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THE MOI SUCCESSION
DEBATE;OR IS IT?

Feb 17th 2002

As the curtain draws down on President Moi's leadership, and with the fast approaching 2002 General Elections, it is high time Kenyans began pondering about a post-Moi Kenya. The Moi-succession debate has taken center-stage in Kenya's political circles, but the question that eludes many Kenyans is whether this is even a succession in the first place. If you look at it closely you will find that leadership in Kenya has been an in-house affair since independence in 1963. In other words, it has revolved around some families of the prominent freedom fighters during the struggle for independence. They often appear to be at loggerheads with each other on many issues, but when it comes down to it, they are all just part of an extended "royal family". The names that come to mind are the Kenyattas, the Mois, the Odingas and so on. Most Kenyans for example still remember vividly how Raila Odinga, his father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga or even Kenneth Matiba for that matter, opposed President Moi prior to the 1992 Multi-Party General Elections. If there were people you could bet your life on never to see eye to eye with President Moi, the names Raila and Matiba came to mind. But recent events in Kenya's political scene have raised some serious questions as regards the relationship between President Moi and some of his former fiercest opponents. The case in question is that of Raila's new found partnership with Moi's ruling party KANU.

Raila has become a very close ally of President Moi in a partnership that he argues is beneficial not only to his Luo community that has suffered chronic marginalisation by the KANU government ever since his father broke ranks with President Jomo Kenyatta, but to the entire country as a whole. Ever since his National Development Party(NDP), entered into a political "marriage" with KANU, Raila has become so close to President Moi, that he recently appointed him Kenya's Energy Minister, a very powerful position, with promises of other appointments for members of his NDP party. His name is even being touted as a strong contender in President Moi's succession race. Other names that have been floated include Kenyatta and Matiba's sons, all part of the "extended royal family". Another wild-card in the race is the Democratic Party chairman Mwai Kibaki. Kibaki was President Moi's loyal Vice-President for an extended period of time, up until his surprising move in 1991 to part with KANU and form his own party(DP). These people are rich, wield a lot of clout, and no matter how you want to look at it, are pretty much the same goods, just packaged differently. It is my honest belief that if any of them were to ascend to the Presidency, it will just be a case of new wine in old wine-skins, and they will be nothing but puppets of the real power barons.

I think I speak for most Kenyans when I say we need many genuine political reforms, constitutional or otherwise. These reforms need to be reflective of the Kenyan situation and benefit ordinary Kenyans out there. I fear that with such political inheritors, genuine reforms will be very hard to achieve. Most Kenyans are looking forward to the upcoming General Elections, not necesarily to see a new face at the helm, but more importantly, with a hope that a new political environment will be put in place that can foster meaningful change. This can only be achieved if we get a leader outside the "royal family" who will be responsive to the needs of all Kenyans and not just his elite family members. It is sad to note however that the battle for Moi's succession has boiled down to a race between the "heirs" to the "royal family" throne. With the names of Raila Odinga and the sons of Kenyatta and Matiba being suggested, the genuineness of this whole reform debate is called into question. Its becoming more and more apparent as the 2002 General Elections draw closer that some politicians who were formely perceived to be strongly opposed to the KANU government are closely alligning themselves with it. Could there be a hidden collusion between these political opponents? I mean are they just taking innocent reform-minded Kenyans for a ride and playing them against each other for their selfish political gains? I seriously hope not because Kenyans have fought for genuine political reforms, with some even paying the ultimate price with their lives while attending unlicensed political rallies. It is for this reason that leaders like Raila Odinga, who have become President Moi's new friends need to make sure that such collaboration is in the larger interests of Kenyans who want meaningful changes. It would be quite selfish and unfair for Raila to forget all those who have been behind him when he was fighting for political changes in the country. While Kenyans have a lot of respect for the country's founding fathers, and strongly admire their children, it is time for Kenya to move on. Kenya needs a new leader who will usher us into the 21st century and make us a competitive force in the world market. Such a leader has to be the product of a truly free and fair elections. Such a leader will come to office with no strings attached and will therefore work for the benefit of ordinary Kenyans and create genuine political reforms.

Kenyans however need to realise that just electing a leader outside the "royal family" connection might only constitute half of the solution to our problems. Only a constitutional reform accompanying such a transition can assure us the kind of reforms we want. This is because, contrary to the popular notion that African leaders are just dictators by nature, it is the kinds of constitutions they inherit that make them so. I think most African constitutions grant the President such immense powers that they end up being more or less like the ancient Kings rather than democratically elected leaders. With such powers it becomes very hard for them to be responsive to the needs of the ordinary Kenyans or tolerate any kind of opposition to their rule. Without a proper constitution in place, it makes little difference who fills the office. A very good example is in the case of Zambia where President Chiluba, an outsider, defeated veteran President Kenneth Kaunda promising to transform Zambia into a truly democratic country and foster economic growth. Well, I am not an expert in Zambia's politics but the fact that former President Kaunda attracted such a huge following in the run-up to the country's last General Elections only goes to show that there is a feeling amongst most Zambians that they might have been wrong to vote him out of office in the first place. Chiluba, sensing defeat by the former president flexed his political muscle effectively locking out Kaunda from the Presidential race, which he went on to win. I think this was yet another case of an African President wielding too much power, and using or abusing it for his own selfish interests. A system of separation of powers as is practised in the US, and other western nations would be a good starting point because it would force the President to engage other opposition leaders rather than power over them. The combative opposition politics as we know it today would gradually fizzle out because with separation of powers, everyone would feel part of the family. The country can then benefit from constructive opposition politics and not just senseless rebellion as has been the case. Opposition politicians will be forced to come up with sensible alternatives or else risk becoming irrelevant in the eyes of the public.

In closing, I would like to make this final point. Nobody is saying that its wrong for any Kenyan politician to work closely with President Moi. In fact I think its a positive step forward if Kenyan politicians can actually sit down together and have dialogue to solve their problems. What I am totally oppossed to is the idea of politicians coming to power purpoting to champion Kenyan's demands for political change only to abandon everything for their selfish interests. That is not only wrong but a blatant insult to innocent Kenyans, some of whom have put their lives on the line in an effort to secure a better Kenya for future generations. So Raila, and other opposition leaders who find it necesary to throw their weight behind KANU should remember what put them where they are today. Their partnership with KANU should not be used to compromise the reforms Kenyans desire for the country, otherwise they will be big failures and history will not treat them very kindly. Kenya is in dire need for some meaningful constitutional reforms and it is upon leaders like Raila to ensure that such reforms are achieved, whether they are working with KANU or not. I think Kenyans have been cheated on by politicians for a long time and its time we stood up and rooted out leaders who use us only to abuse us later.

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