The grand coalition experiment in Kenya as a transitional measure for democracy
by Mr. Raila A. Odinga, EGH MP, Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya
This is a brief account of the grand coalition phenomenon in Kenya, which is an innovative experiment in democratic practice in Africa. This paper attempts to address the following question: Is the grand coalition experiment capable of enhancing democracy and mitigating intolerance and exclusion?
On 28 February 2008, we signed the Agreement on the Principles of Partnership of the Coalition Government (the National Accord). I signed on behalf of the Orange Democratic Movement while President Mwai Kibaki signed on behalf of the Party of National Unity. These were the two leading parties and presidential candidates in the 2007 elections.
It is now generally accepted that the trigger of the post-election violence was the manipulation of the presidential election results by the Electoral Commission of Kenya.
By that agreement, our country managed to pull itself back from the precipice. For two months prior to the signing of the National Accord, Kenyans were at war with the security forces, militia and supporters of political parties, resulting in over 1,300 deaths. Hundreds of thousands of people became internally displaced. Billions of shillings worth of property lay in ruins. The economy ground to a standstill. The danger of an all-out civil war was imminent. Our nascent democracy was imperilled.
The dispute over the 2007 presidential elections had brought to the fore deepseated and long-standing divisions within Kenya that both President Kibaki and I realized had to be addressed if Kenya was to remain one united country.
Through the National Accord, we pledged to share power, as equal partners. We also pledged to build mutual trust and confidence in each other and in the constitution, laws and institutions that we undertook to reform for the benefit of all Kenyans.
We realized that Kenya had imploded, not just because of the failures of the Electoral Commission of Kenya to conduct credible, free and fair elections, which were obvious. Kenyans nearly went to war with each other primarily due to failures of our weak institutions, unresponsive laws and an undemocratic constitution.
Unlike the winner-takes-it all system, a grand coalition government tries to involve all major political parties that represent various interests, communities and regions in governance and decision-making. Through constant consultations and a willingness to compromise, members of a grand coalition government participate in governance through consensus.
To enhance democracy and mitigate intolerance and exclusion, we committed ourselves to reconstructing a country based on a common vision; a vision for one united Kenya where our people have equal social, political, economic, religious, and gender rights. It is one where great attention is paid to and respect is ensured for basic needs, fundamental human rights and dignity. Our people have equality before and under the law; the rule of law and constitutionalism are not just respected and adhered to; but practised daily in all our activities; our people have an equal opportunity to fulfil their dreams and their purpose utilizing their full potential.
Resources are utilized and distributed equitably for the benefit of our people, while at the same time protecting our resources and environment so that we bequeath a better Kenya to future generations; institutions and people serve the public interest before and above individual interests. Ours is a country where the desire for short-term gains and benefits is not permitted to undermine our long-term responsibilities as a people and as a nation.
We undertook to achieve this vision by: transforming and reforming our institutions; delivering a new people-focused constitution; revising and transforming our laws to make them responsive to the needs of our people; delivering quality services to the people; implementing a national land policy and reforms; and always listening to the people and serving them with unwavering commitment and dedication.
To date, the grand coalition government has instituted various committees, commissions and task forces as a means of driving the reforms outlined under the Nation Accord. The Interim Independent Electoral Commission, the Interim Independent Boundaries Commission, the Committee of Experts, the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, the Task Force on Police Reform, and the Constitutional Dispute Resolution Court are either already in place or are about to be unveiled.
A comprehensive national land policy has also been approved by the Cabinet. The Land Policy attempts to address some of the worst problems facing millions of Kenyans. These are just highlights of what we are involved in as a grand coalition government.
As someone who has been actively involved in the process of democratization in Kenya for the majority of my adult life, I believe that a grand coalition experiment is transitional. It can be used not just to stabilize a country and entrench democracy but also to ensure constitutionalism and respect for human rights and the rule of law, thereby effectively mitigating intolerance and exclusion.
The realization of these reforms is my unwavering commitment to the Kenyan people.
IPU'S RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PROMOTING POLITICAL TOLERANCETo Speakers (Presiding Officers) of Parliament
- Maintain impartiality in exercising functions to ensure equality of treatment of all parliamentarians, whether from the ruling or opposition parties
- Guarantee respect for parliamentary rules, for example, that all parliamentarians have an equal opportunity to speak
- Ensure that all parliamentarians can receive information upon request from a specific service within parliament
- Encourage the use of a bureau or other management structures within parliament in which all parties are represented
To political party leaders
- Develop internally democratic procedures that allow for full debate on contentious issues, rather than relying on dictates from the party executive
- Follow appropriate procedures when pursuing the suspension or expulsion of a member, including guaranteeing due process and the right of members to defend themselves
- Develop and adhere to codes of conduct that promote political tolerance, especially during the electoral period
- Open avenues for inter-party dialogue and initiatives to set an example for constituents
To individual parliamentarians
- Pursue political action through dialogue and concerted action, not violent means
- Be role models for constituents by acting in a statesmanlike manner in negotiations and debate, respecting the opinions expressed by others
- Promote tolerance in relations with citizens and be receptive to opinions expressed by constituents
- Run electoral campaigns that are transparent and adhere to electoral codes of conduct
To civil society
- Support civic education campaigns, in particular, youth outreach
- Work with local communities and authorities to monitor and prevent hate speech, provide forums for dialogue between groups, and raise awareness about intolerance and discrimination
- Promote political participation in all its forms, such as voting, contacting elected representatives, participating in the work of political parties, signing petitions, and attending lawful demonstrations
Political tolerance and par liamentPolitical life involves confrontation. Institutions of democracy, such as parliaments, provide the channels to make confrontation between opinions possible. Parliament is meant to regulate tensions and maintain an equilibrium between competing claims of diversity, and to accommodate the participation of all people in the society it represents. Political tolerance is therefore essential to the functioning of parliaments and should be actively pursued in practice.
Rebuilding a sense of citizenship, political tolerance
by Mr. Gervais Rufyikiri President of the Senate of Burundi
and national reconciliation in Burundi: The role of parliament
In the words of one African politician, “If there is one country in Africa that could demonstrate great unity thanks to a shared culture and a common history, that country is Burundi”. And yet, since its accession to independence, Burundi, like most African countries, has been caught up in endless social and political strife. Since the 1960s, it has been the scene of a series of conflicts that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, forced hundreds of thousands more into exile or internal displacement, and wrought devastating material destruction. Parliament was also affected, with many members being murdered or forced into exile.
The darkest periods occurred at the time of the 1972 massacres and the civil war that broke out after the country’s democratic institutions were violently overthrown a scant three months after they had been established in 1993. There is absolutely no doubt that political intolerance and its corollary, the struggle for influence between political classes, were decisive factors in the fighting. In their analysis, the parties negotiating in Arusha (Tanzania) defined the nature of the conflict in Burundi as follows: “a fundamentally political conflict with extremely important ethnic dimensions”.
During those negotiations, Burundians made enormous progress in the arts of dialogue, discussion and tolerance. The belligerents pledged to overcome their hostility and to build the country together, renouncing violence, confrontation and exclusion. The country gradually returned to peace after several years of negotiations that culminated in the signing in 2000 of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement and in 2003 of various ceasefires, notably between the Transitional Government and the main armed movement, the CNDDFDD. Time has seen the emergence of a climate of civil liberties, in particular freedom of opinion and freedom of expression, that many other countries would be right to envy.
Parliament has played – and continues to play – a crucial role in rebuilding a sense of citizenship based on the principles of inclusive dialogue and compromise, and in constructing mechanisms for inclusion and political tolerance. In addition to being actively involved in the peace negotiations, parliament has enacted major statutes as a means of making political tolerance a legal reality, notably granting temporary immunity from prosecution to members of armed political movements that had signed the ceasefire agreements.
The desire of Burundians to halt the fighting once and for all also takes the form of a series of constitutional provisions. The new Constitution approved by referendum and promulgated on 18 March 2005 provides for “a pluralistic democracy and the rule of law”. It reaffirms “unswerving determination to put an end to the root causes of the ongoing state of ethnic and political violence, genocide and exclusion, bloodletting, political insecurity and instability that have mired the people in distress and suffering”. At the same time, the power and role of parliament have been strengthened by the Constitution’s recognition of a provisional decision made five years earlier for a bicameral parliament whose two chambers are the National Assembly and the Senate.
Thanks to the composition of each chamber, parliament is a reference point for democracy, a space for expressing opposing points of view that is open to the public and to the media. Certain decisions require a strong qualified majority of two thirds, three quarters, or even four fifths, and are therefore taken by consensus, as no party has a two-thirds majority.
Although both chambers are legislative assemblies, the Constitution confers on the Senate a specific mission as the guarantor of reconciliation. The Senate thus has the general task of overseeing the application of constitutional provisions requiring representativity or balance in the (ethnic, political, gender or regional) composition of all State structures and institutions, especially the public administration and defence and security forces. It is in application of its role as the regulator of balances and guarantor of political tolerance that the Senate has been empowered to approve appointments to the highest State positions.
In conclusion, Burundians have made great strides towards peace and security, chiefly because they have learned from the harm done by so many years of intolerance and confrontation. The role played by parliament, the guarantor of the people’s most fundamental interests, is paramount in the reconciliation effort, which implies upholding the rights of each and every individual, without exclusion.
THE TEST OF COURAGE COMES WHEN WE ARE IN THE MINORITY.
THE TEST OF TOLERANCE COMES WHEN WE ARE IN THE MAJORITY.At the Parliamentary Conference in Gaborone (Botswana) on Democracy in Africa, the IPU will be launching a Study on Party Control over the Parliamentary Mandate, to have a deeper understanding of the situation. The power of political parties to revoke the parliamentary mandate and the implications of “political party dictatorship” are real problems which require discussion and action.
The world organization of parliaments will also present a Worldwide Public Opinion Survey with questions formulated around the overall theme for 2009: democracy and political tolerance.
Lack of political tolerance a problem everywhereLack of political tolerance is a problem everywhere. It manifests itself when political leaders refuse to give space to opposition parties and politics, when political parties do not tolerate dissent from their membership and, more generally, through a rejection of different views. This year, the IPU has chosen the theme of “Democracy and political tolerance” in order to highlight the importance of creating a culture of tolerance in society, and political life in particular.
Some of the key ingredients of a culture of tolerance are education, freedom of expression and media.Education and political participation can cultivate tolerance among citizens. States can help to eliminate discrimination and hatred by promoting dialogue with minority and vulnerable groups. Citizens who have more opportunities to practise and observe tolerance are more appreciative of and committed to tolerance and respect for others’ rights. States can contribute to the overall democratic learning and stability by involving citizens in the democratic process and upholding the civil liberties of all groups.
A society in which freedom of expression is not guaranteed hinders political tolerance. Open dialogue and a diversity of political opinions are made possible by and reinforce a culture of tolerance.
The media plays an important role in developing a culture of tolerance. States have a duty to allow a pluralistic media to flourish and present diverse and critical views. Encouraging a wide array of ideas and beliefs among individuals and institutions builds an equitable and non-discriminatory environment that enhances political life.
Parliamentary immunity and freedom of expressionFreedom of expression is the working tool of members of parliament, without which they cannot represent their constituents. Legislators need some measure of protection to carry out their work, most importantly, protection of their freedom of speech. Thus, parliamentarians generally enjoy immunity from prosecution or other proceedings for votes they cast, statements they make in parliament and acts carried out as part of their parliamentary function. Parliamentary immunity safeguards the integrity and effectiveness of the parliamentary institution. However, this immunity is not an individual privilege granted for personal benefit and is not meant to place parliamentarians above the law. Rather, it protects them from politically-motivated proceedings or accusations. Parliamentary immunity is vital for enabling parliamentarians to speak freely according to their conscience, without fear of harassment, punishment or other retaliatory measures.
Party control over the parliamentary mandateThe freedom of conscience and expression of parliamentarians is frequently limited in practice by political parties, which seek to exercise control over their members. Although in theory legislators generally have a free representational mandate, various rules and practices have been put in place to ensure that members support the “party line”. By controlling the terms of their mandate or party membership, parties can prevent parliamentarians from fulfilling their mandate and undermine the democratic process as a whole.
Rights and duties of the oppositionThe freedom of expression of parliamentarians, almost exclusively those from the Opposition, frequently comes under attack. This is a particular concern because the Opposition in parliament is an indispensable component of democracy. Opposition and minority parties play a key role in holding the government to account, and in providing alternative policy options for public consideration. The Opposition therefore has rights and duties that enable it to make an effective contribution to the democratic process.
Post-election powersharing arrangements: A panacea to political exclusion and intoleranceby Ms. Thokozani Khupe, MP, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Zimbabwe
The Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe is currently battling to rehabilitate the damaged economy and restore the democratic values and principles enshrined in the Global Political Agreement signed on 15 September 2008. In Zimbabwe we are currently going through a transitional arrangement whose key focus is to build democratic institutions that should lead to a new socio-political era where the norms and values of political inclusion and political tolerance will be enjoyed by all our people.
I am passionate about the principles of political inclusion and political tolerance especially insofar as they affect women across the continent. It would be a betrayal of the trust placed in me by millions of women in my country if I were to stand here and not raise their concerns and worries, their fears and hopes. Our contemporary history has shown that where political exclusion occurs, women are the most affected. Scientific research has also revealed that where political intolerance occurs women suffer most. In this regard, any panacea to political exclusion and intolerance should factor in the challenges of those who bear the brunt. It is unfortunate that the inclusive governments we have witnessed so far are only inclusive insofar as political parties are concerned and not in terms of gender equity.
Inclusive governments in Africa are becoming fashionable as signified by the twin cases of Zimbabwe and Kenya in our contemporary history. Inclusive governments are now seen as a conflict resolution mechanism used for settling electoral disputes. While a temporal cessation of hostility can be achieved through this “government by compromise approach”, it is doubtful whether the whole arrangement is a solution to the challenges of political intolerance that is besetting a number of our countries in the subregion. It is even doubtful whether the conditions that create them are in fact at all unavoidable.
The phenomenal growth of inclusive governments over the past two years in Africa is a worrying development. There is nothing wrong with inclusive governments per se but there is everything wrong if these governments are formed in order to keep incumbents in some form of power even after elections have determined otherwise.
In the context of our continent, inclusive governments are transitional arrangements that are formed mostly as political compromises by former warring parties who realize that they cannot continue escalating the conflict as a result of a mutually hurting stalemate. It is, however, unfortunate that inclusive governments are a result of a failure of power transfer. Incumbent governments refuse to accept electoral defeat, thereby creating political crises which result in power deals. Some of our leaders in Africa have deliberately been keen to subvert the electoral will of the people by creating chaos in their countries, knowing full well that regional bodies will recommend inclusive governments that leave their positions intact.
unate development in our continent should be frowned on and should be given no room to flourish. It is not a solution to political exclusion nor is it a solution to political intolerance.
I am not against political accommodation, coalitions, governments of national unity or a positive sum approach, but I am opposed to the subversion of the will of the people. I am opposed to the violation of the national constitutions in order to maintain power by all means necessary.
The best solution to both political exclusion and intolerance is the building of genuine democracies based on total respect of the will of the people which is expressed through the results of free and fair elections. A credible national leadership which respects the cannons of the constitution is able to prepare for an election, manage an election, run elections, participate in an election, and respect the results of an election and hand over power if defeated. The Zimbabwean Inclusive Government, to which I belong, is nothing more than a transitional arrangement that should enable Zimbabweans to choose a government of their choice in the shortest possible time. Only respect for the will of the people can be a solution to political exclusion and intolerance.
The Zimbabwean Inclusive Government, of which I can speak authoritatively, came into existence out of serious humanitarian and political crises. Its birth certificate is a Global Political Agreement, which was a result of protracted negotiations that took more than a year to conclude. Although all the parties to the agreement agreed to all the provisions of the deal upon affixing their signatures to it, it also has its challenges.
The fact is that most inclusive governments are always faced with serious and numerous implementation challenges. They range from a simple lack of respect for the principles and values of the Global Political Agreement to the need to protect political turfs by continually excluding other players in the agreement, to the right to have unbiased media coverage, among many other issues.
The current Inclusive Government is not the first one in Zimbabwe; upon gaining independence, our country had a type of inclusive government that included representatives from the major parties. That government did not last that long as there were soon accusations and counter accusations of plots to kill each other. There will always be challenges with inclusive governments: political parties and their leaders are creatures of power and until one party is clearly in power there will always be a tussle for power.
Although these challenges will not be easily resolved, they will surely be solved. I believe most of us in the Inclusive Government are committed to making sure that all the clauses of the Agreement are adhered to. If faced with challenges we will not hesitate to turn to our neighbours and African friends for assistance.
The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) remains a guarantor of the Zimbabwean Inclusive Government and as a result it should monitor its implementation. Although the parties to the Agreement agreed to form a joint monitoring and implementation committee to effectively allow Zimbabwean parties to implement the agreement, that does not mean that SADC should walk away; its job is not yet done. SADC should remain committed to democratic principles as we have witnessed first-hand the tragic consequences of ignoring them.
The time for SADC to speak on behalf of democratic principles is now. While the principle of non-interference in the affairs of other countries remains important, the principle and the practice of SADC should be that no leader should be accepted into the regional body unless he/she has been democratically elected. Our approach to regional affairs should be guided by the same principles that we use in our countries. Consultations, persuasion and the importance of democratic elections in electing a country’s leadership must apply if we are to avoid the inconvenience of inclusive governments.
The nascent Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe is currently implementing its democratic reforms, economic stabilization plan, national healing and constitutional reforms. Once these are achieved, Zimbabwe will surely transform itself into a democracy that will be the envy of many in the region. I am confident that our Government will overcome all the hurdles that it is currently facing. With a people-drawn constitution and a leadership that is democratically elected, political tolerance and political inclusion will be guaranteed.
The inclusive government is not an undesirable arrangement for some political situations but it is certainly a questionable solution to political exclusion and political intolerance. I wish to appeal to both the regional and international community to help us in our endeavour to transform Zimbabwe into a democratic and prosperous nation.<