We must be able to hold Uhuru and Raila to account over their celebrated handshake

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By Ahmednasir Abdullahi

Depending on tribe, business interests or party leanings, it’s generally unfashionable to criticize President Uhuru Kenyatta or second guess the good intention of de facto Opposition leader Raila Odinga. If ever there was any doubt, events following the recent truce between the two arch nemeses is clear evidence. Previously disgruntled opposition supporters have rationalised the friendship as a means towards the desirable end of electoral justice and inclusive government. For Jubilee, it’s simply a delivery of the national healing promise the President made on his inauguration – and one delivered with great haste.

If the obvious lull in the country is anything to go by, both sets are right. For the first time in many months, a genuine if fleeting sense of peace, calm and camaraderie amongst the citizens has returned to the country. “Why should we fight when we are all in government?” is the going joke. There also seems to be an upturn of business fortunes. While it may be too early to provide a comprehensive assessment of the economy, it is evident that Kenyans, more accommodating and less driven by risk, are trading more with each other. Parliament too seems rejuvenated. Boycotting opposition MPs have resumed their duties and debate is once again robust. This is what we wanted, and we are all happy.

Yet there remain questions demanding of answers. While many celebrate, a select few ask themselves what this means for the country henceforth. If the expansion of the Executive to accommodate Raila Odinga is the logical outcome as rumoured, will this permanently address issues of electoral injustice and inequality, and bring an end to the endless cycle of election violence the country has witnessed repeatedly?

More tellingly, is there a chance that the two were never enemies to start with, and that the emotions of Kenyans are simply a means towards a selfish end? How else does one explain the sudden shift from “illegitimacy” to “working with the legitimate government”, and what does this communicate to the droves who risked it all, in protests and otherwise in the quest for electoral justice? If this is a means towards a given end, how much ground is the “People’s President” ceding to the actual President, and vice versa? Who is the victor?

It’s public knowledge that the National Super Alliance has laid down all its arsenal, including a boycott of consumer goods by certain manufactures, rejection of parliamentary proceedings – which, in their assessment, legitimizes the presidency – civil disobedience, and the People’s Assembly forum. What isn’t clear is what the President and his Jubilee brigade have agreed to in return. Are they willing to institute the much hankered after electoral reforms, for instance?

Is there also a chance that Baba could be wrong? If he is, how come the discontent among his supporters is restricted to personal conversations and social media fora? But if he isn’t, which, by extension would mean he agrees that Kenyatta is the validly elected president, what does this say about and to his army of supporters, even those who have suddenly taken up this view? Would it be premature, demeaning and wholly insensitive to use phrases such as ideology-less, shallow, short sighted and hypocritical in the definition of our politics? Why can’t Raila be accused of betrayal as have been (or would be) Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetangula if caught dining with the Uhuru? After all, just like the other principals, Raila too is guilty of the sin of joining government whenever it suits him.

The answer to these questions may well be that he has done this to bring reform from within (government). Unfortunately, the efforts have not yielded electoral reform so far, or brought an end to the “election theft” he so loves to quote. This is the reason the NASA Resistance Movement was formed. Since it is obvious that such reform cannot be achieved while working with government (in an unknown capacity as yet), it is safe to assume the cause – if ever there was one –has all but been abandoned. To join forces with a government that was in his words, “illegitimate”, casts Raila as anything but the doyen of reform he made his supporters believe he is.

To say that a government is illegitimate today then recognise it as legitimate tomorrow seems disingenuous, especially when the political benefits of your political friends (and not a promise for reform or inquiry into extra judicial killings) come as the immediate rewards.

Elsewhere, why can’t the remaining principals forge ahead with the reform struggle instead of pandering to the betrayer? Is their so-called war against Raila to mean that if they were offered places in government today they would decline because they “hold the cause” close to heart? Most importantly, beyond political drama, are Kenyans really interested in the well-being of their nation?

If they are, it is only right that the contents of the truce be made available to the citizens for review. At all costs, the two truce-making, hand-shaking “brothers” must be held to their words and deeds. ^

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