Bipartisan team's report is simply a power-sharing proposal

Leonard Khafafa, public policy analyst. 

The National Dialogue Committee (NADCO) report and the resultant fallout in a section of the stakeholders that mooted it confirms our worst fears; the exercise was nothing more than a power-sharing exercise. For those that the report endows some skin in the game, it is acceptable, even if not perfect.

Azimio principal Kalonzo Musyoka is the committee co-chair. He has endorsed the report. Azimio party chairman Raila Odinga has pronounced himself on the same saying, “The report marks the beginning, but it remains imperfect and unfinished.” President Ruto has given his approbation saying, “All the recommendations made by the bipartisan dialogue team are practical and good for the country.”

Raila and Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua appear miffed. She has broken ranks with her colleagues saying that the report, “did not address issues facing ordinary citizens.” Ms Karua further says, “The NADCO report totally fails on the issue of cost of living and has instead served Kenyans with a contempt card.”

The NADCO report is uncannily similar to the ill-fated Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). At the time, I described the BBI as a pact between two erstwhile bitter political foes. It was an attempt to amend the Constitution to cement that pact. Powerful political positions were to be created to placate followers of the political adversaries and to ostensibly ensure permanent post-election peace. The BBI was thrown out by the apex court for its unconstitutionality.

A couple of issues stand out. First, the NADCO report proposes the establishment and entrenchment in the Constitution of state offices. These include the Office of the Leader of Official Opposition and two deputies and the Office of Prime Minister. Political pundits have posited that the Leader of the Official Opposition office should go to Raila by all rights. His deputies would be Kalonzo and perhaps former Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya. Evidently, Martha Karua gets nothing. Is her grouse therefore justified or is it just an issue of sour grapes?

Second, the changes proposed by the NADCO require amendments to the Constitution. Previous attempts at amendment have been stymied by the Supreme Court. Will this attempt succeed? Perhaps the only avenue open for successful amendment requires a national referendum. Given the country’s present parlous economic and financial straits, is it affordable?

This column has previously described the NADCO as a blow valve for pent-up frustrations following a hotly contested presidential election. The inclusion of certain unattainable propositions confirmed as much. It was rather obvious that the committee was never going to address the thorny issue of the cost of living. Not when such costs are driven by exogenous factors requiring long-term interventions.

By now, it is obvious to most people that Kenya is in an existential crisis. This has been precipitated by a combination of factors like Covid-19, the vagaries of global petroleum prices and the nation’s onerous debt burden. Excoriating critiques of the NADCO report are disingenuous when they fail to recognise the painful measures informed, in part, by Bretton Woods institutions that are necessary for getting Kenya out of the woods. 

Mr Khafafa a public policy analyst