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Last update: 1 July 2022 h. 10:44
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Dawn of a new era

After the December 27 transition election, Kenyans now have a new government. The National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) won the election with a landside, bagging 125 of the 210 parliamentary seats. KANU won 64 seats while FORD-People had 14. The fringe parties also managed to bag a few seats. Safina, FORD Asili and Sisi kwa sisi each won two seats, while Shirikisho party won one seat.
Zachary Ochieng

However, there is a provision, which allows for the nomination of a total 12 MPs, depending on party strengths in the House. NARC will nominate seven MPs, KANU four and FORD-People one. Although NARC has a comfortable majority of 132 MPs in the 222-member House, it failed to garner the two- thirds majority of 148 members required to pass a constitutional amendment. Under the circumstances, it will rely on the support of certain opposition MPs in case of a debate on constitutional matters.

The election saw the falling of political titans, a clear indication that Kenyans were yearning for change. KANU had ruled the country for almost 40 years in which the economy performed dismally. Retired president Daniel arap Moi had been at the helm for 24 years and presided over one of the most corrupt governments. He had succeeded Jomo Kenyatta, who died in office in 1978 after ruling for 15 years.

The electorate could not hide its disenchantment this time round. At least 117 (65 per cent) of outgoing MPs lost their seats to newcomers. KANU had the highest number of election casualties, which included ten cabinet ministers. Among the prominent losers were former Vice-President Musalia Mudavadi, former cabinet ministers Julius Sunkuli, Katana Ngala,Cyrus Jirongo, Shariff Nassir, Mwangi Githiomi and Chris Obure.

Mudavadi earned himself the dubious distinction of being the Vice-president to have served the shortest term (two months) and the first one to lose a parliamentary seat. He was appointed to the post - which had lied vacant for two months after the sacking of George Saitoti - in an attempt to woo back his Luhya tribe to KANU, after they had ditched the party for NARC.

Among the losers in the opposition were Social Democratic Party’s (SDP) James Orengo, who was also a presidential contender as well as Chama cha Uma’s presidential torch bearer Waweru Ngethe. Analysts believe that both Ngala and Mudavadi lost because they backed out of the presidential race to support Uhuru Kenyatta yet their communities felt that they were also ripe for the highest office in the land.

In the presidential race, Mwai Kibaki led the pack with 3.6 million votes followed by Kenyatta with 1.8 million. The presidential contest had been reduced to a two horse race and the tallies of the other contenders, some of whom lost even at the constituency level, were not given prominence.

Since transitions are usually volatile periods, world attention was specifically focused on Kenya. As compared to the 1997 election when only 27000 observers were involved, the 2002 election attracted 43000 observers, including 3000 from the international community. The international observers came from the US Carter Centre, the Commonwealth, the European Union and the African Union.

The Commonwealth team led by Professor Adebayo Adedeji, the Carter Centre by Dr Kenneth Kaunda and the European Union by Mr Anders Wijkman all expressed satisfaction with the election results. Said Prof. Adedeji : "Parties were able to campaign actively in far more peaceful and conducive atmosphere than in previous elections. The election was a true reflection of the will of Kenyans".

Besides the tumbling of giants, the election also brought good news to the womenfolk. At least nine women were elected to parliament, the largest so far in the country’s parliamentary history. NARC elected 8 while KANU sent in one.

They are Prof. Wangari Maathai - a leading environmentalist, Martha Karua, Charity Ngilu, Beth Mugo, Linah Kilimo - a leading gender activist, Dr Christine Mango - a university lecturer, Nyiva Mwendwa - the first woman cabinet minister and Alicen Chelaite - former Nakuru mayor. KANU’s only elected woman MP is Dr Naomi Shabaan - a dentist.

The new cabinet announced by President Mwai Kibaki has also the largest number of women in the country’s history. Three women were appointed cabinet ministers and another three assistant ministers. The ministers are Kilimo (Office of the Vice-President), Ngilu (Health) and Karua (Water Resources). The assistant ministers are Maathai (Environment and natural resources), Mugo (Information and tourism) and Betty Tett (Local government). A new ministry of gender was also created to take care of the gender issues.

In a clear departure from the Moi style of managing things, Kibaki kept his promise of trimming the cabinet. Unlike the previous government that had a cabinet of 28 ministers and 39 assistant ministers, the new cabinet has only 23 ministries with 24 cabinet ministers and the same number of assistant ministers.

The cabinet is all -inclusive, with every part of the country being represented. The ministers and their assistants have been appointed on merit, unlike in the previous government where such posts were mainly given to cronies and those considered loyal to the president.

The cabinet also bears a professional outlook, as appointments took into consideration one’s professional qualification. For instance, Raila Odinga, the Minister for public works, roads and housing is an engineer by profession. The information and tourism docket was given to Raphael Tuju, a media magnate, while the Finance ministry went to David Mwiraria, a seasoned economist.

Equally significant is the manner in which the cabinet was named. Kibaki named his cabinet at a press conference after which he fielded questions from journalists. The previous government used to make the appointments over the state owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) radio or by the roadside.

In a speech he read during his inauguration on December 30 at Nairobi’s Uhuru park, Kibaki said: "The era of roadside policy declarations is gone. My government’s decisions will be guided by team work and consultations".

The speech came as a surprise to Moi who had in his farewell speech praised Kibaki as a man of courage and integrity, and expected the same compliments from Kibaki. Said Moi to Kenyans: "You have exercised your democratic rights in a mature and peaceful way. You are a credit to your country, you have demonstrated to the world that Africa can manage its own destiny without disruption".

But Kibaki was very blunt in his speech. He added: "I am inheriting a country that has been badly ravaged by years of misrule and ineptitude". Sitting beside Kibaki, a visibly crestfallen Moi bowed his head in shame as the regional leaders who were in attendance watched.

They included Tanzania’s president Benjamin Mkapa, Uganda’s Yoweri museveni, Zambia’s Levi Mwanawasa, Rwanda’s Prime Minister Bernard Makuza and South Africa’s first lady Mrs Zanele Mbeki, who represented her husband Thabo Mbeki.

When the regional heads of state tried to praise Moi for presiding over a smooth transition, the crowd of more than 500000 booed and heckled them, causing more embarrassment to Moi. Moi then cancelled his scheduled lunch with Kibaki at State House and hurriedly welcomed Kibaki to the new office, after which he left for his Kabarak Farm in two helicopters.

As the new government settles down to work, one of the major challenges will be the provision of free primary education - a pledge that NARC made during the campaigns. When schools opened on January 6, confusion reigned as several parents flocked schools with children, some of whom did not even have books or uniform. The teachers had a rough time trying to convince parents that all the vacancies had been filled up.

As predicted by analysts even before the elections, a rift has already emerged in NARC, with 25 MPs complaining that they were given a raw deal in the cabinet appointments. The 25 MPs, all from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) - one of the major parties that constitute NARC - claimed that Kibaki breached a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which provided that 50 per cent of the cabinet posts be given to LDP MPs.

Mbita MP Otieno Kajwang warned: "The faith NARC members had in the president would be eroded if he fails to meet his side of the bargain". According to Kajwang, the National Alliance of Kenya (NAK) was given 15 cabinet posts as opposed to LDP’s 8. But their criticism of the new government was received with anger, with some Kenyans telling the dissatisfied MPs to "swallow their pride and shut up".

According to the vice-president Wamalwa Kijana, the differences are "mere teething problems which will soon be sorted out". NARC, a conglomeration of 15 political parties that came together to dislodge KANU from power was bound to have such problems as it comprises groups with diverse interests.

A political scientist Mutahi Ngunyi said: "This was to be expected. A number of people played a key role in NARC’s victory and they would obviously expect to be rewarded with cabinet appointments. All said and done, you cannot have everybody on the cabinet".

Also at the centre of controversy is whether NARC should dissolve to form a single political party. Although summit leaders like Kibaki and Odinga are for the idea, LDPs MPs seem opposed to it. "The issue of merger does not arise", said Kisumu town West MP Job Omino, adding "LDP had not discussed the possibility of a merger".

As NARC continues to grapple with these teething problems, the party’s detractors doubt the ability of the president and his vice to perform, given their health conditions. Kibaki is presently confined to a wheelchair following injuries sustained in a motor accident in December.

He broke his upper right arm, sprained his right ankle and also suffered a hairline neck fracture. He was admitted to a London hospital for ten days and was unable to campaign upon his return on December 14. Wamalwa was also admitted to the same hospital with kidney complications. However, doctors say that Kibaki will soon be on his feet.

But what analysts predict with a degree of precision is a weak parliament, given that this is the first time KANU is going to sit on the unfamiliar opposition benches. Most of the KANU members are newcomers, as veterans were beaten either at the primaries or the main election.

Uhuru Kenyatta, the leader of the official opposition is also inexperienced as compared to his predecessor, Kibaki. It is highly doubted whether this kind of opposition will keep the government on its toes.

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