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Uhuru and Raila seek to rewrite the ‘wrongs’ on powerful premier post

By Jacob Ngetich | January 5th 2020 at 10:00:00 GMT +0300

President Uhuru Kenyatta (centre), Deputy President William Ruto (left) and ODM leader Raila Odinga during the launch of Building Bridges Initiative report at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on November 27, 2019.  [File, Standard]

Some 55 years ago, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga used their political acumen to discard a parliamentary system of government in favour of a pure presidential system.

In a twist of fate, their sons President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga are today championing for a return to a parliamentary system complete with a Prime Minister in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report.

If the proposal by BBI to introduce the position is successful, this will be the third time the country will be getting into such an arrangement.

In 2008, when the country faced a near abyss after post-election violence following the disputed 2017 General Election, it is the creation of the premier position that saved the country.

The creation of the office made Raila the second prime minister in Kenya after they agreed to form a Government of National Unity with President Mwai Kibaki.

Out do each other

The proposal for parliamentary system of government is likely to dominate the political debate with different factions offering their take depending on their 2022 succession game plan. The clamour for the Prime Minister position has been dogged by high octane politics as supporters and opposers of the proposal seek to outdo each other.

Proponents of the position see it as panacea for the winner takes it all system. Those opposed to the PM post argue that the proponents are pushing selfish political agenda.

Worth noting is that during the takeover of the self-rule in 1963, Jomo Kenyatta took oath as Prime Minister in a model borrowed from the UK.

A year later Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Oginga Odinga, Ronald Ngala, Daniel Moi, Tom Mboya, Joseph Murumbi, Masinde Muliro and a host of other leaders agreed to turn Kenya into a republic.

The import was that the country could under full independence gain autonomy from the Queen of England, and therefore stop paying homage to her.

Other countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Jamaica maintained the parliamentary system.

Notably, all former British colonies had a parliamentary system before they secured independence but ditched the model and went for the presidential system. They include Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, and Kenya. Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980 and adopted a parliamentary system with Reverend Canan Banana as President and Robert Mugabe as Prime Minister.

The BBI task force appointed by Uhuru and Raila in December had a myriad issues that it addressed, but the proposal of the premier position has caused political furore.

The ODM leader in a recent interview with a local TV station said that, the premier position would ensure effectiveness in running of government and thus trigger development. Raila observes that during the grand coalition government from 2007 to 2012 the government implemented more development projects than the Jubilee administration.

He noted that Uhuru borrowed a similar model by appointing Interior and Coordination Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to chair Cabinet sub-committees and acknowledged that the hybrid system had worked well in France and Tanzania.

At the sub-Cabinet meeting the CSs are allowed to come with their Principal Secretaries and experts, this Raila says helps clarify issues before the Cabinet meeting that is only attended by CSs.

The ODM leader has unlikely support from National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale who is among the proponents of the parliamentary system which he believes will bring about unity in the poloralised country.

“With the parliamentary system a Kenyan from any of the 43 commmunities can rise to run the country as opposed to the presidency which will for many years be a preserve of a few communities which leave others hopeless,” he argues.

Dismas Mokua, a political and risk analyst, argues that most stable democracies use the parliamentary system.

“When you look at Japan, Israel, Italy, UK, Canada and Australia, the countries are politically stable despite change of guard and are also developed a thing that is constant as opposed to the presidential system,” said Mr Mokua.

He notes that the presidential system has led to instability in several countries because of the tilt of power which disenfranchises some regions.

“We are ready for any form of government, we need to agree on the fastest way to implement the BBI report,” says Pokot South MP David Pkosing.

Raila Odinga President Uhuru Kenyatta Prime Minister BBI Report
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