15 February 2013

Africa: Coalition Govts Undesirable for Africa - Kenya Delegation

A VISITING Kenyan civil society delegation has said coalition governments are undesirable for Africa as they are expensive and tend to increase the power of the elites over the masses.

The delegation that is on an Utetezi Exchange Programme was sharing with local civil society and artists experiences, lessons and challenges from the governments of national unity in Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Like Zimbabwe, Kenya has a coalition government made up of Orange Democratic Movement leader and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and Party of National Unity leader and incumbent President Mwai Kibaki.

The unity government was formed in the aftermath of ethnic political violence following flawed and controversial presidential elections in 2007.

A member of the visiting delegation Maina Muhia said coalition governments usually did not deliver as they emanate from conflict-ridden processes.

"Coalition governments are very expensive because they comprise a party that was already in power and those planning to take over power who look for funding from day one to eventually become the ruling party," said Muhia.

"Those who have just got into power would not have tasted that power before and, as they say, power corrupts. They work and seek funds for their next election campaigns, which is not good for the people. Developments is hamstrung; there are too many arguments and passing of bills is slow."

The Kenyan delegation however said their coalition government brought about checks and balances not provided for in the previous government, while local civil society felt Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was more of a junior partner in the countey's Government of National Unity.

Harare Residents Trust director Precious Shumba said: "Coalition governments are good for ending direct conflict. They have however proved to be very expensive to the masses. In the current set-up politicians make decisions and release statements like they are speaking on behalf of the nation when they are actually serving their interests."

Muhia said reconciliation in Kenya has been ongoing for the past 25 years at different levels due to ethnic conflicts which intensify after every five years during elections.

"In 1992, it was politically connected people coming together to talk about reconciliation. Then it was politically connected tribal chiefs who came together. These efforts flopped as they did did not last for even a year.

"The reconciliation meetings did not have a time frame, compensation and permanent membership. Reconciliation only succeeded when less politicians were involved," said Muhia.

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