Kenya’s Reform Agenda may be Dead on Arrival

Monday, October 12, 2009 

By Ben Chekwanda 

Raila Odinga(L), Kofi Annan(M),  Mwai KibakiThe crude images of post election violence of 2007 still sticks in the memories of the Kenyan people with a morbid fear there could be a repeat come the next elections, in 2012.

There is strong evidence that tribal and ethnic groups are arming themselves for a possible showdown.

But the uneasy calm is explanatory. The failure of tacit diplomacy.  Kofi Annan, the distinguished diplomat who was bestowed with power to deal with the motivations for the carnage was back in Nairobi this month to assess the progress of the government’s efforts to implement the reforms in what has come to be known as Agenda four. His satisfactory verdict can be described as astonishingly shocking.

Many Kenyans are asking whether Annan was fully convinced with the government’s effort or whether he gave that positive verdict out of sympathy for the two government principals, President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.  It appears Mr. Annan was too kind to the principals in his ruling, perhaps an attempt for window-dressing just to win the approval of the eminent persons.

The said commitment by the principals to the reform agenda is not to be taken serious.  Maybe it should be left to chance and time, but going by the words and actions of the two principals and their lieutenants, it’s difficult to read commitment to reforms.

During his busy schedule to Kenya, Annan met various groups of the Kenyan society, among them the civil society, religious leaders, human rights groups, professionals, parliamentarians, and even retired president Moi among other interest groups. The common message that seemed to come forth as he met these groups, who luckily are more in touch with the true position of majority Kenyans, was that the government has done so little to address the agenda four.


The coalition government has in the past two years been playing with these weighty issues, with each coalition partner making efforts to outdo the other in a bid to find footing for the next election. A clear consequence of this is that we are headed for the electioneering period again without an assurance that Kenya will ever have a new constitutional dispensation, or that we shall indeed have in place an independent electoral commission.

We may as well go to the next elections with the Kenyan youth still steeped in major employment challenges that have yet to be addressed. We can only pray that the land reforms dealt with once and for all, that reforms in the judiciary system shall be achieved.

All these and much more un-addressed threats may again steal the little peace that Kenya is now enjoying and that we as a country risk to be in a worse situation than what we experienced two years back.

The coalition government deserves praise when they do well, but the general feeling                                            of the majority of Kenyans is that not much has been done and none of the citizens’ expectations is being addressed.

The government needs to be told upfront that it has within itself an echelon of personalities who are not committed to reforms to protect their own interests. Maybe the foreign missions who singled out some government officials for disciplinary action were right. I feel though  that the list for those who should be punished is longer than 15.

Kenyans are individually committed to reforms since they are fed up with the ailing state of the nation, yet the ruling political elite is not. And the reason has been the handiwork of donors whose largess get treated as looted property by many African elites further perpetuating misery and carnage on the continent.

So Kenyan Big Men need to recall their mark-sheets and re-assess the state of the nation. Kenyans are waiting and the clock is ticking toward the next election.

Ben Chekwanda is a Kenyan Accountant and a columnist for