Monday, November 13, 2006

Which Political Party Can Effectively Fight Corruption?

As the time curtains fall for the Narc government, the fight against corruption is not won yet. The next government after 2007 general election will need to fight corruption effectively if the war is to be won. It is imperative to ask therefore among the foremost political parties in Kenya, which one can effectively do the job when it forms the next government?

Since the duel for the next government is most likely to be between Narc-Kenya and ODM-Kenya, which between them can effectively fight corruption when it forms the government? ODM-Kenya, which is a coalition of some of the current opposition parties, says that it will fiercely fight corruption when it gets into power. They accuse the current Narc government and by extension Narc-Kenya (government de facto) for failing to fight corruption effectively. On the other hand, Narc-Kenya though not the party in power de jure shares in the current Narc government efforts on the fight of corruption especially the creation of anti-corruption institutions and laws. It also shares in the Narc government's claim that war against corruption is in progress and on course.

To answer the question, criteria for effective fight against corruption are needed. Before that, it is important to establish why the current government may have failed in the fight although it has declared zero tolerance on corruption. When Narc government came into power it started on the right course. It sacked 23 high court and court of appeal judges as well as numerous magistrate suspected of corruption in what the then Minister for justice and constitutional affairs Mr. Kiraitu Murungi had nicknamed 'judicial radical surgical operation against corruption'. Although the action was supported by the public, within the Narc coalition partners there were mummers of dissent. The coalition had started manifesting signs of disintegration and was not united on the war against corruption. Ministers and members of parliament associated with Liberal Democratic Party, one of the coalitions partners, defaulted the judicial surgical operation as a political witch hunt of judicial officials belonging to ethnic communities not in favour with the government. The government on the other hand maintained that the fight was not directed to any particular ethnic group but was against the corrupt elements in the judiciary. Later when the former President Mr. Daniel Moi and the former Kanu government officials were put on notice and targeted for corruption investigation, LDP joined hands with Kanu to claim that the government's actions were a political witch hunt. They resolved to defend Moi against any corruption claims. As such Narc government was divided on the war against corruption and could not henceforth effectively wage the war.

As the cracks within the Narc coalition widened and the government became weak and less effective, President Mr. Mwai Kibaki could not effectively rule and was compelled to form a government of national unity to neutralise the opposition within the government and the parliament. He incorporated former Kanu government and other opposition members of parliament into the government. This had the effect of weakening the government's resolve to fight corruption because it could not afford to antagonise its new allies especially those in Kanu. The government had to learn to walk on the tight rope between the Narc coalition and the government of national unity and this meant diluting its resolve to fight corruption. It is during this period that the rapport between Kibaki and Moi improved. The former had to accommodate the latter for the government of national unity to function. At the same time the government had to tone down allegation of corruption against Moi and his former officials.

The lesson from the Narc government informs that the war against corruption requires a united government and political will to effectively investigate and prosecute corruption among other factors such as institutions and laws. A divided government has no chance. Using the united government and political will criteria it is appropriate to ask which between Narc-Kenya and ODM-Kenya stands a better chance of effectively fighting corruption after 2007?

Taking Narc-K first, the party is an offshoot of the Narc coalition. It is formed of members of parliament from the Narc political party partners who have remained faithful to the Kibaki government and leadership. The failure by Narc constituent parties to dissolve themselves and transform into a united political party, is one of the factors that led to the distengration of the coalition as the parties retreated to their former party identities. The Memorandum of Understanding the parties’ leadership had signed at the eve of 2002 general election could not hold them together after the defeat of Kanu and assumption of political power. The MoU instead became Narc's Achilles heel. It lacked flexibility to carry the coalition into the government era after election. Even after the withdrawal of LPD from the Narc coalition, refusal by the Narc Chairperson Mrs. Charity Ngilu to midwife the transformation of the remaining parties to a unitied Narc led to MPs allied to Kibaki to look for a an alternative political outfit in anticipation of 2007 general election.

In the new political realignment in the government, Narc-K is the de facto ruling party while Narc is the de jure government. Narc-K therefore cannot escape the accusation levelled against Narc government failure to combat corruption. But can it fight corruption effectively if it becomes the next government de jure?
As regards the unity factor, I think that Narc-K has good chances of remaining united after the election. After the constitutional referendum 2005 where the government lost to the opposition, the Kibaki government, which is composed mainly of Narc-K MPs, has demonstrated unity not seen there before. The fact that it does not intended to form any pre-election coalition with other political parties may mean also that it has better chances of remaining united after the election. Even if it was to enter into a coalition with other parties in post-election government, it will do so as the stronger party. Any party that it may negotiate coalition with will be a minor party or parties. Narc-K has a further advantage that it has already purged some of its members accused of corruption. This implies that it may not hesitate to deal with corruption within its ranks. Although there are still some ministers with corruption labels hanging on their necks, it is not likely that these will be included in the future Narc-K government. Narc-K has also tried to distance itself from the corrupt members of the current government and the former government. It seems therefore that Narc-K might not carry along the corruption baggages from Narc and Kanu.

Although Narc-K is being labelled a tribal party, this does not hold much water. This also applies to ODM-K. It is true that the parties enjoys huge support from a specific province but it cannot be denied that they have support from other provinces. The referendum vote indicates that there were more than 1 million votes from other provinces voting Yes and therefore supporting the government position. The fact that the parties will also need to form coalitions with other parties outside their province and ethnic sphere punctures the tribal label myth.

Narc-Kenya will on the other hand need to demonstrate the "political will" to fight corruption. The political will is not evident in the current Narc regime and could become the main obstacle in Narc-K. The unity factor, however, could work to its advantage and the political will may not be a big issue after all.

ODM-K origin is the No Vote alliance between the Narc government dissenters in LDP and Kanu the official opposition party during the constitutional referendum 2005. The alliance easily defeated the government on the referendum vote and the current ODM-K is trying to build on that success to challenge the government in the general election. ODM-K is also looking back to the Narc coalition success in 2002 election and hopes it can pull a surprise against the government. But conditions and circumstances have changed from the 2002 election and 2005 referendum. The hatred the electorate had against the Moi Kanu regime may not be there against the Kibaki Narc regime. The poor state of the economy, the Narc government inherited from Kanu, has also shown clear signs of improvement, which is an advantage to the Kibaki government. The referendum vote and election are different and the unity that was there during the referendum may not exist during the general election. Kanu united support was decisive in the referendum but such unity is not expected during the election.

In case ODM-K forms the next government after the general election 2007, can it effectively fight corruption? The unity factor is going to be crucial for ODM-K than it is for Narc-K. ODM-K is a coalition of three parties Kanu, LDP and the little known Labour Party of Kenya. The parties are signing a Memorandum of Understanding among themselves on political power sharing once in the government. The leaders are telling Kenyans that they learnt the lesson in 2002 and this time the MoU is well crafted. That notwithstanding, the MoU could still end up being ODM-K Achilles heel also. The MoU would only work effectively if the parties dissolved themselves into ODM-K. The idea of individual members being supported by LDP and a section of Kanu is aimed at dissolution of the parties into a single party, ODM-K. A section of Kanu and LPK are opposed to individual membership and instead would like corporate membership where the parties retained their identities. A compromise, which allows for both individual and corporate membership is being seen as the way out of the dilemma. This is, however, a postponement of the problem. The same problem that drove Narc to disintegration would plague ODM-K. Unity would be always at risk.

A number of ODM-K top leaders are among the politicians named in corruption scandals. Kanu as a party is also associated with the corruption during Moi reign. As such, Kanu will be liability as fighting corruption is concerned. ODM-K government unity will be put to great test when the issue of fighting corruption arises. The war against corruption by ODM-K would have to start with the coalition's top leaders and number of members of Kanu. ODM-K may end up being really a corruption baggage which would be difficult to off-load without threating the unity of the government.

ODM-K is exuding massive political will to fight corruption as long as it is not in the government. Whether the same enthusiasm will be there, once they form the government, is difficult to say. Narc government portrayed the same political zeal when it got into power but as the political party coalition reality dawned down the enthusiasm waned. ODM-K political will, unlike Narc-K's, has yet to be tested on this line.

Of the two, I think Narc-K stands a better chance of effectively fighting corruption if they form the next government than ODM-K. On a scale of 1-10, 1 being the worst and 10 the best mark, on unity of the government factor, I would give Nark-K 7 and ODM-K 3. As regards political will I would give Narc-K 6 and ODM-K 4.

But as I have maintained in this blog the war against corruption can be decisively won if those allegedly involved in corruption are locked-out of public and elective offices. The time to fight corruption is not after general elections. It is during the general election. It is during the election that the corrupt elements should be stopped from ascending to elective and public office. After the election the government, which is not weighed down by corruption baggages, can effectively investigate and prosecute the corrupt without endangering the government's unity. This is the lesson learnt from the Narc government efforts to fight corruption.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you. There are also those allied to Kibaki who in one way or the other contributed to corruption in the current Narc regime. In my own opinion there is no polical will by the current leaders to fight corruption, instead they spent most of their time bickering about politics. The only way out of this is to inject in young bloods who can unify all Kenyans and commit him/herself in fighting this economic evil. Furthermore, my praises goes to Kibaki himself for his commitment to improve our economy (to be precise, it is only after 2002 election that i heard the word CDF). This greatly improved the lives of Kenyans esp. the rural folks. If this is well managed or rather managed by a private company under performance contract, we will see the 'VISION 2030' dream comes true.
Ranking Kenya among the most corrupt countries means our economy is in ICU.

Dr. Stephen Kabera Karanja said...

I agree with you that youthful blood is needed. But also let us be cautious about the youth mantra because at the same time there are young politicians who carry corruption tags with them. The solution as I see it is to do away with the corrupt whether old or young and only retain those untained by corruption be they old or young. Let us also not crucify the old wholesale as there are some who have served with dedication. Take for example the current president and his record on rejuvenating the economy. How are we sure that when the presidency is taken by new blood the progress being made on the economy will continue? As I have maintained let us only fix what needs to be fixed.

Anonymous said...

True, credit goes to president Kibaki on his econominy turn-around, but he also has has lowdowns. As am posting this he has just re-appointed the corruption tainted duo of Kiraitu Murungi and Prof. George Saitoti (Ref: Is he willing to fight the graft? This is the question lingering in many Kenyans' minds.

Dr. Stephen Kabera Karanja said...

Yes it is true that by appointing the duo back to the cabinet Mr Kibaki may not seem to be serious about fighting corruption. But does it mean that once you are suspected of corruption you are guilty? No, our justice system requires investigation and prosecution if evidence supports it. Saitoti was implicated by the Goldenberg Commission report. The matter was referred to court and he got reprive. In the case of Kiraitu no evidence has been found linking him directly to corruption except allegation in Githogo's report. The parliamentary report did not recommend prosecution on his part. So where is the evidence? I think if democracy will take root in Kenya, we must learn to respect the decisions of our institutions unless there is adequate evidence to the contrary. I think this is what informed the President in his reappointment of the two. For examp le he did not reappoint Mwiraria and Murungaru for whom already there are pending cases or recommendation to prosecute. Yes democracy has a price and sometimes we have to live with decisions we do not like from our institutions unless one can prove impropriety or corruption on the part of those who precide over the decisions.