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Government of Kenya: Storming too Long!

GoK: Storming too Long!

By Matunda Nyanchama

November 12th, 2013

One expected that it would take a while before the government settles to deliver. This has been an especially challenging task considering that we are in a new constitutional dispensation, compounded by the myriad interpenetrations of the constitution by various players: members of parliament, senators, governors, cabinet secretaries, the judiciary and (most times) clueless citizens.

We have seen governors attempt to assert themselves over what they believe are their jurisdictions (healthcare, roads, education, boundaries, name it!), fighting for revenue share they think they are entitled and more. Today, elected county assembly members continue to demand more pay from public coffers and some have boycotted sessions until their demands for more pay are fulfilled. And this is despite warning that the economy cannot afford such a hefty public wage bill; and that leaders need to work hard to grow the economy so as to justify any pay rise!

Supremacy wars continue between Parliament and the Senate as which one of them holds higher sway and hence weightier (say) in revenue allocation, among other areas.

Parliament continues to battle the Judiciary even going to the extent of censoring members of the Judicial Service Commission after the latter failed to honour summons to appear before a committee of the house. The Speaker, in clear contempt of court, has dismissed a court order for the house not to discuss matters that have yet to be resolved and before the courts!

This has to be settled, we can expect more fireworks in due course. More fireworks, especially when the President sided with parliament to suspend members of the Judiciary Service Commission, a move that would paralyze the functioning of the Judiciary. Thank God that a subsequent order reinstated the members until the matter is resolved by the courts.

Yes, we can expect further fireworks and more after Parliament passed a media law that a major stakeholder, the media industry, has major concerns with. We haven’t seen the end yet, especially following comments from the executive, with the Deputy President asking the industry to challenge the matter in court (yes the same courts under siege!) and the President remarking that the media need not fear fines unless they intend to break the said law!

Westgate is perhaps the most challenging crisis the government has faced to date. Government conduct in that matter remains the equivalent of the biblical “Tower of Babel” where parts of government openly contradicted others; where Cabinet and Principal Secretary appeared to read from different scripts; where security arms of government gave contradicting accounts of the events and their actions; and where, among many ills, there was outright denial (some call it lying) of security forces’ misconduct even in the face of video footage showing the contrary.

All these, and many others, have been compounded by the ongoing trials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, where both the President and his deputy stand accused for crimes against humanity following the 2007 generations.

There are some that argue that trials have had their own impact on the amount of attention the two leaders have on the jobs. It has been such a concern that has seen spirited diplomacy to have the trials either deferred or done away with all the same.

One can continue the catalogue of things that have afflicted this government since its inception!! It is long list, to say the least.

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Every new government faces major tests as it comes to power before it attains clarity that allows for smooth delivery of its mandate.  Teams undergo three major steps in reaching optimal delivery capability; a well-oiled machine-like state.

Forming: here  the forming of the team takes place.

Storming: usually chaotic as each party strives to find assert itself with different interpretations of their mandate.

Norming: cooling and accommodation as focus tilts to collective mandate.

Performing: a well-oiled machine as teams are focused on mission and delivering as per collective responsibility.

My reading is that the government remains between the first two stages with plenty of storming taking place, illustrated by such happenings as controversy between Judiciary and Parliament; County Assemblies salary demands; Parliament censure of a “disrespectful” Cabinet Secretary; tussling between Parliament and Judiciary; tussling between the Executive and Judiciary, among many others.

It is NOT clear that this is what the Jubilee administration expected. Indeed, in their hundred-day plan, they expected to have delivered a fair number of items in their manifesto.

Some think that the President and his deputy could do better by expediting decision-making and be seen to hold government officers to account.

****

Take Westgate. This was clearly bungled, right from the beginning to the end. Many believe it could have been prevented; and, when it happened, our security forces could have done better in minimizing harm as well as displaying greater professionalism. As a result, many lives were lost, many suffered injuries and many more will be impacted by the trauma of the debacle.

Yet, to date, not one single senior official has been held to account! And as other urgent matters call for the government’s attention, this issue may fade away into memory lanes even as the country risks encountering a similar calamity in the future.  A sign of this is the promise to get an inquiry on this matter going! Few now expect that the will be any such inquiry. Indeed, few expect anyone to be held into account for this bungled operation!

****

The Executive needs to be more deliberate and decisive in matters it engages. Decisions need to be reached quickly, matters acted upon promptly and issues closed conclusively in a satisfactory manner. Matters left pending merely pile up and would require huge effort to clean up latter. Indeed, such undermines the administration’s credibility and public trust.

There is more. As we celebrate fifty years of independence, there is a need for a give-and-take approach to matters. There is a need for more offline contact between the Executive and Judiciary; Parliament and Judiciary; and Executive and Parliament in resolving matters.

The spectacles we are seeing in the press, some delivered live from parliament and public meetings only undermine the leaders’ images in the eyes of the public. It undermines public trust in institutions of governance. Such trust is essential to our national collective advancement as a nation.

 

 

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