My Thoughts on Macharia Gaitho Opinion Piece on Tribalism, Uhuru and Raila

By Dennis Itumbi, Nairobi August 7 2012

A respected senior in the journalism profession Macharia Gaitho penned an interesting article on Tuesday 7th August 2012, with a clarion call that Social Media could be an important platform to mobilize for National Cohesion as opposed to ethnicity.

However he raised an issue that I would wish to consider in this blog entry, Macharia recalls that Prime Minister Raila Odinga told a Kisii Cultural Night at Carnivore that he would back the community to clinch one of the additional City constituencies saying specifically that “”I am urging the Abagusii people to identify one constituency in the city and ODM will preserve a ticket for that person.”

That Story is covered here http://allafrica.com/stories/201207301159.html

My respected senior also says The Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta
promised the Turkana people that his government, if elected, would reserve for them the Energy and Petroleum ministries.

“Our mandate is to ensure that every Kenyan gets equal share of national cake. But locals where such resources are found should benefit more as a right stipulated in the Constitution,” he said.

Like in another stop he promised to ensure that if elected the Minister for Energy is appointed from Turkana County, to ensure locals benefit most from resources found.

That Story is covered here http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000062388&story_title=Uhuru-calls-for-equity-in-resource-allocation

Macharia says both situations are evidence of tribal mobilization and that they show both Uhuru and Raila are evidence that, “Democracy has surely been thrown out of the window if a leader with aspirations to national leadership can make such promises.”

That’s where I respectfully disagree with MG wa Twin Towers, as he is referred to in junior journalists circles.

I am not an authority on election matters nor am I on matters democracy, but I will share my limited appreciation of the issues as framed.

First on Raila Odinga comment, I agree that is a negation of democratic values, the import of what he said is that voters will not have their way, instead the party will plant a tribal representative – assuming its true since it has not been challenged before the Media Council or court or even in public statements – it further means that ODM Nominations for parliamentary elections in the chosen constituency will not be free and fair as required by the constitution and the political Parties Act.

That statement violates even the constitutional violation of National Values provided in article 10 of the constitution that demand public participation and crucially the Bill of Rights that provides for Political rights in article 38 of the constitution specifically part 2, “every citizen has the right to free,fair and regular elections based on universal suffrage and the free expression of the will of the electors for any elective public body or office”

On Uhuru Kenyatta pledge to hand Turkana County a cabinet post I sincerely find nothing wrong. First it is not an elective post, it is appointive.

Such positions in the executive are governed by article 130 of the Constitution, specifically part two of article 130 reads, “the Composition of the National Executive shall reflect the regional and ethnic diversity of the people of Kenya.”

The Constitution goes on to say in article 152 that the Cabinet ministers shall not be fewer than 14 and not more than 22.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with promising a County and in effect a region a Ministerial position. Turkana County has Seven resident ethnic groups, some assimilated by marriage, business and some have literally known no other home.

That said even if the pledge was given to the ethnic group called Turkana, it merely becomes a challenge to the candidate to ensure regional balance now that one of his cabinet posts, if elected has already been dished out.

There is of course the question of process how a Turkana County cabinet minister in a population almost at 1 million will be reached – that was not addressed perhaps shelved for another day, maybe there will be interviews, maybe it will be by presentations, unless the process is opaque we would be unfair to criticize that statement.

In fact it would be good to see Presidential aspirants either make public their internal methods of choosing cabinet ministers or even more boldly table their list of cabinet should they be elected, that would help us avoid carrots being used to lure ethnic communities to vote in a certain way.

But that has its demerits too, but I will stop there, having shared my thoughts.

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