Chris Kirubi

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Onsi Sawiris

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Why clerics view hybrid system as solution to political tension

by 07/10/2017 17:59:00 0 comments 1 Views
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This week, a grouping of bishops from protestant churches in Kenya made an interesting proposal which, if implemented, will drastically change the country’s political landscape.

To ease the political tensions and lessen the ethnic toxicity that characterise our elections, the bishops proposed that the Cabinet be expanded to accommodate political heavyweights who lose in these contests.

Under the umbrella of the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), the bishops said the Constitution, which allows the winner of a presidential election to take everything, will only polarise the country further.

“To resolve our underlying toxic relations, the leading politicians and political elite will need to face this underlying reality and address it in order to normalise relations and release our nation to pursue cohesion and integration,” said Canon Peter Karanja, the general secretary of the NCCK.

He was speaking at Jumuia Conference and Country Home in Limuru, where the bishops also proposed the facilitation and funding of the opposition, both at the county and national government levels, to help in oversight.

In essence, the bishops were calling for the abolishment of the current purely presidential system in favour of a hybrid one, a suggestion that will no doubt raise a fierce debate.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Jubilee Party accuses his main challenger in the October 26 presidential election, Raila Odinga and Nasa of trying to force a power-sharing deal after allegedly sensing defeat.

Mr Odinga has threatened to boycott the repeat election citing lack of goodwill to carry out his proposed reforms at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) before the repeat poll. Mr Odinga has accused IEBC of bungling the August poll.

However, President Kenyatta claims the Nasa candidate is trying to precipitate a political and constitutional crisis in order to force the creation of a “nusu mkate” (coalition) government.

Mr Odinga was Prime Minister from 2008-2013 in the coalition government which was formed following deadly violence that broke out in parts of the country after President Mwai Kibaki was announced the winner of the December 2007 polls.

The negotiations for a political settlement, which was facilitated by international mediators among them former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, led to the re-introduction of the position of prime minister, nearly 50 years after it was abolished in 1964.

In the arrangement, President Kibaki retained his position while Mr Odinga was named Premier. Mr Kenyatta and Mr Musalia Mudavadi, now a Nasa principal, were named his deputies.


The coalition government was loathed by Kenyans, and is best remembered for the constant infighting amongst its partners who gladly leaked secrets about each other to the press.

Ultimately, this proved good for the nation since wananchi knew the mischief their leaders were up to.

Its Cabinet was the largest in Kenya’s history, an unwieldy 44 squabbling members, which had the nation mourning for the astronomical cost maintaining the ministers and their high lifestyles.

So much fed up were Kenyans with the coalition government that during the talks to refine the draft Constitution in Naivasha in 2009, they eliminated any trace of it in the new document.


MPs from President Kibaki’s and Mr Odinga’s wing of the coalition told the Committee of Experts who had proposed a hybrid system of governance in their harmonised draft, that they preferred a purely presidential system.

Yet there were a few others in Parliament, such as former Garsen MP Danson Mungatana, who believed that a hybrid system would best serve Kenya given the deeply polarised ethnic nature of its politics, but whose proposals were shot down by fellow MPs.

In hindsight, their proposal might have been ideal for Kenya. Despite their bickering, the coalition Cabinet largely reflected the face of Kenya.

The Cabinet ministers were drawn from nearly all the communities in the country and Kenyans generally felt that they had a stake in the government.


For example, the four Nasa principals were in the cabinet—Mr Odinga as Premier, Musalia Mudavadi as one of his deputy, Kalonzo Musyoka as Vice President while Moses Wetang'ula was the Foreign Affairs minister.

Mr Kenyatta was Mr Odinga’s other deputy while Eldoret North MP William Ruto, now Deputy President, were both in Cabinet before they resigned after the International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted them over the 2007/2008 violence that led to the formation of the coalition government.

The drafters of the new Constitution borrowed a lot of elements from the United States of America system of governance, complete with two chambers of Parliament.

However, they fell short of adopting the US law which allows a presidential candidate holding a political position at the time of running to retain his seat even after losing the presidential race.


That is how the long-serving Senator from Arizona, John McCain, the Republican candidate who unsuccessfully challenged the Democrat’s Barack Obama for the presidency in 2008 went back to his senate job after losing.

Even in Kenya, since the re-introduction of multiparty politics in 1992, losing presidential candidates, some of whom were influential politicians, automatically retained their Parliamentary seats.

Mr Mwai Kibaki, who lost the race to President Daniel Moi in 1997, became the official leader of opposition in Parliament and build a strong political base that propelled him to the presidency in 2002 against Mr Kenyatta.

After being vanquished, Mr Kenyatta robustly put the Kibaki’s administration on toes.

He once termed the President’s style leadership as being “hands-off, eyes-off, everything off,” for the wide latitude he gave his Cabinet ministers.

Mr Kenyatta’s famous quote in 2005 was before he joined hands with President Kibaki ahead of the 2007 General Elections, which earned him the dubious distinction of being the first ever leader of the opposition to shelve his presidential ambitions in favour of an incumbent.

However, the contending parliamentarians of the coalition government did away with this law that allowed losing political heavyweights to still play some role in Kenyan politics when they were drafting the new Constitution.

The aim, MPs argued then, was to make sure that whoever loses is totally vanquished and consigned to the political dustbins ostensibly to give the winner latitude to implement his programs without let or hindrance from the opposition.

But even as Jubilee talks tough against any sort of power sharing deal with the Opposition, the party’s leadership seem open to idea of amending the Constitution to giving a soft landing.


In June last year former Justice and Legal Affairs committee Chairman Samuel Chepkonga said there is nothing wrong with having losing presidential candidates in the nomination list.

“If Cord (Coalition for Reforms and Democracy, the precursor to Nasa had been allowed to nominate people to the National Assembly and the Senate, it would have given an opportunity for those who lost the election to play a role in Parliament,” he said.

It was hoped that the dispersal of executive power to the counties by the Constitution would reduce the national obsession of large communities fighting to the point of death-often quite literally- to capture State House.

However, this has not proven so. The systematic weakening of independent institutions over the past five years and the consolidation of the same by the Executive has made State House the focal point of our politics.

“In a competitive society which has many ethnic communities, you need an inclusive government. The presidential system breeds exclusivity if not properly managed, like is the case in Kenya,” said ODM chairman, John Mbadi, at the height of clamour by the opposition to have IEBC commissioners kicked out. 

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