Kenya seems to be headed for more protests after the opposition refused to follow a government directive banning all political protests in the country following last month’s disputed elections.
Just yesterday the opposition in a show of strength forced through the election of Kenneth Marende over the government’s preferred candidate for the position of speaker of the national assembly, the third most powerful office in the land.
In anticipation of possible violence and looting, many shops are expected to remain closed on Wednesday and police have been deployed throughout the country to ensure that peace prevails and possibly to break-up any opposition marches.
Many analysts, activists and lawyers have asked the government to lift the ban it has imposed on the media and against political rallies as these bans are in clear violation of Kenyans’ freedom of speech and assembly.
Any reasonable person, from either side of the political divide, must find it very disturbing that the same people who less than a decade ago were fighting for free press and freedom of assembly are the ones who now issue statements banning rallies and live broadcasts with abandon. Things never really change. Just people.
President Kibaki has just announced a new cabinet. In his cabinet, he has included the Hon. Kalonzo as vice president and minister for home affairs. Also included in the cabinet are former members Michuki, Karua, Saitoti, Wetangula, Kimunya, Kiraitu, among others.
The announcement could not have come at a worse time. The country was just gearing for negotiations between Kibaki and the main opposition leader Raila. The nation had expected the president to show goodwill by not naming a cabinet until negotiations were underway. It is likely that the main opposition group, the ODM, which maintains it won the Dec. 27 polls will not take this announcement lying down.
By announcing his cabinet, or part of it – since he does not have enough “national” MPs, the president has shown that he is not taking the negotiation process seriously. He should realize that now is not the time to be partisan about matters. He ought to have waited until a solution was found out of the impasse that has gripped the country for nearly two weeks before forming a government.
This new development is likely to generate more heat in Kenya’s political climate. On Tuesday Raila refused to hold any talks with Kibaki unless the talks were mediated by an international observer. President Kofuor of Ghana is now likely to leave the country without any success as both sides dig in by taking confrontational rather than reconciliatory positions.