instead of dealing with the real issues that led Kenyans to turn against each other.
“We did not have a deal to resolve our issues. What we had was a political deal on sharing of political positions and had nothing to do with healing Kenya. That is why we ended up with a bloated government from some 20 ministries to 44? Is that what you call a deal?
The coalition government was the only time Kenya had two parallel governments and an explicit agreement that as long as one side respected the other, it would be smooth sailing,” the NCIC chairman added.
As well as the deteriorating state of national cohesion, the full realisation of Agenda Four requirements has been hampered by the progressive public loss of trust in institutions that are pillars to achieving the Agenda 4 requirements.
For instance, IEBC, crucial as it is in the division of political resources and democratisation has lost a lot of public confidence mainly because of the manner it has conducted the elections, one of which was nullified by the Supreme Court.
“It is really unfortunate that the 2017 elections were conducted without any iota of introspection especially on the part of IEBC in the first instance. Even more tragic were the revelations by Commissioner (Roselyn) Akombe which were confirmed by the Chair (Wafula Chebukati). To date there has been no explanation by IEBC on how they addressed these issues. So once again these issues are perceived as sour grapes by the opposition and other trouble makers,” says Ms Jaoko.
Similarly, the violence visited on peaceful demonstrators and innocent Kenyans by the police has left large sections of the population viewing the police as enemies.
But according to Mr Kaparo, “no single institution can change the psyche of Kenyans.”
“It is us, the people to change and force the institutions to follow suit,” he said.
The implementation of Agenda Four issues has also suffered from arbitrary changes to the laws by the government of the day, mainly to weaken the constitutional commissions and independent bodies and centralise power.
Such laws include the Security Laws (Amendment) Laws, the Public Audit Act through which the National Assembly took away the powers the Auditor General to independently hire and discipline its staff, amendments to the National Police Service Commission and National Police laws and similar changes to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act among others.