Feeding on Fear
It started with what looked like an invincible deadlock in the mediation talks. One of the government representatives in the panel of mediators, a Minister, had thrown a furious tantrum, literally abused the chief negotiator Dr. Koffi Annan and his Assistant, former Tanzanian President Mr. Mkapa, before walking out of the talks and virtually precipitating a gridlock of sorts. Koffi had been left with no option but to suspend the team of mediators from both sides of the divide and instead preferred to deal with the two principals in the December 2008 presidential election imbroglio, the President and the opposition leader.
Meanwhile, in what looked like a coordinated and perfectly synchronized move, USA, EU, and other western capitals issued a tough warning to those who appeared bent to scuttling the process and sending the country to the dogs, as does the present Chairman of the AU (African Union, our equivalent of the EU), who happens to be the current Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.
By midnight on the same day Kikwete arrived, he had conferred with the President, opposition leader, and Mr. Annan. The following day, the four men went into a meeting held in the president’s office from 10am to 3pm! They locked out the selfish hardliners from both sides. I understand it was drama at the office of the president as the hardliners hissed with fury as they unsuccessfully tried to gain entry into the mediation room.
Rumour has it that Koffi and Kikwete gave the president a bare-knuckled assessment of his survival as the president, if he stuck to his position (that all negotiations had to be carried out within the flawed and contentious constitution). He was reminded that since the constitution was what gave him the illegitimate powers, he was wielding in the first place, it must be reformed to reflect the wishes of Kenyans and avail a valve for letting out the explodeable tension in the country. We understand that the obstinate president put up a fight, but was overwhelmed by thinly veiled threats that he would suffer the ‘Ortega’ of Nicaragua fate at the hands of one Mr. Bush and the so called Coddi! He caved in! But it took a whopping 5 hours!
Finally, two legal technocrats, the Attorney General, for the Government, and a current MP cum lawyer (in fact my wife's former boss, she worked in his Law Firm), were called in to draft the historical sharing of power agreement. At around 5pm, in front of local and international media, the Agreement was signed by the two protagonists and witnessed by Koffi and Kikwete. The non-Kikuyu Kenya exploded in song and dance. The Kikuyus felt short-changed, angry, and scared. The hegemonic bliss that they have enjoyed since independence seemed to turn prickly. Their assumed unassailable advantageous positions of control in all affairs of state and governance appeared to crumble under the weight of unstoppable demand for equity from other tribes. We could see those who have been acting with impunity literally shake in their shoes!
The mediator who had walked out on Annan, but saw a copy of the Agreement as it was being signed, could not take it! She walked out of the occasion in a huff. By the way, the Agreement was agenda no.3 in the five item agenda for the mediation team. When Annan convened the team to proceed to item no.4, the next day, she did not show up. That is how deep they had dug in. One thing they can not envisage in the agreement is that the opposition leader, they so loathe, is going to be the head of government, which translates to coordinating all ministerial work, supervising ministers, and evaluating their performance! Once the Agreement is entrenched in the constitution through an Act of Parliament, alas, they have to report to him. Too, he will take 50% of ministerial posts for his party meaning a number of current ministers will lose jobs or be shifted to lesser powerful and glamorous ministries. It is a shake down!
I do not think that without the involvement of the International community we could have wrestled the power from these guys. They were embedded in all arms of the government, so deep that extracting them would have caused blood, blood, blood. And they were prepared to go the all way.
In fact, soon after the signing of the Agreement, there was talk going round that since to entrench the Agreement had to go through the parliament voting system, they would deny the opposition the two thirds majority required to pass the motion. The Speaker swiftly came up and clarified that parliament Standing Orders governing the process to require a simple majority to entrench the Act in the Constitution. Talk of greed for power!
On a personal level, I immediately ‘let go’ of all except one family of three - who lost everything to fire and looters (except for a couple of hand luggage, a laptop, and child’s clothing.)
The security situation is still grim. There is no significant let up by the militias. They feed on fear. They have varied their tactics a little bit by getting less overt. For instance, now they walk in small groups of two and three at most carrying concealed weapons unlike before when they operated openly as menacing marauders!
In darkness they get bolder. They know that the police ratio is so low that it is difficult for the force to man all places at all times. But, also it is common knowledge that overly underpaid policemen and women are accomplices in the extortion business and some are the faceless bosses of the gangs. It is a vicious circle!
Of most concern is the inevitable looming hunger. Lots of food was burnt during the 2 month-long strife. Rift Valley is the bread basket of this country and the region bore the brunt of the skirmishes. We hope that this grand coalition government will move fast to avert a famine crisis.
There is the issue of resettling the internally displaced persons. It is the hardest part in solving the consequences of the conflict. It involves a land reform agenda. It involves rectification of governance injustices that span decades. It is most probably the greatest cause of inter-tribal indignation and the still-alive, emotional dynamite for civil dissension. I will not be surprised that this is the item that will get harder to crack! It runs taunt and deep. It is always signed in blood. It is scary!
Let us leave it there for today.