By Jerry Okungu
July 18, 2012
We wake up one cloudy July morning and suddenly we are twice hit by some political tsunami of sorts! We weigh our options trying to figure out which of the two earth breaking news is heavier than the other.
First things first; let us deal with the presidency before we come to pealing the mask.
The presidency is livid that their cherished County Commissioners are no more. One rogue and ungrateful judge of the High Court has thrown out the President’s wisely considered appointments of the 47 County Commissioners. In her ruling, the ungrateful judge grants prayers of some stubborn Civil Society activists that had challenged the President’s right to appoint such public officers without consulting his coalition partner and more importantly for failing to widely consult the public. What is more, the President forgot one little detail of gender balance in modern Kenya!
This news hits the presidency like a thunderbolt judging by the swift condemnation of the judgment from two top dogs in the office of the president. Whereas the bigger boss directs the AG to immediately appeal the ruling in a higher court, the junior officer publicly orders the commissioners to stay put as they are going nowhere; the court ruling notwithstanding.
As the news sinks in along the corridors of power, the AG feels livid. He comes out fighting. He reminds corridors of power that as the AG of the Republic of Kenya, the constitution grants him autonomy and independence in his decision making. He declares that he cannot and will not take any directive from anybody.
A few days later, the AG breaks his silence. He tells the presidency that in his opinion, appealing the judgment would be an exercise in futility. A higher court is likely to confirm the judgment.
For awhile the Kenyan public assumes that the good counsel of the learned Attorney General has settled the matter and that the commissioners should vacate office. The public is wrong again.
Out of the blues, the acting Minister for Internal Security joins in the fray. He instructs a private lawyer; not the AG, to appeal the judgment. At this point, the Justice Minister enters the fray and supports the judgment and reminds the presidency that judicial rulings must be respected. In this call to respect the courts, he is joined by none other than the Prime Minister and principal shareholder in the coalition government.
What is curious about this saga is that the presidency, the State Law Office, the ministries of Internal Security and Justice are all dockets of the PNU part of the coalition.
For the AG and the Justice Minister to differ with the President on a matter that is so dear to the presidency, their appointing authority, without any serious fallout has left Kenyans baffled.
This development can be seen in two ways. One is that democracy is indeed taking root in Kenya and as a consequence the overbearing powers of the President have been considerably diminished. The AG and the Justice Minister have given us hope that indeed one can disagree with the President on principle and on point of law without unnecessary bad blood and acrimony between the head of state and his cabinet ministers.
However, the flip side of this case tells us that Kenya is evolving its unique brand of democracy hardly practiced anywhere in the world. In mature democracies, such as the USA, Canada, Japan, India and even Britain and South Africa, such disagreements with the appointing authority would have ended up in the resignation or sacking of both the AG and the Justice Minister. Closer home, we have the resignations of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in 1966, Joseph Murumbi in 1966, Achieng’ Oneko in 1966, Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia in 1980s. Most recently we had Martha Karua resigning from the Kibaki regime after realizing that they were no longer reading from the same page.
The second big story of the week was that of Miguna Miguna’s book launch.
However, the book’s content was submerged in theatrics and uncalled for antics that the author engaged in during and after the launch.
Left on its own, the book would have received sober reviews from social critics. Unfortunately, this was not to be.
With the first salvo shot at the gun blazing author from Caroli Omondi of the Prime Minister’s office and a possible visit by the police commissioner to Miguna’s residence, Kenyans saw the bragging and haughty activist sneak out of the country with his entire family. And as if the pending law suits were not enough, his village mates in Ayweyo Nyando chose to deal with him on account of vilifying Prime Minister Raila Odinga both in his book and in public utterances. And as I wrote this article, Miguna Miguna was now for all practical purposes persona non grata in Luo Nyanza. If he chooses to go there now, he will need all the help of the riot place he can lay his hands on.
Miguna is not the first to run into high winds with rioting villagers in Nyanza. Raphael Tuju suffered the same fate way back in 2005 during the first constitutional referendum. His rally in Kisumu which advocated for the adoption of the 2005 constitution culminated in the death of one young man at the Nyayo stadium. It took him awhile before he could visit his Rarieda home without a hitch.
Whether right or wrong, Miguna should postpone going to Kisumu as long as possible for the sake of peace in that region. Luos are very forgiving and forgetful. A year from now, Miguna will surely walk freely in Nyanza. Who knows? He might even be elected something in Nyando!
By Jerry Okungu
July 18, 2012
Finally Madam Dlamini Zuma has won the coveted seat at the African Union headquarters. This position makes her the automatic continental spokeswoman in virtually every international forum. Without a doubt, the former South African Foreign Minister is now one of the most powerful women in the world.
This development comes hot on the heels of the Malawian Iron Lady, President Josephine Banda who has hardly been the Head of State for four months.
One may remember that soon after Josephine Banda was sworn in; she ran into high winds with the AU Secretariat when she warned that if Sudan’s president Omar El Bashir attended the AU Summit that was scheduled to take place in Lilongwe, she would order his arrest and hand him over to The Hague where the fugitive belongs.
Following this threat, the AU buckled and threatened to switch the Summit from Malawi to another country. This threat did not move the Iron Lady. And indeed when Jean Ping announced that the Summit would indeed be moved from Malawi to Addis Ababa, Madam President welcomed the move and went ahead to skip the Addis Ababa Summit. Instead she sent her foreign minister to the summit.
In AU politics, it is common knowledge that the more progressive democracies in Southern Africa are uncomfortable with their counterparts elsewhere in Africa who have made it their pastime bashing the International Criminal Court in The Hague as a colonial court. Specifically, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia are considered pro ICC. They have taken this common stand; notwithstanding the violent opposition from the Zimbabwean president, Bob Mugabe, who may be a potential ICC candidate in another life.
The campaign against the ICC in Africa has indeed been championed by Jean Ping of Gabon who, until last weekend was the AU Commission chairman.
In this mission, he found tacit support from Kenya under Kibaki, Libya under the late Muamar Gaddafi, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and a host of benign dictators and not so democratic rulers of the continent.
As the crisis raged about Bashir’s attending the summit in Malawi, Kenya brought another twist to the growing controversy. Suddenly the East African Legislative Assembly hurriedly passed a bill to transform the East African Court of Justice into an International Criminal Court with the approval of the bill at the EAC summit coming in quick succession. And before the AU summit was held, the item was quickly pushed through by Jean Ping as part of the 19th Summit’s agenda.
Because of these undercurrents, the politics at the AU became rather nasty in the last six months. It was the reason the election of the AU Commission chairman ended in a stalemate in January 2012. The anti-ICC forces wanted Jean Ping their man to continue with the mission for the next five years. In that time they would have done away with the ICC after setting up the African ICC.
Now that Dlamini Zuma, the woman who has no special empathy for an African Criminal Court is in the seat of power, will she succumb to the pressures of the AU heads of state opposed to the ICC or will she do them a Josephine Banda by rebuffing their attempts to exist from the ICC?
If Dlamini chooses not to push the anti-ICC agenda, chances are that she may simply ignore the agenda and concentrate more on issues that really affect the continent like solving conflicts in the DR Congo, Somalia, Sudan and Mali. More importantly, Dlamini may want to concentrate on food production to rid the continent of perennial hunger, famine and shame.
Looking at the AU summit composition; it is true it is still very gender imbalanced. As it is we have only two women heads of state and now the AU Commission chairperson. That means that in the next ten or so summits, we shall surely have three women voices in the plenary. The question is; can presidents Sirleaf Johnson of Liberia and Josephine Banda of Malawi join hands with Madam Dlamini to change the way business is conducted in Africa for the good of the continent?
Whatever the direction Dlamini steers the AU, one thing is clear. A few issues and individuals will be the casualties. First, Kenya’s hope of a regional criminal court to try Kenyans bound for The Hague may be dashed.
Omar El Bashir may suffer more setbacks in the near future with more and more AU member states shunning him. If they do, Bashir’s movements will be more restricted than ever before. Furthermore, if he realizes that the present AU chairman is less charming with him than the former CEO, chances are that Bashir will attend and less AU summits for fear of being arrested and handed over to The Hague.
However, it is too early to ascertain which direction Dlamini will go or what policy changes she may want to bring to the table. All we can do is to patiently wait for the next six months.
July 18 2012
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was in a Brussels hospital in a "critical" state Wednesday, several diplomatic sources told AFP, but the Ethiopian government denied he was unwell.
"He is in a critical state, his life is in danger," said a diplomat who asked not to be named.
In Addis Ababa, however, government spokesman Bereket Simon denied reports that the 57-year-old premier was ill.
"He is not in a critical state. He is in good condition," the spokesman told AFP.
In Brussels, the Ethiopian embassy refused comment. It had said earlier this week that reports he was being treated at a hospital were "false and wrong", and were a rumour created by "an interest group which has preoccupied itself in disseminating such untrue stories".
But several diplomats in Brussels said he had been undergoing regular treatment on a private basis at one of the city's major hospitals and had been in hospital for some days.
No information was available on his illness.
Questions surfaced about Meles's health when he missed a two-day African Union summit Sunday and Monday, apparently for the first time.
Meles's wife, herself a lawmaker, had declined to talk to reporters about her husband, who has been at the helm of the Horn of Africa nation since 1991.
One of last times Meles was seen in public was at the G20 meeting in Mexico on June 19.
Dozens of African heads of state visited Ethiopia for the summit, including newly elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, the first to do so since an assassination attempt in Ethiopia on former president Hosni Mubarak in 1995.
Benin's president and current AU chairman Thomas Boni Yayi had said at the opening of the summit Saturday that the "unusual absence... cannot go unnoticed, because we know that Mr Meles is full of dynamism and leadership in our meetings".