Between winning a second term in a severely contested political environment and governing for the next five years, the latter may yet prove the more challenging engagement for the Jubilee duo. Only the most naive believe that last week's inauguration of the President put a rest to the leadership contestation that has defined Kenya for the last several months. The dynamics that informed what I still believe was an ill-advised boycott of the elections by NASA will continue to produce a thorn in the Jubilee administration.
Undoubtedly, the more extreme aspects of the political challenge; the ones that relate to political accommodation will be sorted out, most of it quietly, in due time. The holloi polloi who imagine a political settlement will necessarily involve issues dear to them will as usual be disappointed. Such is the nature of politics. I will therefore not waste too much ink on possible scenarios to resolve the political aspects of the stalemate. I however believe there are other more urgent priorities that address larger socio-economic concerns for a majority of the population that should be Jubilee’s primary focus.
The first and foremost is tone. However ill-advised some of the extreme aspects of the agitation by NASA were, there are underlying concerns in their agitation that cannot be wished away. It is critical that the Jubilee tone be one that recognises the legitimacy of these concerns and creates a listening environment.
There is no better time to be magnanimous in victory. In any event nobody, least of all NASA, sincerely doubts that Jubilee won this race squarely in both elections. The President's “I am President of all” narrative must continue in word and deed.
Secondly, the Jubilee duo must deal with the youth crisis. On inauguration day when Raila Odinga moved his rally to Kibera, we all noted that thousands of youth came out as soon as he landed. During the various skirmishes in Nyanza and Nairobi, similar crowds have streamed out to the cities. The same was true of the demonstrations that occurred immediately after the Supreme Court ruling in parts of central Kenya.
Many of these demos were in the middle of a working week and comprised of energetic young men at the primmest of ages. That they can be available at a moment’s notice to carry out anyone’s bidding should worry any government. Jubilee must re-invigorate sustainable youth directed programmes that address this crisis as a priority.
The other priority for Jubilee is eradication of abject poverty in much of the countryside and urban informal settlements. One of the benefits of the campaign season for me was road trips outside the main thoroughfares. These trips brought me into contact with debilitating poverty in parts of Kenya considered affluent.
The national government must work with county governments in ensuring a Marshall plan to move as many people as possible from abject poverty over the next five years. In this regard, it is time to strengthen devolution by allocating more funding targeted specifically to poverty alleviation programs, even if this will be by way of conditional funding. It is also time for Jubilee to consider raising the minimum allocation to Counties, not to NASA’s unrealistic 45 per cent, but to something beyond the current 15 per cent. This will send an important message of Jubilee’s commitment to devolution.
However, increased revenue allocation, and indeed any other public investment, will only produce intended results if strengthening governance, transparency and accountability is priority. Jubilee must depoliticise the anti-corruption war. It must, firstly, free concerned institutions from cartel capture and then strengthen them so that they have capacity to ensure minimal plunder and wastage of public resources. While this may be politically expensive, failure to strangle this monster will cost Jubilee and the country irredeemably.
The challenges before us are not unsurmountable. If there is anything the current crisis has taught us, it is that we have the institutional structures to resolve our problems. What we now need is to invest the right attitude and the appropriate assets to ensure a more united, just, peaceful and prosperous Kenya.
- The writer is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya