Bright Side Of The County Chiefs Saga
This week we have been hit twice hit by some political tsunami of sorts! The presidency is livid that its cherished county commissioners are no more after a judge of the High Court threw them out.Several civil society activists had challenged the President’s right to appoint such public officers without consulting his coalition partner and more importantly for failing to widely consult the public. What is more, the President forgot one little detail of gender balance in modern Kenya!
This news hits the presidency like a thunderbolt judging by the swift condemnation of the judgment from two top dogs in the Office of the President. The AG was immediately directed to appeal the ruling while the PS ordered the commissioners to stay put as they are going nowhere; the court ruling notwithstanding. The AG, in a reminder to those in the corridors of power that the constitution grants him autonomy and independence in his decision making, declared he cannot and will not take any directive from anybody.
He told the president few days later that in his opinion, appealing the judgment would be an exercise in futility. A higher court was likely to confirm the judgment. The public assumed that the good counsel of the learned Attorney General had settled the matter and that the commissioners should vacate office. The public was wrong again.
Out of the blues, the acting Minister for Internal Security Yusuf Hai joined in the fray instructing a private lawyer—not the AG—to appeal the judgment. The Justice minister weighed in supporting the High Court riling and reminding the Executive that judicial rulings must be respected. He was joined in this by the Prime Minister and principal shareholder in the coalition government.
What is curious about this saga is that the presidency, the State Law Office, the ministries of Internal Security and Justice are all dockets of the PNU part of the coalition. For the AG and the Justice Minister to differ with the President on a matter that is so dear to the presidency, their appointing authority, without any serious fallout has left Kenyans baffled.
This development can be seen in two ways. One is that democracy is indeed taking root in Kenya and as a consequence the overbearing powers of the President have been considerably diminished. The AG and the Justice Minister have given us hope that indeed one can disagree with the President on principle and on a point of law without unnecessary bad blood and acrimony between the head of state and his cabinet ministers.
However, the flip side of this case tells us that Kenya is evolving its unique brand of democracy hardly practiced anywhere in the world. In mature democracies, such as the USA, Canada, Japan, India and even Britain and South Africa, such disagreements with the appointing authority would have ended up in the resignation or sacking of both the AG and the Justice Minister.
Closer home, we have the resignations of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in 1966, Joseph Murumbi in 1966, Achieng’ Oneko in 1966, Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia in 1980s. Most recently we had Martha Karua resigning from the Kibaki regime after realizing that they were no longer reading from the same page. The second big story of the week was that of Miguna Miguna’s book launch. The book’s content was submerged in theatrics and uncalled for antics that the author engaged in during and after the launch.
Left on its own, the book would have received sober reviews from social critics. Unfortunately, this was not to be. With the first salvo fired by the PM's chief of staff Caroli Omondi and a possible visit by the police commissioner to Miguna’s residence, Kenyans saw the bragging and haughty activist leave the country with his entire family. And as if the pending law suits were not enough, his village mates in Ayweyo Nyando chose to deal with him on account of vilifying Prime Minister Raila Odinga both in his book and in public utterances.
Miguna Miguna has for all practical purposes become persona non grata in Luo Nyanza. If he chooses to go there now, he will need all the help of the riot place he can lay his hands on. Miguna is not the first to run into high winds with rioting villagers in Nyanza. Raphael Tuju suffered the same fate way back in 2005 during the first constitutional referendum. His rally in Kisumu which advocated for the adoption of the 2005 constitution culminated in the death of one young man at the Nyayo stadium. It took him awhile before he could visit his Rarieda home without a hitch.
Whether right or wrong, Miguna should postpone going to Kisumu as long as possible for the sake of peace in that region. Luos are very forgiving and forgetful. A year from now, Miguna will surely walk freely in Nyanza. Who knows? He might even be elected something in Nyando!