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Principals must avoid displays of discord

Monday February 15 2010

If evidence was necessary to convince anyone that the Grand Coalition Government is in total disarray, then Sunday’s events would surely qualify.

The protests that erupted in Eldoret town as soon as it was learnt that Agriculture minister William Ruto and his Education counterpart Sam Ongeri had been suspended by the Prime Minister over the maize and Free Primary Education funds scandals respectively, should have set alarm bells ringing.

Luckily, the issue was quickly resolved through State House’s move to countermand Premier Raila Odinga’s order, and thus considerably cool tempers.

But the reaction should be a big lesson for us: we are still a very fragile country and any precipitate action on the part of either of the principals in the coalition government, however well-meaning it may be, should be avoided at all costs.

After all, the wounds of the post-election violence are still raw because there has never been concrete action taken by the government to cure inter-communal hostilities.

There is no question that the step taken by the Prime Minister was, at least, courageous. Ostensibly exasperated with the slow pace of measures to uncover or pre-empt scandals, he probably saw this as the right thing to do.

But he forgot that in Kenya, it is one thing to suspend civil servants and personal aides, but completely another to do the same to ministers who are often regarded as tribal chieftains, and anything happening to them taken as an attack on whole communities.

This, of course, is not to mean that people who fail in their oversight responsibilities should be spared lest their tribesmen rise up in arms and start hacking at each other with machetes. This sort of blackmail cannot be allowed.

At the same time, since the Attorney-General has interpreted the National Accord and Reconciliation Act, we, as well as the chief actors, now know who wields what powers.

There is no reason, therefore, for the Principals to appear to be in such public discord over issues of national importance.