So near but yet so far

Kenya might be edging towards a settlement but its leaders are going to have to work hard to make it meaningful. The head of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Raila Odinga, is still holding out for a change in the constitution that would create a prime minister’s post.

Kenya might be edging towards a settlement but its leaders are going to have to work hard to make it meaningful. The head of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Raila Odinga, is still holding out for a change in the constitution that would create a prime minister’s post. Odinga assumes he would be this figure in a transitional government and that half his cabinet would be party colleagues. In return, he would drop objections to Mwai Kibaki staying on as president until new elections in two years’ time. The president would remain “Head of state”, but with reduced powers. The prime minister would become “head of government”, answerable to parliament.

The world seems to support such a unity government. President Bush during his Africa tour stressed the need for “real” power sharing. It is the obvious solution to the violence that has gripped the country since the presidential election in December, which has seen the deaths of some 1,000 Kenyans and the displacement of more than 300,000.

If present talks fail, Odinga has promised more “mass action”. But even if a settlement is reached, Kenya is by no means in the clear.

A new government will have to exclude those hardliners and financiers who since independence have become accustomed to a near monopoly on power and wealth. Will they leave without a fight?

What’s more, a divided executive may make Kenya more unstable, especially if the division is along ethnic lines.

So while the two parties might be “more or less agreed on power sharing”, the promise of peace and stability remains out of reach.
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