Preparing Kenya for Kibaki exit from power

By Alex Ndegwa

President Kibaki on Friday leads the Grand Coalition Government to a conference in Mombasa to facilitate peaceful elections and a smooth transition as he prepares to exit office next year.

Coming 10 months to the General Election to pick his successor, the conference’s discourse is critical to President Kibaki’s goal to secure political stability to erase the 2008 post-election violence blot.

On Thursday, the Cabinet approved the Assumption of the Office of the President Bill that lays out the process for ensuring there is no power vacuum once a winner of the election is declared. It proposes top civil servants in charge of strategic dockets constitute a committee to oversee the transition.

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According to the Bill, the president-elect will start receiving national security briefings even before he or she is sworn-in.

The committee will facilitate the handing-over by the President to the president-elect, and coordinating the exercise to ensure it’s smooth and efficient. A public holiday will be declared on the day the President is sworn-in, said the PPS dispatch to newsrooms.

two challenges

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The legislation addresses criticisms raised about Kibaki’s hurried swearing-in at dusk for a controversial second term on December 30, 2007. Also it is meant to avoid the chaos that followed the opposition’s electoral removal of the Kanu regime in 2002.

With his two five-year terms ending on December 30, and elections scheduled in March, peaceful, free and fair elections, and smooth handover of power have featured constantly in the President’s recent addresses.

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Moreover, the sunset of Kibaki’s regime is stalked by two challenges that could undermine peace and security, including the threat of terror attacks linked to Kenya Defence Forces operation against Al Shabaab in Somalia.

The two Kenya cases at the International Criminal Court (ICC), for which parties will set the trial date during Monday and Tuesday status conference in The Hague, pose another challenge due to their being exploited for ethnic mobilisation.

It is against the backdrop of these difficult times that President Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka lead their troops to the Coast in a show of unity and patriotism.

National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende and Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, the leaders of the two other arms of Government, are among the speakers at the forum to promote national cohesion.

The profile of speakers and dominant themes in the programme for the forum with MPs on the national conference, and county forums on peaceful elections underline the determination to ensure the fiasco of 2007 is avoided.

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With the stakes so high in the first elections under the new Constitution — President Kibaki billed the elections as the most competitive compared to previous polls — authorities are leaving nothing to chance.

More worrying is the briefing the PM gave Parliament recently citing a National Intelligence Service report that warned of electoral violence due to ethnic mobilisation of voters.

 security risk

Acting Head of Public Service Francis Kimemia said at a meeting with media executives that the Government was monitoring leaders and political parties associating with outlawed groups and tribal outfits that pose a security risk.

As he prepares for life out of political office, President Kibaki shoulders the burden of ensuring Kenya regains the lost glory of managing peaceful transition recorded in 2002, when he took over after National Rainbow Coalition’s triumph.

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With the tenure of the Grand Coalition Government, which was formed to halt the bloodshed following his disputed re-election, set to lapse, the Head of State is determined to midwife a smooth transition.

Political stability and national security were key themes in President Kibaki’s last Madaraka Day address as Head of State. He promised a Bill to guide the transition would be presented to Parliament soon.

At the peace conference MPs will pledge to support key institutions, including the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, National Cohesion and Integration Commission, police and the Judiciary in their legal discharge of their mandates.

While the IEBC replaced the discredited Electoral Commission of Kenya accused of bungling the 2007 presidential election, the NCIC was established to clamp down on inflammatory speech widely blamed for inciting ethnic violence.

The Judiciary, whose lack of impartiality ODM cited while rejecting calls to challenge the disputed 2007 presidential vote in courts, is being reformed with the appointment of the Chief Justice and ongoing vetting of judges and magistrates.

political class

Implementation of reforms in the police, blamed in 2007 for excessive force to crush opposition protesters and litany of human rights violations, are also under way.

Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere will outline measures the security forces will implement to prevent electoral violence.

Planning PS Edward Sambili will make a presentation detailing the economic and political costs of the violence in destruction of property, disruption of production, including farming, and battered investor confidence. 

IEBC chairman Isaack Hassan will take participants through electoral process strategies for peaceful elections. NCIC head Mzalendo Kibunjia will discuss measures to curb hate speech.

To curb electoral irregularities, MPs will pledge to obey the electoral code of conduct, renounce violence and inflammatory statements that may cause disharmony.

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