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State risks sinking unless we exorcise demons of August 8

By Makau Mutua | Published Sun, February 11th 2018 at 00:00, Updated February 10th 2018 at 23:56 GMT +3

Kenya is the scion of an original sin. That’s because it was conceived in rape – the plunder of Africa by Europe. I like to think the progeny of sin – an illicit and blatant violation – can be redeemed. That’s why I don’t condemn Kenya to eternal damnation. But since that original sin, Kenya has deliberately woven other damning yokes round its neck. The latest is the illegality of August 8, 2017. The sham election of October 26, 2017 served to confirm – and compound – the electoral heist of August 8. After NASA’s pleas for dialogue with Jubilee were spurned, its leader Raila Odinga was on January 30 sworn in as the People’s President. Jubilee has responded with an iron fist.

Read no further if you are a diehard ethnic chauvinist. But read on if you are genuine patriot. A doctor would be liable for medical malpractice if she makes a cancer diagnosis and prescribes malaria pills as therapy. Translation – Kenya is going to sink at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, and drown to death, unless it accepts August 8 as an original sin and squarely addresses the malignancy. To succeed, the diagnosis must be bold and unapologetic. The cure must be equally clear-eyed. The Jubilee duo of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto must stop daydreaming. They can’t govern Kenya under the status quo. The minions around them must tell them the truth. If not, Kenya will be doomed.

First, Kenyatta must accept – and publicly tell the nation – that August 8 was a blatant coup against the Constitution and sovereignty of the people. He must apologise for the attacks on the Supreme Court for vacating a constitutional illegality. He must admit – again publicly – that the October 26 charade should never have happened. This may make him Kenya’s greatest leader bar none. Ruto will contort, threaten, and bloviate. But Kenyatta must ignore him and do what’s right for Kenya. He can’t be held hostage by Ruto’s 2022 manic presidential ambitions. Kenyatta must let Ruto carry his own cross into 2022. Kenyatta isn’t Ruto’s Siamese twin. That’s a bunch of hooey.

Second, Kenyatta must dissolve his government – Cabinet and all. He must wipe out the slate clean. He has the controlling majority in the legislature and can do so without wobbly legs. From all appearances, he enjoys the full confidence of the coercive apparatuses of the state. That’s why he can act in the national interest without Ruto’s consent. The dissolution of the government is the perfect signal to NASA that he is willing to deal mano-a-mano. He then needs to set a three-month timetable for national consultations with NASA, civil society, the clergy, and external actors. The outcome must be a fully-fleshed out cure for Kenya’s political ills. He shouldn’t set preconditions or preferred outcomes.

Third, Raila – following Kenyatta’s actions – must renounce the January 30 oath as the People’s President. He doesn’t have to accept Kenyatta as President, but he must agree Kenyatta controls the instruments of power. Raila must then mobilise his NASA troops for a no-holds barred national dialogue – open up the entire playbook. If F W de Klerk and Nelson Mandela could come together, so can Kenyatta and Raila. You make peace with your enemies, not your friends. Raila shouldn’t come to the table with non-negotiable terms. No ultimatums. He’s the greatest modern patriot Kenya has known. Patriots rise up in the darkest hour. Raila must act true to his patriot’s DNA.

Fourth, and for the avoidance of doubt, NASA and Jubilee must agree that three outcomes are probable. These must include constitutional and legal amendments to democratise and de-tribalise our politics. This is a normative challenge. The two sides must accept that another election may be the only way out. The last limb must be a realisation that a nationally inclusive coalition government may be necessary to drive these changes through. We can’t continue to kid ourselves that Kenya can move forward without rapprochement between Raila and Kenyatta. The two are the pivots – the centres of gravity – around which our politics now pivot. Wishing otherwise is foolish – utter stupidity. Kenyatta and Raila must accept this basic fact. Finally, tribal bigots need to free Raila and Kenyatta from the slavery of the tribe, and let them act in the national interest. Kenyatta needs to shoo the loud tribal minions around him away. Raila needs to surround himself with a cool-headed team. Both should lean on the people of Kenya, not rent-seekers in the political class. This is the only way Kenya can fully exorcise the demons of August 8 and October 26.

- Prof Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of KHRC.  @makaumutua

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