What does Raila really want with his incessant calls for national dialogue?
Two critical red flags have gone up regarding Cord leader Raila Odinga’s true intentions in trying to engage the Jubilee administration in the so-calledMajadiliano (national dialogue).
The first red flag went up during the Cord rally at Mombasa’s Tononoka Grounds on June 15. It was his demand that the proposed national dialogue should take the form of a constituent assembly.
The second was raised on June 21, when Mr Odinga joined Cord co-principal Moses Wetangula in turning down a call from faith groups to include religious leaders in the proposed dialogue.
Few Kenyans know much about constituent assemblies and their histories, even among the professional political class and the media.
In her Representation by Consultation? The Rise of Direct Democracy in Latin America study, US political scientist Monica Barczak notes that “the introduction of direct democracy mechanisms is typically driven by traditionally excluded political interests.
‘‘It takes two forms, both involving the failure of representative democratic institutions.
“In most cases, these traditionally excluded interests win control over the constitutional reform and rewriting process, although this is not a necessary condition for the emergence of direct democracy”.
In America, Mr Odinga picked up the idea of replaying in Kenya some of the most dramatic experiences of South America in the 1990s: holding of constituent assemblies that quickly led to the emergence of so-called direct democracy mechanisms.
This is why Mr Odinga is beating the war drums of political “exclusion” and painting the Jubilee administration as rife with failed representative democratic institutions – even though Cord is well represented in the National Assembly and the Senate, and independent constitutional institutions keep watch over both government and the opposition.
The second red flag rose when Mr Odinga and Mr Wetangula told Kenya’s most senior Catholic prelate, John Cardinal Njue, and the leader of Kenya’s Anglican Communion, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, to keep their distance.
Rather rudely, they declared that they would dialogue only with President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.
Never has this country’s inter-denominational faith sector been so bluntly and insolently shoved aside, even in times of war and other genuine national crises.
By insinuating talk of a constituent assembly into the circus that was Cord’s Tononoka rally, and then seeking to slam the door in the collective face of the men and women of God of all faiths, the Cord leaders have underscored the underhand and truly sinister agenda that lies at the dark heart of their agenda of intimidation.
Historically, the convention of constituent assemblies has come only at decisive, including revolutionary, moments.
Knowing Mr Odinga’s turbulent history, it is easy to guess that the constituent assembly event he wishes to insert into Kenya’s national political discourse is aimed at an equally disruptive outcome.
But his timing and agenda are unacceptable. The implementation phase of the Constitution which took Kenyans decades to establish should be a time of statesmanship, not crude gamesmanship and grandstanding.
The period of constitutional rollout is not the time to insert a “constituent assembly” in the thin guise of “national dialogue”. That serves only to take Kenyans back to the past.
TURN BACK THE CLOCK
Alert analysts are watching carefully as Mr Odinga plots to undo, not only the March 4, 2013, presidential election results, but also to turn back the clock on the entire cycle of constitutional review, reform, promulgation and implementation.
This is consistent with Mr Odinga’s political history. As late as June 22, he was still warning that a political storm was coming, saying in Kisii that President Kenyatta had better be seen to respond to his letter in writing, and to capitulate to Cord’s demand for national dialogue at a time and place, with an agenda and outcome, of “Baba’s” choosing.
Why should Uhuru respond in writing and participate in this humiliating capitulation as if he had no political constituency of his own and no legitimacy?
These are the politics of the bully on the school playground.
Dr Shaban is the Deputy Majority Leader in the National Assembly