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Friday was redefining moment of Kibaki

By | August 29th 2010

By Oscar Obonyo 

President Kibaki took a giant step on Friday into cleansing the otherwise lingering dark spot in his political career and winning national acceptability.

About three years ago, he was sworn-in as President hurriedly at dusk in controversial circumstances before a small crowd of cronies.

But Friday was different. It was a redefining moment at the sunset years of Kibaki’s five-decade long political career as he took oath of office in public before invited world leaders and thousands of Kenyans. Millions more monitored the live proceedings on television and radio.

The President’s harshest critics have been heavily disarmed with the promulgation of the new Constitution. They can no longer taunt him for ‘stolen victory’ or having been ‘sworn in at night’.

The Friday event has somewhat restored President Kibaki’s credibility as he embarks on the last phase of his presidency.

But hours before he signed away most of his powers, President Kibaki opted to exercise his executive authority for the last time.

He appointed Ndegwa Muhoro as a new director of the Criminal Investigations Department and Frank Njenga as chairman of the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse Board. He also created 13 new districts.

This was doubtlessly a rush move to beat new constitutional requirements.

Under the current Constitution, presidential appointments have to be approved by Parliament. Further, such appointments would have to take into consideration, among other factors, geographical spread of the country.

Mars Group-Kenya CEO, Mwalimu Mati is highly critical of the President’s eleventh hour move, which he regards as opportunistic. He opines the creation of the new districts may have been politically driven with the intention of influencing the manner in which the constituencies are carved by the Andrew Ligale-led team.

"Constitutionally he was exercising his powers. Like any political leader, some exercise powers for the good or bad. But on this one Kibaki exercised it for bad," says Mati.

Despite pulling the last minute surprise card, the developments on Friday have ushered in a new lease of political life across the country.

As former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan observes, Kenya is back on track and everyone should support implementation of the new Constitution.

Speaking to journalists at Nairobi’s Serena Hotel moments after the Friday event, Annan praised Kibaki and PM Raila Odinga for steering the country into unity.

The former UN boss spearheaded peace negotiations following post-election violence triggered by the highly discredited 2007 presidential poll.

The newfound unity among the country’s top three politicians, Kibaki, Raila Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, is bound to stretch up to the election year in 2012.

Observers says, even if the PM and VP engage in shadow boxing as they prepare for electoral combat, the political affection for the president is bound to remain.

And judging from their speeches on the promulgation day, it is clear the courtship for Kibaki has begun.

Raila and Kalonzo might have said very little about each other, but they lauded the President.

The VP declared President "will leave behind an unassailable legacy that will, change the fortunes of this country for ever".

The PM, on the other hand, referred to the President as a reformist who "joined hands with the Opposition in late 1990s, and got tear-gassed" to push for constitutional change".

Ten years later, Raila observed: "He led our country into a new era and towards the new Constitution that we now unveil."

The accolades to the President are indeed a major turn around for a low-voltage politician and a belated reform activist, who initially berated colleagues opposed to the Kanu single-party rule.

Then Kibaki, a national party official, warned, "That trying to oppose Kanu is tantamount to cutting the giant Mugumo (fig) tree with a razor blade".

However, the promulgation of the new Constitution does not only mark afresh beginning for the President, but indeed the political class that has been embroiled in visibility battles including the protocol one between PM and VP.

If there was still a dispute about the order of seniority between the two leaders, then the Friday offered the answer.

Equally, the tussle over Leader of Government Business and Chairman of House Business Committee was resolved: The VP will spearhead the implementation of the new order in Parliament.

A fresh beginning may be in the air and as Annan put it, the Kenyan leaders "have made the country and Africa proud".

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