power-play in public appointments in kenya

It emerges that Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga wanted President Kibaki to appoint a foreigner to head the judiciary. This can only mean one of two things: either (i) Mr. Odinga wants a super clean judiciary that will interpret the law in a disinterested manner or (ii) he thinks that the Kibaki-PNU faction is so strong that they will be able to buy off any local judge appointed to head the judiciary.

Because Mr. Odinga or his allies could potentially find themselves facing the judiciary in the future, I don’t think it is the former concern that is motivating the Premier. It must be the case that he realizes he has no way of locally dealing with the Kibaki-PNU faction, except through name-and-shame games and other sanctions involving foreigners. To compensate for the fact that he cannot contain the Kibaki-PNU coalition politically, Mr. Odinga is hoping he can do so via independent institutions.

What does this mean for Kenyan democracy? It means that it is not yet Uhuru. As long as there is a faction in the country that can do whatever it wants under a “wapende wasipende” mentality Kenya will remain a democracy in name only. True democracy will only come once all factions involved realize that the country belongs to all Kenyans and that they cannot get away with subordinating the interests of regular Kenyans to those of a few ethnic chiefs.

The man to blame for all of this is Kalonzo Musyoka. Mr. Musyoka is bad for Kenyan democracy because he is the all important median veto player, but lacks principles. Because his support gives either side the needed majority he remains the biggest stumbling block to any compromise arrangements that might ensure that regular Kenyans truly benefit from the new constitutional dispensation. Kibaki does not need to negotiate with Odinga as long as he has Kalonzo on his side. But given Mr. Odinga’s political clout, good and lasting institutions will only emerge if Kibaki and Odinga arrive at a self-enforcing arrangement.

Mr. Musyoka initially campaigned against the new constitution. Mr. Musyoka has been at the forefront of efforts to protect perpetrators of the 2007-8 post-elections violence that killed over 1300 Kenyans. Mr. Musyoka continues to stand on the wrong side of Kenya’s reform agenda. Given the recent comments from Francis Atwoli, the trade union leader, it is encouraging that Kenyans are cognizant of these facts.

president kibaki’s weird move

President Kibaki has done quite a few good things for Kenya. He will be remembered as the president who did away with the oligarchic constitution that Kenya inherited from the Brits at independence.

That said, his recent move to appoint constitutional office holders in the justice system without consultation raises serious questions about his commitment to Kenya’s reform agenda. And it is not simply about his failure to consult the ODM in making the appointments. Mr. Kibaki ignored due process stated in the constitution. Appointments to the judiciary are required to originate from the judicial service commission.

Also, why appoint Ruto’s lawyer to be director of public prosecutions? Didn’t anyone at Harambee House see the obvious questions that would arise? As Macharia Gaitho notes:

If the Kenya Government – or rather President Kibaki’s PNU axis – is to convince anyone that it has the will to establish a truly independent local tribunal, then it could not do much worse than nominate a lawyer for one of the Ocampo Six as Director of Public Prosecutions.