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Highs And Lows of Kibaki's Tenure At Kenya's Helm
[December 30, 2007]

Highs And Lows of Kibaki's Tenure At Kenya's Helm

(The Nation (Kenya) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) The euphoric crowds that turned up at Uhuru Park in December 2002 to witness the inauguration of President Mwai Kibaki as Kenya's third President had grown disillusioned within three months over the contentious memorandum of understanding that LDP said had not been honoured.

President Kibaki's baritone in which he declared that the old ways of doing business had ended had been replaced by his silence amid the protests that were to characterise his government for about three years before he fired the "rebel" ministers after the November 2005 referendum.

First to rock the Narc boat were murmurs about the MoU signed between the National Alliance Party of Kenya and Mr Raila Odinga's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Then it was an all out war that played itself out in the Narc coalition, on the floor of Parliament, at Bomas during debate on the proposed constitution and eventually in political rallies.

Tumultuous times

But the Government seemed destined for tumultuous times when a plane carrying several Cabinet ministers and MPs crashed at the Busia airstrip as it took off for Nairobi after the newly-elected leaders attended a homecoming party for Funyula MP Moody Awori.

One minister, Mr Ahmed Khalif, perished in the crash while others were injured. Later in the first year, other Cabinet ministers who died were Mr Geoffrey Parpai, Mr Karisa Maitha and President Kibaki's first vice-president, Mr Michael Kijana Wamalwa.

The pall of death was made worse by squabbles and a fallout in the Government as LDP claimed to have been short-changed in appointments to the Cabinet and the government.

It was also a trying moment for the President who was recovering from a debilitating road accident during the 2002 campaigns.

Anglo Leasing scandal

In the months when he was indisposed, his key allies seemed to take advantage to plant their cronies in government positions. Soon, the chicken would come home to roost and some were implicated in the Anglo Leasing scandal that was to dent the Government's commitment to fight corruption.

The scandal threw the government into a spin as it touched the President's closest allies, including the then minister for Internal Security, Dr Chris Murungaru, Vice-President Moody Awori and the then Finance minister, Mr David Mwiraria among others.

Having been elected on a platform of zero-tolerance to corruption, the scandal dealt a big blow to Narc's fledgling government.

The President dealt with the aftershocks of the scandal by sacking technocrats implicated in the shady deals, but not the politicians who were associated with the multi-billion shilling scandal.

Three years later, no one has been brought to book over the scandal while some of the contracts eventually ended up in local and international courts.

As part of his cleaning up, President Kibaki suspended two of his Cabinet ministers, fired some permanent secretaries and senior civil servants and took some to court. But he later re-appointed one of the ministers.

Within months, his PS for ethics and governance, Mr John Githongo, fled into self-exile in Britain from where he kept on releasing snippets of information regarding the Anglo Leasing scandal.

While some of the 18 Anglo-Leasing type contracts were initiated by the Kanu administration, six were signed between January 2003 and May 2004.

But it was not just corruption that has been Narc's Achilles heel. The quest for a constitution eluded the President for his entire tenure at State House.

While he had promised to deliver the new document within 100 days of assuming power, his Government soon ran into problems when the Cabinet was split down the middle.

The death of his first vice-president in August 2003 and quarrels in his coalition put paid to a credible process to give Kenyans a new constitution.

It therefore came as no surprise in 2005 when the LDP wing of the Cabinet, led by Mr Odinga, rebelled and ran a high profile campaign together with the opposition Kanu and defeated the proposed constitution in November of the same year.

In the wake of the fall-out, the President cracked the whip and fired the rebellious ministers who included Mr Odinga, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Najib Balala, Prof Anyang Nyong'o and Mrs Linah Jebii Kilimo. The "rebels" chose to stick together and transformed the Orange movement into a political party named the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

Meanwhile, security around the country continued to deteriorate. Organised gangs, including the outlawed Mungiki sect, wrecked havoc in Nairobi and parts of Central province, killing tens of civilians and police officers.

In the wake of criticism on the Government's inability to crack down on Mungiki, the police formed a special squad known as Kwekwe to deal with the deteriorating situation.

Providing security, which was one of the key pledges President Kibaki made to Kenyans as he campaigned in 2002, was tested with the clashes in Mt Elgon and Kuresoi.

Thousands of families remain displaced in these two areas while farming and schooling has been disrupted by the violence.

But if the government failed on these fronts, it performed well in its pledge to offer free primary education and revive the economy. While there was chaos when free primary education was initiated in January 2003, Education minister George Saitoti has attempted to streamline it. However, the programme still faces teething problems, including lack of adequate teachers to handle the increased number of pupils. But to its credit, the programme has enabled children who had no opportunity of ever entering a class to have an education.

If the offer is extended to secondary schools, then it has the potential to break the cycle of poverty that confines access to education to those who can afford it.

However, it is on the economy that President Kibaki has given much of his attention after pledging to have it growing at seven percentage points in five years.

Although his opponents claim that the growth was not reflected in improved lives for Kenyans, the country is clearly showing signs of recovery.

Industries which had collapsed, including the Kenya Co-operative Creameries (KCC) and Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) have been revived.

Infrastructure and rural electrification have been enhanced in the last five years of the Kibaki presidency. This formed part of his re-election agenda.

Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media. (

Copyright 2007 The Nation (Kenya), Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media , Source: The Financial Times Limited

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