Lay all the cards on the table if we’re genuine about new start

Wednesday March 18 2020

President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and Nasa leader Raila Odinga conclude a joint press conference about the country's growth, at Harambee House in Nairobi on March 9, 2018. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


We should never sneer at efforts at dialogue between political actors if they are made in the public interest as opposed to personal interests.

But we should always be wary of arrangements that are done secretly and with little public participation.

It is in that context that we should consider the handshake meeting between Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta.

The two came out of the meeting all cosy and buddy-buddy, and with a statement that spoke to some of the major issues that divide us and make us so combustible; but there was no clarity on the how’s and when’s, which raises doubts about public interests.

I am innately suspicious of public efforts that are opaque, especially when the lead up to them has been public and participatory.

Indeed, the issues affecting us have never been about the two gentlemen: They are merely symbolic of the rifts within us — for status quo and corruption on one hand, and for change and inclusivity on the other — no matter their personal public support.

Whenever there is secrecy, the major beneficiary is the person wielding power.

The other side may get something but it is often crumbs to assuage personal interests.

Secrecy begets tensions. Already Nasa is beset with intrigues and games and could well collapse as individuals seek to position themselves, all seemingly trying to get to the carving table.

And we can expect that Jubilee will similarly implode as the William Ruto faction seeks to find its place at that same carving table.

It was interesting the key issue that always takes us to the brink as a country — electoral justice — was conspicuously missing from the statement issued after the meeting.

Yet election management is the most significant trigger to the worst in us, and which itself is also shrouded in secrecy and intrigues.

Negotiations in the public interest necessarily need to have this at the centre, or we will never chase away the ghosts from 2007/8.

The IEBC has never opened its servers for scrutiny from the August elections despite a court order, which speaks volumes.

The assassination and torture of Chris Msando must be properly investigated — and not by our police or the FBI or Scotland Yard.

What led IEBC commissioner Roselyn Akombe to flee the country, and who was pulling the IEBC strings behind the scenes?

We must go beyond the work of the Kriegler Commission that refused to investigate the tallying centre at KICC in 2007, afraid of what answers it would find.

Given the current global geo-political situation as well as the clear interests of the US in Kenya, we should be apprehensive of the role of the US in arranging and facilitating this handshake meeting.

Was this done for Kenyans, or for the interests of the US, which clearly include keeping the Kenyan military in Somalia no matter whether that is in our interests or not?

Has this got anything to do with the massive construction contracts that an American company recently signed without a transparent process?

Finally, given the smiles from the handshake meeting, one would have expected there would be some changes in how things would henceforth be done, even subtly, as a nod to the seriousness of the agreement to move forward.


But alas, Mr Kenyatta’s appointments following the handshake depict a business-as-usual approach, rather than one that heralds a new, conciliatory and genuine national agenda.

For instance the naming of a spy — who has no courtroom experience — as the new Director of Public Prosecutions is an unequivocal statement that nothing has changed since the meeting.

Our spies have always taken the interests of the powers that be as their primary duty — rather than national interest — and are also used to taking orders.

I will eat my hat, so to speak, were Mr Haji to exercise independence, fairness, impartiality or competence — as required by the constitution — if he is confirmed as DPP!

In fact, the secrecy of the appointing committee is proof positive of the dangers of opaqueness!

The handshake meeting could still be the start of resolving the issues that kill, impoverish and divide us, but Messrs.

Odinga and Kenyatta will need to increase their openness and reduce their secrecy.

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