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Why a pre-election grand coalition would be the best option for Kenya

Thursday December 30 2010

By MOSES KURIA

On the very first day of the year to which we are bidding farewell on Friday, I wrote in this hallowed column that we needed to achieve three things in 2010, namely, to settle internally displaced persons, create jobs for our young people and enact a new Constitution.

I further warned against building illusionary objectives which will leave us smarting if we fail to meet them.

On the first count, we have achieved only one out of the three goals – the enactment of a new Constitution. On the resettlement of IDPs, we have scored a miserable one out of 10.

As regards the creation of jobs for youth, despite remarkable economic recovery with a growth rate hovering above five per cent, there is nothing beyond the largely populist, badly-conceptualised “Kazi-kwa-Vijana” programme.

Sadly, the reform “constipation” that I predicted has come to pass, with casualties galore. The Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission is in limbo. Andrew Ligale came and went, leaving us worse off than we were on the electoral boundaries’ front.

The twin issues of the International Criminal Court naming six suspects who in its wisdom, or rather lack of it, bear the greatest responsibility for post-election violence, and the highly-emotive boundaries debate appear set to wreck any semblance of unity of purpose in the 10th Parliament.

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All these at a time when we have barely left station in the journey to implementing the new Constitution!

One wonders how we are going to achieve the consensus we require to agree on a reformed police service, vet judges, carry out the task of creating 47 counties that will consume approximately Sh70 billion, and cap it all with another General Election in August 2012, a mere 600 days from now.

We have three options as we enter 2011, the penultimate round before the 2012 General Election. The first is to approach 2011 and, ultimately, 2012, in a business-as-usual manner.

The second is to attempt a “crash programme” version of the reform agenda. The 10th Parliament will be sent packing shortly before April 30, 2012. That means we have to compress the unwieldy legislative programme required to implement reforms into a 16-month window.

Irrespective of the outcome of the cases at the ICC, this is one issue that will irretrievably divide the 10th Parliament and most likely ethnically polarise the nation, setting up the most unfavourable environment for reform.

A crash legislative agenda in a divided Parliament, an ethnically polarised nation, an emotionally charged electioneering process is not the best recipe for peace in Kenya in 2011.

The third option, which I fully support, is to agree on a pre-election coalition government between PNU and ODM.

The current coalition government came into existence on the back of violence, suffering and near disintegration of our motherland. The new grand coalition will come out of a conscious will of both sides of the political divide to implement the remaining reforms for posterity.

The current grand coalition was forced on us by the international community. The new coalition will be a “Made-in-Kenya” product borne out of the realisation that only Kenyans can determine their own destiny.

The current grand coalition was created after the general election. The new grand coalition will be a pre-election arrangement designed to create an enabling environment for the implementation of reforms and for re-building national unity.

Mr Nelson Mandela and Mr F. W. De Klerk had the option of implementing the new constitution in an atmosphere of division, polarisation and mistrust. Instead, they chose to create a transitional government of national unity as the best insurance cover for the reforms agenda.

If we all embrace the idea, unpalatable to many, no doubt, of a new grand coalition government, we will have saved this nation the anxiety and unnecessary risks of a hotly contested election when the wounds are still sore.

We will also give the country ample time to come to terms with the post-reform realities before we resume competitive politics in 2017.

Mr Kuria is the PNU spokesman. ([email protected]). The views expressed here do not represent the party’s position.

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