IT WAS ONE HELL OF A WEEK FOR KENYA POLITICALLY SPEAKING
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!