Kenya: The word ‘flat-footed’ originates from a disease called Pes planus or fallen arch, which flattens the arch of the foot and causes an imbalance of forces important to the biomechanics of motion and balance of weight on the human feet during motion. This term is also widely used in sports.
In football, when a player is caught flat-footed, s/he is unable to stretch out to reach for the freely moving ball or when dribbled by an opponent. In the flatfoot position, a player is not ready to tackle an opponent or receive a pass. It may be due to loss of concentration, poor posture or deliberate challenge plotted by the opponent. At all times, a player is expected to be on toes, moving about to avoid being caught in this position hard to recover from, in time to make a save or dispossess an opponent of the ball. Enough of football, now let’s talk politics.
In politics in democracies world over, an election leaves two groups of people: losers and winners. The winners obviously ceremoniously rejoice while the losers whine over everything from internal malfunctions to a plot by the winners to make them lose. Our Kenyan election cycle is not spared of this.
After the historic 2013 General elections, the first of its kind under the guidance of the iconic new constitution, the Jubilee coalition emerged the winners, albeit not without court battles. The CORD coalition half-heartedly accepted their fate in the opposition. They have incessantly complained publicly about how their victory was stolen. They have mentioned how two communities could not have the numbers to beat the other 40. Logical?
However, this has only served to create animosity between the ruling coalition and the opposition. It has even trickled down to important national matters of security and citizen service delivery. The Jubilee coalition has proved to be having the hardest job of surmounting an opposition so quick to prey on its failures and wrong decisions to popularize itself to the electorate, and presenting itself as the best alternative government Kenyans never elected. Well, the wit of a man is seen at times of crisis.
The Jubilee coalition has found itself in narrow defiles that require the strongest will to survive. When the Westgate terror attack knocked, it would be the first crisis to a budding government just learning the ropes. Even though there were outright failures in response and chain of command on parts of security apparatus, the government could find refuge in its then greenness. At normal times, sackings and prosecutions would have ensued, but President Uhuru absorbed the pressure and instead asked Kenyans to be patient. Well, it was until recently that the memories were ignited amidst high emotions and grief as relatives to the deceased remembered their departed in their first anniversary.
No meaningful arrests have been made on direct perpetrators. The joint Parliamentary committee report co-chaired by Committees on Administration and Foreign Relations, and Defense and National Security chairmen was rejected by MP’s for being ‘“shoddy, useless bunch of papers and a mere research paper’’ with ‘’short-changing’ recommendations. The Waheshimiwa expected recommendations on sacking of the responsible people and demanded for accountability from top security officers. The fact that Majority Leader Aden Duale led the castigations, calling for sackings gave weight to the opposition’s claims of an incompetent Government, citing that it is the government’s duty to secure its people.
Such open failures have been the best opportunities for the watchful opposition to point to fissures in the government.
Then came the time for President Uhuru to make crucial ministerial appointments. As expected, ethnic and gender imbalance were a glaring misdeed, but the government hid under the garb of professionalism. This it maintained, despite flouting its earlier resolve to reflect the diversity of the Kenyan people in public positions. Before the last two appointments were made, speculations were rife that some of his post-election coalition partners could be beneficiaries. This didn’t happen, but still he again flaunted his declaration to appoint only professionals through meritocracy. However, Ngilu and Balala were appointed. The opposition found this a fault line.
In the recent ambassadorial appointments done by the President, a section of opposition MP’s claimed that it was an ethnic zero-sum game, since it involved replacing someone with another of own tribe. Despite having Parliament as a platform to raise these issues, they did not do more than complain about numbers as the names were being passed by parliament.
All through these, the opposition gained popularity with every mistake of the government. It was not until the presidency convened a meeting with his MPs that a strategy was reached to counter the surging opposition amidst claims that the ruling coalition was losing grass root support.
At the peak of heightened political activity by the opposition, disaster struck the coastal town of Lamu vicinity. At the time, CORD had taken its dialogue campaign to Lamu. The same night unknown attackers used guns and pangas to kill tens of people in one night. This would repeat itself in two more nights resulting into more deaths in more towns.
The opposition was satisfied that it was the act of Al Shabaab militia. But not so with government intelligence who blamed ‘local political networks’ involvement. President Uhuru in a press statement on the Mpeketoni attack absolved Al-Shaabab of responsibility, even after the terror group had claimed responsibility. CS Lenku went ahead to blatantly blame the opposition mercenaries on the deaths. Then it was clear that a war had been waged between the CORD coalition and Government. The opposition halted its campaigns in good will to resolve the crisis, by popular demand. To date, no serious prosecutions have been done and the opposition leaders are roaming free. Was it true?
To an opposition that has in many instances relied on government mistakes to further its agenda, it can be very confusing when the latter no longer makes any mistakes.
In the run-up to last year’s General elections, CORD did not do more than mention the Jubilee leaders’ cases at the ICC over the 2007/8 post-election violence as the only reason they deserved to lead the country. Despite their political experience, they could not offer better promises as their rivals. When it came to the moment President Kenyatta was summoned to appear before the Hague-based court, they expected to leverage on any wrong decisions to popularize themselves one again.
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Most CORD MP’s advised the President not to honor the summon arguing that he did not have to. This was outright misadvise and dishonesty with ulterior motives. CORD knows well what would have befallen Uhuru as a person should he have failed to honor the summon. The fact that CORD openly misguided the President on a case of international magnitude is a matter of morality, and this surpasses fair political gaming. In fact, it is huge disrespect to the institution of Presidency which CORD leadership has been longing for for decades. Perhaps the missing piece of advice for CORD is that one cannot occupy a seat s/he disrespects.
When their expectation failed to materialize, CORD resorted to childish legal hullabaloos about President’s special parliamentary address on Monday, claiming it was unnecessary.
Even though CORD as a coalition is young, its leaders have been in the political scene for long. What they have failed in doing is to offer better alternatives and engage the public in a manner appreciable to the electorate. You cannot be good because the other is bad. When one mentions a referendum in which the government must participate to pass, then Kenyans are being taken for a ride. It is not the best contribution the Opposition can make to Kenyans. There are myriad policy issues that need be tabled, debated and passed. There are tax policy loopholes that need be filled to ensure that multinational companies remit required taxes to the Treasury, thereby lessening the tax burden on Kenyans. If CORD cannot pursue these, then even the plebiscite move is a waste of time. A constitution is a document that must be acted upon to benefit the citizens, and you cannot act by changing it only.
Finally, if CORD’s political game would be to leverage on Government failures to popularize itself, then it will always be caught flatfoot. Without presenting independent development agenda for this country, the opposition risks extinction. This unavoidable result would be disastrous to the coalition and its members. As things stand now, should the cases facing Uhuru and Ruto at the ICC be terminated, CORD would end. The government has realized their game, and will first plot its fast downfall by doing things right. Then CORD will diminish into oblivion. Oops!