A non-partisan journal of the left.

A Prime Minister for Kenya?

Fri 7th Mar 2008

At long last, there may actually be a moment of peace in Kenya. The handshake deal between Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga will create a post of Prime Minister, unheard of in Kenya's short history as an independent nation.

A coalition government is a first in Kenya. Never before in Kenya's history has there been a power-sharing accord of any kind, let alone separate posts for President for Prime Minister. Odinga has agreed to secede power in order to take on the newly-created position of Prime Minister. Many are calling him a happier man: "Better half a loaf than no bread", he said with regard to his position, being part of the newly created PNU (Party of National Unity).

This deal will, hopefully, begin the process of rebuilding for Kenyans of all tribes, notwithstanding the people being killed over communal land areas that have no clear demarcation of ownership. (Ownership having been wiped out during the clashes that began during the election aftermath in late December of 2007.) Kenya is still very much at an incredibly crucial point in its efforts to re-find its footing. Whether or not the power-sharing coalition of the PNU will work will depend strictly on time and on compromise. Not just on the part of those who will now share in the new deal but also on the part of every Kenyan afflicted by this national crisis. However, the efficacy of a post of President, Prime Minister, and two Deputy Prime Ministers (one from each party) remains to be seen. One can only speculate that such power "sharing" will only result in more bureaucracy and less action.

African leaders do not typically share power; they are autocrats, both by nature of how they acquired power and also by the methods through which they wield it. Kenya has been no exception to this rule, so the PNU will be worth watching to find out if this kind of party and a parliamentary system of rule will benefit this beleaguered nation. Kibaki is going to be faced with taking responsibility for his lack of attention to the Kenyan constitution which would have created a post for a Prime Minister when he last took office in 2003. And Odinga should be questioned about his role in, or advanced knowledge of, the ethnic cleansing violence that has marred Kenya in recent weeks.

Currently, the power-sharing deal is not yet ratified. It has not yet become law and we have seen that anything can happen in Kenya. People are still dying even as politicians are meeting to discuss what will become the new face of Kenyan politics. This needs to end. Kenyans must remember what it felt like to feel national pride, and what it felt like to be the most stable (and prosperous) region of Africa. With so many people dying of severe malnutrition, AIDS and treatable diseases, Kenya cannot afford further setbacks.
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