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April 19 - 25, 2013


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End of coalition government to enhance accountability: experts

The opposition will also check on the government’s excesses unlike in the previous regime where there was no opposition in parliament

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenyan scholars on Wednesday said that the end of the country’s coalition government will enhance accountability in public affairs.

Africa Policy Institute (API) President Professor Peter Kagwanja told journalists in Nairobi the county’s democracy suffered a setback due to the impact of the power sharing deal reached after the 2007 post election violence.

The new [Uhuru] Kenyatta administration was elected on the basis on its manifestos and so it will be judged on how it implements them,” Kagwanja said during a forum to review the manner in which democracy was exercised during last month presidential polls.

The day long event brought election experts from Kenya to discuss Kenya’s path towards achieving full democracy.

The opposition will also check on the government’s excesses unlike in the previous regime where there was no opposition in parliament,” the head of API said.

The 51-year-old Kenyatta was sworn in for a five-year term as Kenya’s new president on Tuesday, thereby ending the ten-year presidency of Mwai Kibaki and the five-year tenure of the coalition government formed after the bitterly disputed 2007 election.

Kenyatta’s inauguration followed a Supreme Court ruling on March 30 that declared his victory over then Prime Minister Raila Odinga in the ballot on March 4, by a 50.7 percent to 43.3 percent margin, to be legitimate.

Political analysts said the relatively peaceful nature of the election and Odinga’s acceptance of the Supreme Court’s verdict - as well as the reduction in uncertainty - bodes well for political stability and investor confidence.

Moreover, they said Kenyatta will not have the untrammeled powers enjoyed by his predecessors and will need to work more closely with the other arms of government, including the National Assembly, a new Senate and 47 new counties, because of the reforms embodied in Kenya’s 2010 constitution.

Kagwanja noted that according to the results of the presidential polls, Kenya is now an inherently two party state as both the first and second placed parties or coalitions will be recognized by the government.

However, the opposition needs to be loyal to the constitution so that it is responsible for the national good,” he said.

The scholar said that if holding regular elections was a sign of democracy then, Kenya would have been among the most democratic nations in the world as it has held 11 elections since independence.

He added that the just concluded elections were held against a shadow of pessimism created by the 2007 post election violence.

From an intellectual point of view, they were conducted in an environment of political uncertainty,” he said.

Kagwanja noted that if the verdict of the Supreme Court on the validity of the just concluded presidential elections would have been disputed than the theory of anchoring democracy on rule of law could have collapsed.

While the politicians were divided along ethnic lines, the highest court of the land occupied the nationalists space as their unanimous decision indicated,” the API official said.

He said that since independence Kenya has battled between nationalism and ethnicity which revolves around the country’s 42 tribes. “This is global problem of democracy and there is need to balance the wishes of both the majority and minority groups,” he said.

National Conservative Forum (NCF) Founder Jennifer Shamalla said that 2013 general elections were a milestone towards Kenya’s democratization process.

She noted that the exercise was also the most expensive as voters were required to select leaders on six elective posts. “Kenya was therefore bold to hold the elections in one day,” she said.

Shamalla noted that most of Kenya’s democratic institutions are a work in progress and should be treated as such in order to solidify the openness. “Unfortunately, they are also heavily dependent on donor funds,” she said.

Shamalla, who is also an advocate, called for the civil society to continue to be seen as the cornerstone of democracy.

She noted that the democracy, Kenya is trying to implement is based on Western concepts instead of a mix blend that incorporates traditional governance systems.

The NCF founder added that the prospect of violence during the lections was real due to the proliferation of small arms in Kenya.

Elections Observation Group (ELOG) Chairman Kennedy Masime said that contrary to predictions, the elections were peaceful except for a few areas that experienced skirmishes.

He added that democracy should not be expensive to participate. “The idea is to make democracy attractive so that you don’t disfranchise any segment of the population,” he said.

The chairman decried the use of tribal based parties in elections. He noted that the civic education that was carried out before the polls was not only underfunded but began only a few months to the polling exercise.

This reduces the role of party ideologies by denying the electorate, the chance to vote on policies,” Masime, who is also the Executive Director of Centre for Governance and Development (CGD), said.

However, Kenyatta and Ruto both face (separate) pending trials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in mid-2013, on charges of fomenting widespread violence after the 2007 election.

This, analysts said will remain a key source of uncertainty and could disrupt government functioning. Although the defendants have promised to co-operate with the court, the cases will also complicate foreign policy, as most Western nations maintain a policy of having only “essential” contact with ICC suspects.


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