National conference an apt avenue for country to seek healing, resolve conflicts

Saturday December 2 2017

A combined picture of President Uhuru Kenyatta

A combined picture of President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and Nasa leader Raila Odinga. PHOTOS | NATION MEDIA GOUP 

By KWENDO OPANGA
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Many have called for dialogue between President Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party and his political rival Raila Odinga’s National Super Alliance (Nasa).

Some clergy have pitched for national dialogue as others have canvassed for creation of executive top jobs for failed and embittered seekers of high office.

All are concerned the bitterness caused by a filthy and violent General Election; its fiercely disputed initial and repeat presidential results; and revival of age-old ethnic prejudices, could tear Kenya apart. Such voices of reason have been few and far between.

CIVIL RIGHTS

Jubilee hawks have asked the President to transform into a benevolent dictator and crack down on Nasa leaders who would push the envelope of civil rights too hard by, for example, calling for an election boycott.

Yet others demanded the President deals harshly with Mr Odinga on winning the October 26 repeat poll. President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto brought their star power to bear on the onslaught.

Beside themselves with anger, they swore to fix justices of the Supreme Court for their precedent-setting September 1 annulment of the President’s victory declared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on August 11.

The Jubilee dominated Parliament took the cue and passed legislation designed to delete the Supreme Court’s power to nullify a presidential poll.

Mr Odinga, alleging IEBC rigged the August 8 presidential election, petitioned the result. The Supreme Court found for him and ordered a repeat.

Claiming IEBC as constituted would rig the re-run, he surprisingly boycotted the poll, further poisoning a polarised polity.

Nasa subsequently refused to recognise Mr Kenyatta as Head of State and introduced RESIST, a campaign of civil disobedience.

A first. Ominously, Raila has set Independence Day, December 12, as the day he will be sworn in as the “people’s president”. That’s another first.
SECESSION

A Nasa MP has petitioned Parliament to split Kenya into two republics while governors have called for the secession of the restive coast region.

That’s no precedent, but this is: As Mr Kenyatta was being sworn in for his second and final term, Nasa leaders headed to a parallel rally.

Called to honour supporters killed by police bullets, it was violently broken up by police. Kenya is deeply divided hence the above calls for conferences and the President’s inaugural promise to reach out to his political rivals.

But meetings between President and rivals will result in contracts over Kenya instead of covenants with, and between, Kenyans about Kenya’s future.

Second, Kenya should not vouch for power sharing because, as evidenced by the Grand Coalition of 2008 to 2013, such outfits epitomise executive uncertainty, infighting and paralysis.

Indeed, power should not be shared because IEBC bungled a presidential election. When a poll is botched, it should be repeated by an impartial umpire and the repeat, as any other poll, must be free, fair and credible.

Contracts between politicians on Kenya and on Kenyans must not usurp the role of the electorate in deciding political contests and change of power.

It is why I support a national conference, convoked by the President, funded by the State and convened by an impartial non-State actor.

STATE FUNDING

A national dialogue, say global experts, will be an inclusive and representative assembly tasked to identify and debate patriotic priorities; resolve conflicts; set mechanisms for resolving conflicts; build peace and tools for building peace; and lay foundations for uniting the country.

It will chart ways and means of successful implementation of its resolutions by Parliament, national and devolved governments.

It is why convocation by the President and State funding will hand it political legitimacy while a non-State convener will give it public acceptance and ownership.

A national conversation will address Kenya’s quinquennial crises when the economy unfailingly goes south, uncertainty and ethnic animosity thrive and all because of a General Election.

These bring painfully to the fore glaring governance, economic and political disparities and graft in the land.

However, national talks are not always useful. Yemenis (2014) and Somali (2007) are still struggling. Nigeria’s (2014) five-month long talk incredibly called for creation of 18 new states. At Liberia’s (2005)

President Ellen Sirleaf gave reasons for past failures as issues, timing and participants.

Now is the time for Kenya’s and two months the duration.

The convener, preferably the Catholic Church, would pick participants and design the modus operandi. The issues are clear and the objective clearer: Developing inclusivity and prosperity.
Consider convoking, Mr President. It will be part of your legacy.

Opanga is a commentator with a bias for politics [email protected]