Magazine article New African

It's Bonding Time

Magazine article New African

It's Bonding Time

Article excerpt

Talk of political impatience, dithering peace negotiations, and a war-mongering media culture that had taken root in Kenya, have come to nought following the formation of the Grand Coalition government in April. Regina Jere and Otieno Aluoka analyze the events and historical baggage that threatened to bring the country to a paralysis and why Kenyans have in unison chosen to work together in harmony instead.

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For the better part of the first two months this year, Kenya's political situation remained fluid, tense and unpredictable. Many believed the country would never hold again, following weeks of violence precipitated by the disputed election victory that returned President Mwai Kibaki to power. But after an exigent search for peace led by the eminent Ghanaian and form UN chief, Kofi Annan, Kenya is now celebrating the formation of one of its most robust coalition government in its history.

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While the ever skeptical Western media is frantically raising red flags everywhere, over what they perceive is a doomed, "over bloated" Cabinet, Kenyans and Africans at large, are keen to put Kenya's sad chapter, truly behind them.

How did Kenya do it? In a multi-ethnic society of about 40 distinct ethnic groups, Kenya's nationhood was clearly and firmly jolted by the post election violence. But hope came on the horizon when Raila Odinga's opposition, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), decamped from its earlier radical position to press for the resignation of President Mwai Kibaki and his Party of National Unity (PNU), to allow for fresh elections. This change of heart by ODM, opened the doors of negotiations wider and it was soon apparent that Odinga was ready to share power and responsibility with Kibaki for the sake of bringing peace and unity to their bruised country. The happy-ending came to bear on 17 April when the new 43-member coalition cabinet became complete, with Odinga taking up the newly-created post of prime minister, and his ODM party taking up half of the posts. One other notable face in the new cabinet is Uhuru Kenyatta (son of Kenya's founding president Jomo Kenyatta) who became one of the two deputy prime ministers. Although, sadly, their electoral differences came with a heavy price--over 1,000 people are reported to have died, with thousands more displaced from their homes and many still living as internally displaced persons, even as the coalition government came into effect--this amicable end to what would have been a protracted saga, is worthy worldwide support. But alas, instead of patting Kenya on the back for this mammoth and trying breakthrough, Kenya's ardent Western supporters are now more worried about how much the cabinet will drain from donor coffers.

In what appears to be a campaign to water-down the significance of how Kenya has decided to resolve one of its most difficult predicaments, media reports in the West are disheartening: One argued and scolded that out of Kenya's annual budget of [pounds sterling]5.4 billion, more than [pounds sterling]4.3 billion will be consumed by the ministers and their assistants and the government's general running costs.

"Only [pounds sterling]1.3 billion will be left for roads, schools and hospitals for Kenya's 38 million people," it reproached. While another highly regarded broadsheet bluntly pointed out that not only was the Cabinet the biggest in Kenya's post independence history, but was "unduly costly and inefficient. …

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