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TMCNet:  Challenges Facing Kenya in the Year 2012 [opinion]

[January 03, 2012]

Challenges Facing Kenya in the Year 2012 [opinion]

Jan 03, 2012 (Nairobi Star/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) -- Kenya has a unique opportunity to create a stable, transparent and participatory sustainable democracy that meets modern standards. This is dependent on the country inculcating a culture of honesty and mutual trust that boosts public confidence while respecting collective diversity. The country will need progressive politics focused on issues of national interest. Full implementation and enforcement of the Constitution remains a major challenge. As part of enhancing public inclusion, effective participation and create a new political order, extensive civic education is necessary.

Sustaining the momentum of institutional, and criminal and administrative justice reforms remains a priority in 2012. Judicial reforms alone do not suffice. Corresponding reforms in the wider criminal justice system notably the office of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Police are crucial to improve access to justice as well as the safety and security of the people. This needs sustained political support as well as sufficient allocation of resources.

Overhauling of the Civil Service in line with the new constitution remains pivotal to transforming the country. There are so many statutes, regulations and administrative procedures that are not in tandem with the Constitution. The Commission on Implementation of the Constitution (CIC), the Attorney General and the Kenya Law Reform Commission (KLRC) need to fast track the process reviewing to bring them in sync with the Constitution.

The Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission (IEBC), the security sector, civil service and judiciary have unique yet challenging historic moment to shepherd the country into new political dispensation. A multi-stakeholders' roundtable to work and map out details on how to conduct peaceful, democratic and credible 2012 General Elections is highly and urgently recommended.

All disputes and related conflict in 2012 general elections must be resolved through judicial process. The Chief Justice should put up mechanisms to settle all the election related disputes within three months time after the 2012 general elections to avoid disfranchising electorate. The appointment of the Registrar of Political Parties must not be delayed any longer. Democratization of political parties will be critical as they have a pivotal role in the implementation of the new Constitution. They also need to be people owned and accountable as recipients of public funds.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) ruling in Mid-January 2012 will significantly alter the political landscape in Kenya. Already the Court has communicated a clear message to top political leadership that nobody enjoys impunity by virtue of status. ICPC appeals for the acceptance of the ruling outcome. It is an individual criminal liability not that of ethnic or any other group. The Attorney General (AG) has pointed out that his office has put in place 'mechanisms to facilitate defense of the Ocampo Six.' He must make public the details of the mechanisms and facilitation he is talking about. Individual criminal liability is cannot be perceived as a national issue and tax payers' money should not be used to facilitate the process.

The government has failed to honor its promise of resettling all IDPs four years down the line. Instead the government has formed an escapism IDP resettlement taskforce, just like the Mau Forest taskforce, which is clearly a tactful strategy deployed by the government to run away from responsibility and pass blame to a toothless taskforce. The issues of IDPs need to come to a closure in three months time to avoid it being made a political issue in the 2012 elections and campaigns.

There has been attempts by the coalition government to address the past injustices, corruption, impunity and violations of citizens rights. But these measures are half baked, lack focus and inadequate. The government is unwilling to put to closure the past transgressions and because of this impunity, corruption and inequality continue to prevail.

Devolution remains a critical pillar of governance transformation, socio-economic development, and effective citizenry participation in management of public affairs and addressing historical social economic inequalities and imbalances. The Mombasa Republican Council and many other such groups like Sabaot Land Defense Forces (SLDF) and historical complaints of discrimination from Northern Kenya are an expression of these historical grievances. Devolution offers a historical mechanism to resolve many historically underlying tensions and conflict. However, devolution should not be made to be discriminatory and creating ethnic conclaves. The Executive and Parliament is urged to prioritize the enactment of enabling legal framework.

Land and resources continue to be a source of tensions and brutal conflicts. It is therefore urgent that Executive, Parliament and judiciary facilitate the enactment prerequisite laws and establishment of mechanisms and institutions such National Land Commission and Land Dispute Courts.

Kenya's public finance sector must urgently be reformed in line with the constitution and to achieve appropriate fiscal consolidation. Special attention ought to be given to the following aspects: Implementing radical fiscal consolidation aimed at reducing debt level and improving long-term sustainability of public finances; strengthening the efficiency and effectiveness of the public administration; ensuring wage and price adjustments to regain and sustain competitiveness; reducing the size of the informal economy; improving tax administration and improving the business environment.

Ndung'u is the executive director of the International Center for Policy and Conflict.

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