Don’t forget how hard Kenya’s politicians are working to hold the country back . . .

While the Sudan referendum and the Ugandan election take center stage, it is important not to forget that Kenya’s parliament is deadlocked on taking the necessary steps to move forward on implementation of the new constitution and that the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission has not been revived. ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo will be in Nairobi this week for meetings ahead of his planned public submission of request for indictments of key instigators of the 2008 post-election violence (necessitated by the Kenyan leadership’s unwillingness to implement local tribunals).

The Standard reports on more talk by Rift Valley MPs of a Ruto-Uhuru alliance for the 2012 elections. Thus the two most prominently identified suspects in organizing the potion of the post-election violence carried out by private militias would unite.

Capital FM reports that Prime Minister Raila Odinga has called for the arrest of gays at a rally Sunday in Kibera.

And the Nation says that it has seen the secret U.S. dossier on Kenyan drug lords:

The report seen by the Nation says Kenya is not only a significant transit country for cocaine, heroin and hashish, but also a money-laundering hub.

“Quantities of heroin and hashish transiting in Kenya, mostly from Southwest Asia bound for Europe and United States have markedly increased in recent years,” the report adds.

The International Narcotics Strategy Report, that reviewed 2009 drug trafficking and money laundering in Kenya, blames lack of resources and rampant corruption for the two vices.

Kenya’s financial system, the report adds, may be laundering more than Sh80 billion ($100 million) each year, including an undetermined amount of drug money and Somali piracy earnings.

It indicates that money laundering continues unabated, despite Parliament passing the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Law, 2009, which was signed by President Kibaki on December 31, 2009.

However, the law has not come into force because the Ministry of Finance has not gazetted its commencement date although the Act indicates that such date shall not exceed six months after the date of assent.
. . . .
The report accused former anti-corruption boss Aaron Ringera, former Police boss Major-General (Rtd) Hussein Ali and the director of Police Training College Peter Kavila of frustrating investigations into the matter. Both have denied the accusations, with Mr Ringera threatening to sue the newspapers for defamation.

Parliament has put the Executive under pressure accusing it of not taking the war on narcotics seriously. MPs are now demanding that names of the senior government officers banned from travelling to the US be made public.

Internal Security assistant minister Orwa Ojodeh told Parliament on Thursday that he could not reveal the names because he was yet to receive the information from the US embassy.

On Sunday, the envoy declined to comment on the matter. He said he would give an official statement on the matter this week.

Independent sources told the Nation that those affected are three MPs — one each from Coast, Central and Eastern provinces.

Wetangala Resigns

Tom Maliti has the AP story on the Foreign Minister’s resignation here.

NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenya’s foreign minister said Wednesday he is resigning to allow investigations into allegations of a multimillion dollar scandal involving five Kenyan embassies in Africa, Europe and Asia.

Moses Wetangula’s announcement came less than an hour before parliament was to continue debate on a committee report that investigated the sale or purchase of Kenyan embassies, land and other property in Belgium, Egypt, Japan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

The committee said Wetangula deliberately misinformed them about the transactions and called for him to step aside. The report’s most serious allegation is that Kenya paid too much money for land to build a new embassy in Tokyo. It claims Kenya lost 1.1. billion shillings ($14.2 million) in the transaction.

"I want to tell Kenyans with a clear conscience that this afternoon I have made the personal decision to step aside from my responsibility and appointment as minister of foreign affairs," Wetangula said in a televised statement shortly after his most senior bureaucrat resigned.

The suspension of William Ruto to face January trial over an old KANU era land deal has obviously been major news, but Ruto has obviously made himself a target for both Kibaki and Raila, who both continued to do business with him during the years this case has been outstanding. The arrest of Nairobi’s mayor, at the instance of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, over the city’s recent purchase of unsuitable land at an apparently inflated price, and the activism in Parliament on the embassy deals leading to Wetangala’s resignation suggest something more, a willingness to act against current corruption in real time. There seems to be a contrast here with the handling of the primary education funding and maize scandals under the Government of National Unity pre-referendum.

It is vital not to overreact to "the news of the day" on these systemic issues in Kenya, but I do think this seems hopeful.

Kenyan voters have again spoken peacefully in large turnout, and are being heard this time

Again, to me the most important thing about the constitutional referendum has been to let Kenyans make up their minds, decide, vote and most importantly see the process honored in a transparent manner that builds trust and confidence. This appears to be in the process of happening with official results due tomorrow. Ruto, a most visible champion of dissent from the circus at the Electoral Commission of Kenya in the December 2007 general election, a suspect in the investigations of post-election violence, and a mobilizing leader of the “No” campaign, has accepted the outcome based on a transparent process.

While the promise and challenge of democratic reform through a better legal framework remains very much a work in process, the right to vote and have those votes counted in a transparent manner appears to have been restored. This is a very important good thing and worth a moment to cherish.

Referendum campaign coverage relects tenions, challenges

Daily Nation “Khadi court focus of groups’ opposition to new Kenya law”

Kevin J. Kelly reviews the American “culture wars” angle. My take: I hope everyone who cares enough to get deeply involved in the campaign on the Kenyan constitution cares enough to say, live in Kenya for awhile. Kenya’s need for a new constitution has been clear enough that both sides made it a major campaign pledge and constitutional reform was a key commitment of the mediation settlement forming the Government of National Unity. It would seem to be a matter of bad timing that the referedum has coincided with heighted tension on certain “contentious issues” from outside on a globalized basis–as well as with the shift of focus by key politicians to their tactics for the 2012 campaign.

Daily Nation “Crowd heckles Rutp at ‘No’ rally”

Standard “Church leaders declare support for proposed law”

“We want Kenyans to know that churches in Nyeri are in support of the draft constitution, and the clergy who are traversing the country campaigning for the ‘Reds’ are not genuine,” said Githinji.

Stand firm

In a statement read by Pastor Joshua Wambugu of the AIPCA church, the leaders admitted the draft had flaws, but noted that only a few sections were contentious.

“We cannot therefore reject the whole document just because of the Kadhi courts, the abortion clause and the section on lands,” he said.

“Kenyans should stand firm and say yes to this law without fear. Most political leaders, among them President Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka have supported the draft. This is an indication that Kenya can see a new dawn on August 4,” said Wachira Kimotho from the PCEA.

Kieni MP Nemesyus Warugongo, who convened the meeting, warned Christians against being swayed by their church leaders.

“Christians should decide for themselves, without letting their leaders dictate to them how to vote,” said Warugongo.

Standard “Referendum race hots up as Commission warns hecklers”

Standard “Claims by ‘No’ camp against U.S. Ambassador are distortions of the truth”

Continuing Witness Fears as Ocampo due in Kenya Saturday

ICC Chief Prosecutor Louis Moreno-Ocampo will spend five days in Kenya, including visits with victims and to areas most affected by post election violence, and a public question-and-answer session, along with civil society, religious and business groups. He has also offered to meet with those who believe they may be unfairly identified as suspects.

In the meantime, the EU envoys have spoken out against a continuing climate of fear for potential witnesses. A variety of reports indicate a pattern of intimidation and threats against prospective witnesses, and concerns have been raised about leaks of witness identities from within the Kenya National Human Rights Commission which has done much of the initial investigative work on the violence. A former senior official of the Kenyan Administration Police is said to be among those who have fled the country for safety in the absence of an effective witness protection program in Kenya.

The Indian Ocean Newsletter reported that Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta hosted a meeting with Ministers William Ruto and Najib Balala at his Nairobi residence April 4 “to agree their stories for the ICC.”

Raila Bumps Ruto to Higher Education, Science and Technology; Kibaki gets to add Transportation Ministry to Kimunya

“Ruto moved as Raila cracks whip in ODM” headlines the Daily Nation

You might think that Higher Education, Science and Technology would be pretty important for Kenya’s future–and you would be right. But, the Nation is good enough to explain that Agriculture is the plum post because it controls 30 parastatals, whereas Higher Ed, Science and Technology only controls three.

OK, so now we investigate the Maize Scandal, anyone, please . . .

Of course, Hon. Kimunya now gets to bring his standards to Transportation, since no accountability has yet to attach to the Grand Regency Hotel sale scandal. Kibaki cronies have key interests in common carriers in Nairobi.

In a related story, “Raila shaping his political forces for 2012 election”, the Nation asserts:

The power struggle started with Cabinet and other government appointments, was amplified by the fierce opposition to the PM’s drive to clear the Mau forest of illegal encroachment and has seemingly come to a head with the two taking divergent positions on the new constitution.

But for Mr Odinga, taking Mr Ruto down a peg because of the issues they have differed on might be secondary to the longer-term goal of shaping his political forces ahead of 2012 elections.

Continue reading

Kenyan Parliament breaks deadlock–ODM drops Ruto from key Committee

“Breaking News” story from the Daily Nation. In a nutshell it would seem that PM Odinga was able to assert leadership within ODM in the face of opposition from Ruto and Balala, and the Parliament overall broke a deadlock and is position now to take up substantive business, to the extent that it choses.

Going forward, it seems hard not to expect Ruto to formally break from ODM but probably not during this session of Parliament. Parliament will again be faced with a “local tribunal” bill on the post-election violence, but I would think it is unlikely to move. While the ICC awaits further submission from Ocampo early next month to explain why the Court should authorize an investigation of key suspects, visions of complete immunity must be dancing in the heads of the perpetrators.

Bishop Tutu has come out against Kiplagat on the Truth Commission, as the leader of a group of nine former heads of such groups, saying they are seriously troubled by a range of allegations against the Ambassador. Perhaps replacing him would provide “meat” to those who care about human rights, the ICC will pass, and the VP and others who have called for the Commission approach in lieu of legal action can have their day, and the suspects can focus more comfortably on the next election.

Kenyan Parliament Opens Tuesday

The opening of Parliament promises to showcase the political wrangling toward 2012, as well as the key thing that Members seem to be fully dependable on: salary and expense increases. The most important business, consideration of a new constitution, will kick off with the delivery of the latest “harmonized draft” from the Committee of Experts to the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution on Wednesday, with the Committee to then table the draft on the 25th for 30 days of debate.

The opening ceremony will feature the opportunity for President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga to be in the same room at the same time under strained circumstances–a bit of a reprise of the opening of the first session of this 10th Parliament back in 2008. Of course, at that time Odinga was the leader of ODM as the majority party that proceeded to elect the Speaker in during the contested post-election period, whereas he is now Kibaki’s “partner” in the Grand Coalition, and Prime Minister, at least on paper.

PNU stalwarts seek to challenge ODM by moving to change house rules to provide to the President the unilateral power to appoint the leader of government business, with the intent that Kibaki would then appoint VP Kalonzo Musoyka, the erstwhile leader of the ODM-K. See my post with the choice words Kalonzo had for the performance of Kibaki when he was running for the ODM nomination back in the summer of 2007. This will of course raise the question of whether Agriculture Minister Ruto, having been “suspended” by Prime Minister Odinga and “unsuspended” by President Kibaki remains in a meaningful sense aligned with ODM, of which he holds a deputy position, or sides with Kalonzo and Uhuru Kenyatta and others on the PNU side of the “Grand Coaliton”. A move to add to the unilateral powers of the Presidency, in regard to the Parliament, is also an interesting element in terms of what Kenyans might expect in regard to a new constitution.

Parliament is also to take up the matter of finally appointing a new head of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission in the face of renewed public and diplomatic pressure on corruption.

Here are the stories from the government’s KBC, the Daily Nation, and the Standard.

Not a festive season within ODM or Grand Coalition Cabinet

Here is a tough challenge to Ruto in the Nairobi Star . Note that the author has identified himself as “Raila’s adviser for coalition affairs and joint secretary to the Permanent Committee on the Management of Grand Coalition Affairs” while describing Ruto’s background as an anti-reformer in KANU Youth 92, saying he became wealthy without explantion of the sources, questioning the basis for his objection to trying post-election violence suspects pursuant to the Waki report and questioning what he has actually done to uphold the rights of youth who may have been unfairly targeted in the post-election arrests.

In the meantime, Ruto continues as Minister for Agriculture, a portfolio that ought to matter a great deal right now as far as the welfare of the public and the overall effectiveness of the Coalition Government.

It seems to me that the internal tension within the Government will only continue to escalate for some time going forward. Absent a decision by the ICC to stand down it is hard to see the split between Odinga and Ruto being papered over–while at the same time two of the leading figures on the Kibaki/PNU side of the coalition, Uhuru and Kalonzo, are floating alliances with Ruto.

And today the Standard reports that Speaker Marende has stated in Western Province his intention to run for President himself in the coming election.

The one constant seems that all of the key figures in government have their eyes on issues much beyond doing their immediate jobs.