10 May 2012

Kenya: What Lies Ahead in This Final Season


The term of this government is about to end. And like the end of many things, its final days are promising to climax in a dramatic and charged soap opera. This is especially so because of the odd make up of the Grand Coalition and its inherent strains. It has been a case study in cohabitation for convenience rather than willful co-existence.

And because of the high stakes in the succession, a lot of things are likely to emerge in these final days, and even more in the first days of the administration that will be elected to office next year. In both the final days and the first days, scandals will begin to pop out of all the pores of the government like rats.

Competing factions in the battle for succession will work overtime to expose their opponents or even sabotage their work for political mileage. This is both good and bad for the country.

Good because we may finally get the opportunity to know the truth about some of the heart rending scandals that have remained buried by both sides of the coalition government for political expediency.

The Tuesday exchanges between Barrack Muluka and Kibisu Kabatesi, spokespeople of Raila Odinga and Musalia Mudavadi respectively, is a mock rehearsal of the kind of entertainment we should expect as gloves come off the knuckles of the combatants.

But we could miss all the juicy details unless the media put their ears to the ground and follow the leads. So, hitherto bosom buddies know a few things about each other, going many years back, that they have hidden from the public all this time? Should we take their claims seriously, or is this only a public punch-up of pure propaganda?

Apart from intra party squabbles, there are signs that this government is sitting on huge and embarrassing compromises with extreme repercussions on the future of the country.

Take for instance the awry De La Rue cash printing deal and all the conflicting statements by Central Bank and Treasury officials about what really transpired culminating in the government taking up shareholding in the Kenyan based plant. Or the reels of cinema that one can make out of Central Bank Governor Njuguna Ndungu's tenure and how his fiscal policies nearly took the country to the dogs.

In both cases, a lot of efforts have been put into stifling the truth, which whenever it peered its ugly head, would be snuffed out. There is no limit to what can be done to protect some secrets; documents are pulled out of reports destined to parliament, knowledgeable staff are fired or paid to shut up or simply moved aside, legislators are bought out to defeat legislation on the floor of the House or reject reports.

And the plot is thickening. Key positions will continue to he filled with friendly appointees, as Amos Kimunya has amply demonstrated, in blatant violation of the law.

Politically, all systems are being engaged to ensure that the status quo remains, while in the inner sanctums of government, strategists are detailed to take care of secrets of dirty deals lest they get out in case things don't go according to script.

The bid for power or its retention is getting extremely cruel, intense and nasty, and many are being conscripted unwittingly. The astounding revelations of theft of public funds at the National Hospital Insurance Fund may as well be nursery stuff in the fullness of time. Replicate that in all ministries and the picture of the Kenyan government as one huge monolith of corruption begins to emerge. The audit should not be limited to only the obvious; government-wide forensic audit of all projects is required to expose the full extent of rot in government tendering and procurement of services and goods. Ideally, that would require credible international agencies like the IMF and World Bank, but no. You understand why this administration has been systematically running away from dealing with its traditional Western allies and going to bed with China, which has no record of transparency, does not demand accountability from its satellite partners in the developing world, and its goods and services last only up to Class 3.

Let us marvel at the wonders of Chinese construction. Let us applaud the huge growth in tax collection by the Kenya Revenue Authority and how it has weaned us off reliance on Western donor aid. Lets celebrate the Kibaki model of development and Vision 2030 while it lasts. But don't go to sleep yet.

Makali is the director of The Media Institute and a political analyst.

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