Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bickering over primacy adds little value to governance


Publication Date: 4/30/2008

THE PAST FEW DAYS HAVE seen Kenyans being treated to an unsavoury manifestation of the power-play that is at the very root of this country’s recent dalliance with disintegration.

Politicians, academics and common citizens have exercised their minds on who between Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka is more powerful than the other.

The feud has been prosecuted in the full glare of publicity and has even come in the way of the Government’s own efforts at reconciliation.

The issue has become so emotive that it has become the proving ground for idle loyalists still stuck in the pre-election campaign mode.

Every politician is seeking to prove just how loyal he or she is by shouting loudest about their man being the closest to the seat of power.

THE TRAGEDY IS THAT THESE people are all supposed to be serving in the same government and working towards better service delivery for Kenyans.

Their two ‘‘Principals’’ signed an agreement, which the MPs then endorsed in Parliament and entrenched in the Constitution. The continuing wrangles over who is the most powerful between the PM and the VP, therefore, exposes the politicians’ ignorance over the contents of the Bills they passed at the height of the crisis.

After passage of the political agreement, Parliament was supposed to turn its attention to the more pressing matter of long-term solutions, including a review of the Constitution, land reforms and institutional reforms to fashion Kenya into a modern state with clear guidelines on what is acceptable and what is not.

Parliamentarians were supposed to take the lead role in reconciling our warring communities and creating a framework for lasting peace through truth, justice and reconciliation.

Instead, they spend their waking hours wondering how to prove their might to the ‘‘other’’ side. Even straightforward issues such as resettlement of internally displaced persons have become mired in the petty political squabbles and mistrust that pervades our political space.

When the National Accord was signed late February, it was argued in these columns that the hard work was only just beginning. It was pointed out that the celebrations were all premature. These arguments are now being clearly borne out by the petulant chest-thumping our politicians are now displaying.

It can now be surmised that for the politicians, it is back to business as usual. In their minds, Kenyans cannot have enough of politics, and every day is another day on the campaign platform, seeking to out-perform the political or ethnic ‘‘other’’.

The clamour for a new Constitution has been abandoned for the next big thing, in this case the row over primacy between the PM and the VP.

Dealing with the food crisis can wait, so that the President can clarify who is second to him. Our discredited electoral system can wait until one of the men is confirmed in no uncertain terms to be the most important.

What is emerging is that as long as we put our hopes in the current crop of politicians (or indeed any politician) we are doomed to keep repeating the mistakes of the past.

Like the proverbial lunatic, we will keep doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result with each repetition. These ‘‘leaders’’ are failures even before they begin doing whatever it is they are supposed to be doing for their electors.

KENYANS ARE THEREFORE CALLED upon to begin searching for a new leadership paradigm that does not include excellence in politics or astuteness at accumulating wealth by stealing from the poor.

Today, our public service is on the verge of collapse due to the sheer weight of incompetence and lack of vision that chokes the entire governance system.

The poorest carry the weight of the rich, and when they grumble, they are told to wait a while longer while their terms are being looked into.

The true leader stands at the head of the column, not at the rear. Our leaders must stop these childish games and face up to the challenge of leadership.

This demand for leadership is even more urgent at the top than anywhere else in this country. Our very survival as a nation depends on it.

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